It’s an odd day as we drive to St. Louis for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park. Race weekends are supposed to be full of excitement and fun and this weekend is but there are also memories of Justin Wilson who lost his life three years ago today and ongoing concerns for Robert Wickens. Justin, as you all well know by now, was a family favorite. Robert is a rookie in the Verizon IndyCar Series but was quickly making a name for himself and his fan base was growing every race because he is always in contention for a win.
Tony Kanaan wrote an article about why racers race even when they know the dangers. I need someone who is better than me at putting their thoughts and feelings into words to write a piece about the fans and why we continue to watch and love this sport even when we’ve seen how cruel it can be. Tony says, “Race car drivers are just wired a little but differently than most people. You have to be a little crazy to do what we do.” He is right. Race car drivers are wired differently but not just on the track. I’ve never seen a sport where the stars of the series interact with the fans the way the IndyCar drivers do. When I bring friends to the track with me they are amazed by the amount of drivers we meet just walking through the paddock. They will all stop for an autograph and often exchange a couple sentences. Some drivers even recognize us, though not my name–yet. How can you not love and support a series where the drivers care so much about the fans. The drivers will also make stops at local schools and hospitals to meet the kids. Scott Dixon went so far as to visit a young girl who wrote a note to IndyCar thanking them for all the safety measures they have in place that helped save Scott Dixon’s life when he had his horrible crash at Indy. How can I not support IndyCar? So while they might have a wild side that loves the thrill of the speed in a fast car, they also have hearts of gold and grow their fan base by their actions as well as their talent.
Losing Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson in recent years has been heartbreaking. My family especially grieved for Justin as we had met him several times. However, I never once thought to stop watching the IndyCar Series. I continue to hope for new safety innovations and pray before each race that the drivers remain safe but I still love to watch the drivers do what they do (and love) – race!
This weekend as we remember Justin and continue to pray for Robert I know it will be a different kind of race weekend. I also know that being surrounded by the IndyCar family, the drivers, teams and fans will be helpful. Being surrounded by people that love Robbie and are pulling for him will be an amazing thing. The fans attending this weekend have been encouraged to wear red. I’ve made shirts for my family with iron on decals that say # Get Well Wickens. We are part of the IndyCar family and it will be wonderful to all be together doing what we love. The drivers will race fast and hard. The fans will cheer and show support through wearing red, buying Robert Wickens merchandise, sending cards and continuing to keep him in our thoughts and prayers. IndyCar is a family and as long as racers are racing fans will be watching.