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IndyCar driver Justin Wilson dies of head injury

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IndyCar driver Justin Wilson dies of head injury

IndyCar driver Justin Wilson died Monday night from a head injury suffered when a piece of debris struck him at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.

IndyCar made the announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Wilson, a British driver who lived outside Denver in Longmont, Colorado, was hit in the head during Sunday's race by piece of debris that had broken off another car. Wilson's car veered into an interior wall at the track, and he was swiftly taken by helicopter to a hospital in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

"Can't even begin to describe the loss I feel right now. He was my Brother, my best friend, my role model and mentor. He was a champion!" his younger brother, Stefan, also an IndyCar driver, tweeted. Stefan Wilson said his brother's organs would be donated.

The last IndyCar driver to die from an on-track incident was Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, who was killed in the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas after his head hit a post in the fence when his car went airborne.

After Wheldon's death, Wilson became one of three driver representatives to serve as a liaison between the competitors and IndyCar. It was no surprise: The 6-foot-4 Wilson, easily the tallest in the series, was well liked.

"Justin's elite ability to drive a race car was matched by his unwavering kindness, character and humility - which is what made him one of the most respected members of the paddock," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent company of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Wilson won seven times over 12 seasons in open-wheel racing and finished as high as fifth in the Indianapolis 500. An acclaimed sports car racer, Wilson won the prestigious 24 Hours of Daytona with Michael Shank Racing, and he competed in 20 Formula One races in 2003 before moving to the U.S. to join Champ Car.

He finished third in the Champ Car standings in 2005, and was runner-up in both 2006 and 2007. To support his career, his management team in 2003 created a program that allowed fans to invest in the driver. Hundreds of people bought shares in Wilson, who was dyslexic and a strong supporter of foundations related to the disorder.

Wilson, a native of Sheffield, England, entered this season without a full-time ride. He latched on with Andretti Autosport and was in the sixth of seven scheduled races with the team. The agreement began as a two-race deal for events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and then was increased to the final five races of the year. The IndyCar season concludes Sunday in Sonoma, California.

Andretti Autosport called Wilson "a tremendous racer, a valuable member of the team and respected representative to our sport."

"While Justin was only part of the Andretti lineup for a short time, it only took a second for him to forever become part of the Andretti family," the team said. "His life and racing career is a story of class and passion surpassed by none. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Wilson family and fans worldwide. Godspeed, JW."

Wilson finished a season-best second at Mid-Ohio in early August. He said after the race that he raced clean and did not take any risks that would have jeopardized eventual race-winner Graham Rahal because Rahal was part of the championship race and Wilson was not.

"Anyone who follows our sport knows Justin was one of the most well-respected, highly regarded and loved people in the entire paddock," said Miles, who passed on the Wilsons' gratitude to the IndyCar safety team and medical staffs of the series, Pocono Raceway and the hospital in Allentown.

The family also was grateful to the entire motorsports industry.

"Particularly the Wilson family wishes to thank Justin's fellow drivers, and their families, who have been so thoughtful, and kind, and supportive," Miles said.

Ed Carpenter, the only driver/owner in IndyCar and the stepson of IndyCar founder Tony George Jr., attended the announcement and spoke of the respect Wilson had throughout the paddock.

"Days like this are extremely hard on all of us," Carpenter said. "Justin was a great professional driver and extremely good at his craft. Beyond that, he was a great guy. One of the few, if only, guys who really was a friend of everyone in the paddock. Everyone respected him for the way he carried himself."

Wilson broke a bone in his back at Mid-Ohio in 2011. He missed the final six races of the season and wore a back brace for more than two months while he was restricted from any physical activity. The injury kept him out of the season finale at Las Vegas, the race where Wheldon died. He also broke his pelvis and suffered a bruised lung in the 2013 season finale at Fontana.

Wilson once said that his injuries and Wheldon's death did nothing to change his perspective or make him question his career choice.

"You've got to know the risks and work out if those risks are acceptable," Wilson told The Associated Press upon his return to racing in 2012. "To me, it's acceptable. But I'm not going to stop trying to improve it. All the drivers, this IndyCar, we're always trying to make it safer, but at the end of the day, it's a race car. We're racing hard, we're racing IndyCars and it's fast. When it goes wrong, it can get messy."

In addition to his wife, Julia, Wilson is survived by two daughters, 7 and 5. The family asked for donations to a trust fund for his daughters in lieu of flowers.

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

Tales of the Turtles 400 coming to Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 17

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, titled Tales of the Turtles 400, is coming to Joliet on Sept. 17, Chicagoland Speedway and Nickelodeon announced last week.

It will mark the seventh straight year Chicagoland Speedway will kick off NASCAR's playoffs.

Nickelodeon Sr. Vice President of Sports Marketing Anthony DiCosmo and President of Chicagoland Speedway Scott Paddock joined SportsTalk Live to discuss it all, and even had a few special guests join them as well.

Check it out in the video above.

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.