Stefan Wilson will have a special co-pilot as he strives to qualify and race in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil: his late brother Justin.
KV Racing Technology announced today from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that it has entered Stefan Wilson as driver of the No. 25 Driven2SaveLives – KVRT Chevrolet for the historic race. The program is run in conjunction with the Indiana Donor Network’s “Driven2SaveLives” initiative to promote organ, tissue and eye donation and transplantation.
Justin Wilson died in August 2015 from injuries sustained in an incident during the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Pocono Raceway. Because Justin had previously registered as an organ donor, he was able to save five others’ lives through organ donation.
Stefan Wilson will attempt to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 for the first time, something Justin did on eight occasions with a best finish of fifth in 2014. The Wilsons were teammates in Stefan’s only Verizon IndyCar Series race to date, on the streets of Baltimore in 2011. In another way to honor his older brother, Stefan will drive the same No. 25 that Justin ran in his final race.
"I want to say it's a little bit bittersweet," Stefan admitted. "I'm super excited for the opportunity to qualify for the race, but now that we've got the deal done and the focus is on the race, there's a part of me that does start to miss Justin as well.
"When I got the deal done, the first person I wanted to tell was Justin and I couldn't. I know he's going to be looking down and know he's proud. I want to make him as proud of me as I was of him."
Stefan and the Indiana Donor Network hope to get 2,500 people across the country to register their decision to donate through Driven2SaveLives. Indiana Donor Network, one of 58 designated organ recovery organizations in the United States, oversees and coordinates organ, tissue and eye donation, and provides public education on donation and transplantation across the state.
“Justin’s decision to be an organ donor ended up being the one shining light out of that dark, terrible time after Pocono,” said Stefan. “I’m grateful to Indiana Donor Network and KV Racing Technology for the opportunity to fulfill a racing dream and to honor Justin’s legacy on such a monumental stage as the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.”
"I've always made my Indy 500 attempt about honoring Justin and this is just a huge way to do that, bigger than I even realized," added Stefan, whose entry will also be supported by Dale Pelfrey, owner of teams in all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy. "To be able to carry his legacy on and potentially save future lives, that's pretty important to me now."
More than 120,000 people nationwide are on the waiting list for lifesaving organ transplants. Another 22 reportedly die each day because an organ wasn’t available in time. Indiana Donor Network believes the exposure received this May will help change that.
“Stefan’s story really personifies our mission at Indiana Donor Network,” said Kellie Hanner, the group’s president and CEO. “His experience with Justin’s organ donation illustrates firsthand what it means to save and enhance lives. We couldn’t ask for a better champion and we hope Driven2SaveLives inspires others to become registered donors like the Wilson brothers.”
To register to become an organ donor, visit http://driven2savelives.org/.
Wilson will team with Sebastien Bourdais and Matthew Brabham in a three-car KV entry for the Indy 500. Bourdais and Brabham will also drive in the Angie's List Graand Prix of Indianapolis from May 12-14.
Practice for the Indianapolis 500 on the 2.5-mile IMS oval begins May 16, two days after the third annual Angie's List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course. Indy 500 qualifying is May 21-22, with the fabled 100th running set for May 29 (11 a.m. ET, ABC and Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network).