When drivers fight tooth-and-nail up and down the field every time they hit the racetrack, it's easy to forget that the Verizon IndyCar Series is also one great big family.
It's something INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen presented by Hitachi winner Scott Dixon gently reminded everyone about after his dominant performance Sunday.
Despite the impressive career achievement of joining an elite group of IndyCar drivers with 40 or more victories (A.J. Foyt, 67, Mario Andretti, 57 and Michael Andretti, 42) with his triumph at Watkins Glen International, Dixon's thoughts after stepping from the car turned to the INDYCAR family, specifically Julia Wilson and her two young daughters, Jane and Jess.
“A huge thanks to everyone who has been giving to the Justin Wilson kids’ fund,” the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet driver said during a post-race television interview.
“I’m actually going to donate my winnings here today to their children’s fund. I want to say hi to everybody. Please keep supporting them.”
Known for his enormous smile and unparalleled kindness, British racer Justin Wilson suffered critical injuries when he was struck on the helmet by debris during the 2015 race at Pocono Raceway. He died a day later in the hospital.
After the accident, the INDYCAR community, as well as many others from across the sporting world, rallied to support the Wilson family by creating a fund to encourage donations to help them financially.
In addition, the Justin Wilson Memorial Auction of donated memorabilia spearheaded by driver Graham Rahal raised more than $637,000 last fall. All proceeds went to the Wilson Children’s Fund.
While the auction helped financially, the Dixon family was ever-present in supporting Julia Wilson in the weeks following her husband's death, with Scott's wife Emma front and center throughout.
Julia Wilson also formed a close bond with Susie Wheldon, the widow of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon. He died following an accident during the 2011 season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Five years ago, a similar scene unfolded after Wheldon's passing as the racing community gathered to support Susie and the couple's young sons, Sebastian and Oliver.
Unfortunately, a year after Justin's passing, word emerged that donations to the Wilson Children's Fund had slowed to a trickle, raising concern in the paddock.
With a new Wilson Children's Fund (http://wilsonchildrensfund.com/) website launched last month to accept donations directly though PayPal, certainly some well-timed publicity would go a long way to help get things jump-started.
Enter Dixon, who selflessly seized the opportunity created by his victory to shine a spotlight on the need to help a fellow driver's family, urged fans to keep the support coming.
“A year going on with the loss of Justin, being back at Pocono (for the Aug. 22 ABC Supply 500) just recently, and talking to Jules and seeing the family, this was a place that Justin really loved,” Scott said after the Watkins Glen win. “Obviously, with the launch of the Wilson Children's Fund, the new website and all that stuff, I just thought Emma and myself and our family could donate our winnings from this weekend.
“I was thinking about Justin a lot this weekend. Last time we had a good battle here and he kicked my butt.”
Wilson scored an incredible and unlikely victory at The Glen himself in 2009, driving for the scrappy but resource-challenged Dale Coyne Racing outfit that many thought would never grace the winner's circle.
It was the team's first victory in 558 starts over 25 years of Indy car competition. Wilson added a second win to Coyne's tally in 2012 when he took another checkered flag at Texas Motor Speedway. That win was Wilson's seventh and final Indy car triumph.