Losing Justin: A Fan’s Reaction

We have all spent this week talking to one another, comforting each other and reminding the fellow members of our IndyFamily, how strong we are in moments of tragedy. Turbulent times can tear people apart and make them angry, leaving feelings of confusion and questioning why some things seem so cruel & unfair. But these gut-wrenching situations can also draw individuals together and form a sense of community. These are ALL legitimate reactions and justified emotions when faced with something sudden and painful. Particularly when we speak of loss.

As much as I’ve tried to put into words, my appreciation for the sports, series, and especially the people associated with the aforementioned… it’s hard to feel like I’ve ever expressed completely, my love and deep attachment to all of you. When a fan reaches out to me, whether for a favor, a request or searching for the answer to something… I’m beyond flattered. And this week, that all reached a new level. I’ve spoken privately and publicly with so many of you as we share this grief of losing Justin Wilson far too soon. One such interaction led to a fan asking if he could send me his personal reflection on the situation because he had yet to share it publicly and wanted my feedback. That trust he put in me was humbling. I was moved by his words and after we talked he opted to share it with the rest of the IndyFamily. I was honored that he wanted it shared here on Live Full Throttle.

The following is from Richard – you may know him on Twitter as @HailYost98. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me Rich, and now with your entire family: 

On Monday night my wife and I were heading to Clarkston, MI to see Foo Fighters. We stopped for dinner along the way.  The conversation turned to Justin Wilson. We couldn’t stop thinking about him. The conversation ended with me saying, “He’ll be okay. He’s tough. He will pull through.”

Around 9:30pm, one hour in to the Foo Fighters set, my phone started to vibrate as the Twitter notifications rolled in. Ipulled my phone out, saw the Twitter notification icon and I did not open i t. I made a choice to forget about those notifications for the next 90 minutes.  It was one hell of a show. Shortly after the show ended at 11pm. I opened Twitter, sat down in the amphitheater, and cried. My wife consoled me. She understood. What was even more baffling were the mixed feelings I was experiencing at that moment. I was just part of a 2 ½ hour celebration of life and now I was heartbroken.

Much like the rest of the IndyCar family, Tuesday was difficult. It turned out it was difficult for a very different reason. I encountered a few people who offered their sympathies. I also encountered a person who was very crass about what happened.  I encouraged that person to get the hell out of my office.  They were not welcome to return for the remainder of the day.  It would have been much easier if that person was simply indifferent to what happened.  It was at that moment I realized that many people do not understand what it means to be part of the IndyCar family.

The IndyCar family is a travelling circus.  I believe it’s a fair statement.  They are barnstormers. Setting up for weekend in a town, creating an incredible atmosphere, and then they are gone. During these weekends the family comes together. It could be people you’ve seen every week at each venue. Maybe you see them only once or twice a year.  Perhaps you’ve finally met some of your family who you’ve grown to respect through social media.  It’s possible that on a race weekend you’ll meet someone for the first time who becomes part of your IndyCar family. Perhaps this is the best family in the world.  The bond between the racers, teams, fans, and media are unique compared to all other forms of sport.  They understand and can help everyone cope.

I never had a personal interaction with Justin Wilson. However, as many have documented this week, he was always gracious with the fans. I’ve witnessed a few of these interactions at a few venues, most recently at Mid Ohio.  He was very willing to stop for a photo, an autograph, or a brief chat. He understood that the fans are part of the IndyCar family. He made sure that the family felt welcomed.

On the way home from the Foo Fighters show it was a quiet ride.  I was tired.  It had been a long day at work and I was mellow because of the news of Justin’s passing. The following conversation took place with my wife:

I said, “So, are we going to watch on Sunday afternoon?”
“Why wouldn’t we?” she responded.
I followed it up with, “Are we still keeping our ticket request for the Indy 500?”
“I want to go still, don’t you?” was her reply.
I said, “Absolutely.”

It was at this point I was reminded that racing is a celebration of life. You celebrate life with your family.

Justin Wilson will always be known as a great racer and most importantly, a great family man. On Sunday, I will watch with my IndyCar family.

We will miss you BadAss.


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