INDIANAPOLIS, May 27 (Reuters) - Dreams can come true but so do tragedies and Stefan Wilson will deal with both on Sunday when he takes his place on the starting grid for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Racing at the Indy 500 has been a lifelong dream for Wilson, but it was one that included his big brother Justin.
Last August that dream was shattered when the hugely popular Justin was struck in the head by flying debris during a race on Pocono Raceway’s high speed tri-oval leaving a dark cloud over the IndyCar Series that still lingers.
While Justin may be gone he is certainly not forgotten, particularly by Stefan who will honour his brother’s memory by wearing a helmet that will feature his design on half and his brother’s on the other side - the side facing the massive crowd that some have estimated will be close to 400,000.
The Indy 500 rookie will also be in car No. 25, the same number Justin had last year when he was killed.
“It was always a dream of mine to join Justin here on the grid and it’s really bittersweet that I am able to be here and Justin is not able to join me,” Wilson told Reuters.
“We were able to run the split livery on my helmet this year which is going to be half my helmet design and half his.
“It is a great honour to be part of this event. The only thing missing is to be able to take advice off Justin.”
Certainly Justin, who started eight Indy 500s and had a best finish of fifth in 2013, would have had a few tips for his brother.
Having not raced a full season since competing on the IndyCar feeder circuit, the Indy Lights in 2011, Stefan could use all the advice he could get starting on the outside of Row 10 after qualifying 30th in the 33-car field.
“I was always here with him. Every year that he ran I was basically his shadow, annoying him probably,” smiled the 26-year-old Briton, born 11 years after Justin.
“I think back to all those days and all the stuff he told me about Indy and there is a memory bank back there where it is all stored and just trying to pick out bits that can help me.”
Stefan will also be out to help others in his Indy 500 debut, his KV Racing Technology Chevrolet livery promoting the Indiana Donor Network and the Driven2SaveLives campaign.
Unknown to him, Justin was a registered organ donor and after he was declared brain dead and taken off life support may have saved five lives with his gifts.
“With the campaign we are really honouring his legacy of being an organ donor so there are a lot of positives to take from this tragedy,” said Stefan. “I didn’t know at the time he was an organ donor but I wasn’t surprised.
“That’s the kind of person he was.” (Editing by Larry Fine)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.