Justin Wilson was seriously injured in IndyCar crashes twice in a two-year span.
Both times, the veteran driver returned to competition unwavering in his love for the sport and his acceptance of the risks.
The British driver was adamant that he and his wife understood the dangers of his profession. But he loved racing so much, he fought hard to return from a broken back in 2011, then a broken pelvis and bruised lung in 2013.
Wilson knew that death was a possibility in the dangerous world of auto racing.
Last night, he died in a Pennsylvania hospital of a head injury suffered one day earlier when he was hit in the helmet with a piece of debris from another car at Pocono Raceway.
He was 37.
“You’ve got to know the risks and work out if those risks are acceptable,” Wilson told The Associated Press after breaking his back in 2011.
“To me, it’s acceptable. But I’m not going to stop trying to improve it,” he said.
“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,” Wilson reasoned.
“We’re racing hard, we’re racing Indy cars and it’s fast. When it goes wrong, it can get messy.”
A popular driver who took a leading role on safety and other issues following the 2011 death of Dan Wheldon, Wilson spent most of this year clawing to get into an Indy car.
He announced a two-race deal for Indianapolis only in March with Andretti Autosport, and the agreement eventually swelled into an additional five races.
That perseverance the last few years was just one of the many things that earned Wilson tremendous respect in the paddock.
“What Justin’s gone through over the past couple years, how hard he worked to get back into the car this season, and the opportunity that he had with Andretti, I think he exemplified the reason we all love doing this,” said Ed Carpenter, who raced against Wilson on Sunday.
“He fought so hard to come back.
“He was doing what he loved to do, what we all love to do, and why we’ll all be back competing in his honour in the near future,” Carpenter added.
Wilson, who lived outside Denver with his wife, Julia, and two daughters, died in a hospital in Allentown.
He was airlifted there Sunday after he was hit in the head with a piece of debris, and his car veered into an interior wall at the track.