Dangers of IndyCar open-cockpit racing back in spotlight

This photo taken Aug. 23, 2015, shows Justin Wilson, of England, driving during the Pocono IndyCar 500 auto race in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. Wilson has died from a head injury suffered when a piece of debris struck him at Pocono Raceway. He was 37.

AP Photo/Derik Hamilton

The auto racing world is remembering IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who died Monday from a head injury suffered a day earlier. The racer was struck in the head by a flying piece of debris from another crashed car at the Pocono Raceway, knocking him unconscious. Wilson was airlifted to a hospital, where he never recovered, reports CBSN's Jeff Glor.

Wilson was a father, husband and talented race car driver. The 37-year-old was an advocate for racing safety, but what happened on the track Sunday was something even he couldn't have prevented.

Wilson, a seven-time IndyCar winner, was one of the most well-liked and well-respected drivers on the circuit.

Safety concerns for drivers in open-cockpit cars isn't a new issue. Last year, James Hinchcliffe was hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion after being struck in the head with debris, actually from a car driven by Wilson.

In 2011, IndyCar poster-boy Dan Wheldon was killed instantly when his head hit a fence post during a major crash.

"Days like this that are extremely hard on all of us. As challenging as today is and yesterday was, he's doing what he loved to do, and what we all love to do," fellow IndyCar driver Ed Carpenter said.

Carpenter knows firsthand racing cars for a living is a dangerous business. His IndyCar exploded into a wall at nearly 200 mph during a practice run earlier this year. Unlike NASCAR, where drivers are fully enclosed inside their cars, IndyCar racers sit in an open cockpit.

There hasn't been a death at a NASCAR race in 14 years, not since legendary Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in 2001.

The winner of Sunday's IndyCar race, Ryan Hunter-Reay, said the sport should consider giving racers some sort of canopy for protection, while also preserving IndyCar tradition.

Wilson is survived by his wife Julia and his daughters, Jane and Jessica. They are 7 and 5 years old.