LONG BEACH — Stefan Wilson stood just off the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach track, having just given a VIP ride in an IndyCar two-seater. Speaking to a reporter, he was gracious and super friendly — just like his brother, Justin.

Justin Wilson was not only a fan favorite of the Long Beach street circuit, he was beloved by the media, as he treated everyone with nothing but respect.

It was Tuesday morning, and Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach media day was in full swing for the Sept. 26 race, which will be the season finale. It was a tough moment for Stefan Wilson because he was asked to talk about his older brother, Justin, who died Aug. 24, 2015, a day after debris from Sage Karam’s crashed car came down and smashed onto the helmet of Wilson on the track at Pocono Raceway.

  • IndyCar racer Stefan Wilson prepares to take some laps on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach media day. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • IndyCar racer Stefan Wilson is ready for some laps on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach media day. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • IndyCar racer Stefan Wilson attends a drivers’ meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach media day. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • Formula Drift drivers offered rides to members of the press on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach media day. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

  • IndyCar racer Stefan Wilson appears at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach media day on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. His older brother, Justin, was a fan favorite at Long Beach before losing his life a day after a track-related incident at Pocono Raceway in August 2015. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

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Justin Wilson was 37. He never won at Long Beach, but he finished on the podium three times — he was second in 2006 and 2010, and third in 2013, when he started 24th.

It’s been six years since his demise. Time has not made things much easier for the Wilson family.

“Yeah, it was really tough and it’s still tough now,” said Stefan Wilson, 31. “It’s not really changed. Knowing his racing was such a big part of our lives, we miss him as a person, but miss being able to watch him race because that’s what he did best.

“I think just in time we’ve learned to sort of deal with it and process it, but we still miss him every day.”

He paused.

“Man, just doing the best we can and trying to stay strong, like he would do, you know?” Wilson said.

Wilson, of England, does not have a full-time ride in IndyCar, but that is his goal. He finished as high as third in series points in Indy Lights in 2011 for Andretti Autosport, with a third-place finish in Long Beach. He has also competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, 2018 and this year with a top finish of 15th in 2018.

His brother’s track-related death notwithstanding, there was no way Stefan Wilson was going to hang up his driving suit in the aftermath. He said he never thought twice about that.

“No, not at all, really,” he said. “Because I think we all accept what’s possible with this and we all know that what happened to Justin is a risk that we all take doing this. So we had already accepted there is danger in the sport and so that, it didn’t really change anything for me.”

It did give him more of a purpose, though.

“There were certain things he wanted to do in his career that he never got a chance to because his life was cut short,” Wilson said of his older brother. “So it made me determined to try and achieve those for him and for myself.”

Stefan Wilson is alluding to the Indianapolis 500. Justin finished as high as fifth there in 2013.

“That’s something that I think, eventually, he would have won that race in a couple of more tries,” Stefan Wilson said. “I was able to see him, watch him around that race and saw how determined he was, how hungry he was when it went into the month of May.

“That was something he really wanted to take off his racing bucket list. And so, yeah, I’ve just carried that determination for myself to try and win that race for him and for the Wilson family.”

His 15th-place finish there in 2018 was eye-opening.

“Yeah, we were leading with four laps to go,” Wilson said. “But we were on alternate strategy, the strategy didn’t quite work out for us, so we had to pit and fuel. But, yeah, I got a taste of it right there, what it could be like, that it’s possible.”

Stefan Wilson, like Justin, is 6-foot-3 1/2 — tall for an IndyCar driver. Stefan has the same infectious smile his brother had.

Attendance should be strong

This will be the first Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach since 2019. The 2020 event was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, and this year’s race was pushed back from its normal month of April. Yet, Grand Prix Association of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian said tickets sales are going well.

“They’re good,” he said. “The response has been very positive.”

Michaelian said the state mandates fans to be masked, and the city of Long Beach wants either proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.

“There was a little concern as to what kind of impact that would have on our pre-sales and (with) very few exceptions, most people have agreed to go through the process and it looks like they’ll be joining us here,” Michaelian said.

Formula Drift

Round 7 of the Formula Drift series will be on tap this Friday and Saturday at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach track.The venue opens at 10 a.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday with championship finals beginning at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Drifters practiced Tuesday and also gave VIP rides.