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NASCAR’s Johnson: Indycars On Ovals A Bad Idea

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 17 2011

Jimmie Johnson says Indycars should not be run on ovals. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

CONCORD, N.C. – Despite auto racing’s worldwide existence, it is a small community and when tragedy strikes, as it did with Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon’s death in Sunday’s IndyCar Series season finale, it is felt by every series competitor and sanctioning body.

“Those of us walking around the garage today, everybody’s hearts are heavy,” Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, said Monday during an electronic fuel injection test at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “Racing is a dangerous sport. We work on safety every day, (but) it’s inevitable that things like this will happen.”

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, one of a dozen drivers participating in Monday’s EFI test, suffered one of the hardest hits of his career in Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at CMS and he admitted Wheldon’s death “impacted me dramatically.”

“I sat there with my mouth wide open as I watched the carnage,” said Johnson, who walked away from his head-on crash into the track’s second-turn wall. “I couldn’t believe it took Dan’s life. Knowing Dan, his wife and kids … my daughter was running around in the backyard yesterday … I was torn up yesterday.”

A racer since age 5, Johnson always dreamed of competing in the Indianapolis 500. Not now.

“My attorney and wife and I agreed that once we had children I needed to look the other way,” said Johnson, who has numerous friends in the IndyCar Series. “The racer in me wants to (still race in the Indianapolis 500), but I know how dangerous those cars are. Yesterday was proof to the danger of those cars on ovals. They run so fast and get off the ground quite a lot … I wouldn’t run them on ovals; there is no need to. Those cars are fantastic for street circuits and road courses. I would rather see them on street and road courses and not on ovals.”

Johnson said it’s “cool” to see the Indy Cars run at the high speeds on tracks such as Milwaukee, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Indianapolis, but noted there were numerous things about the cars that contribute to them becoming airborne.

“They are shaped like a wing and they take flight when they get off the ground,” Johnson continued. “They are a road course vehicle in my opinion. I can’t imagine racing them on an oval anywhere. When they touch wheels it just throws them into the air. They’re average is 225 mph. I’ve never been 225 in my life. They are brave men and women who drive those things.”

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 17 2011
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • Well, that shows how kind-hearted and humble this winner is..good one Mr Jimmie johnson.

  • Brian from NY says:

    Dan wheldon’s death was a tragic freakish accident, but the fact of the matter is that auto racing is suppose to be dangerous. A 16 year old was killed a couple of days ago playing football. Should football be banned? A rider was killed in a bicyle race not long ago. Should they ban bicyle racing? Even in baseball a fan is killed trying to reach a foul ball, but no one thinks that we shouldn’t have fans attend games because they could be hurt. We take it for what it is and understand that sometimes bad things happen in life. When a driver straps in to his car, he or she understand that they are taking a risk. Safety improvement have reduced those risks, but if they think it’s 100% safe they are mistaken. Nothing can be 100% safe and for that matter do really want it too be? As fans, we watch because we are watching men and women drive to the edge knowing that life and death could be a heartbeat away. Know no real fans want to see an accident occur or a driver get hurt, but with no element of danger whats the point. It’s why Heminway said that auto racing, bullfighting, and mt.climbing were the only real sports and that all others were just games.
    Courage is the act of doing something even when you are afraid. The biggest difference between NASCAR and INDYCAR is the danger factor. This is what Jimmy doesn’t understand. NASCAR has built a tank to enclose their drivers to the point that their is no fear. Drivers are told to “have at it” because the risk of injury is almost non exsistent. I think that is why ratings and attendence has declined in resent years since the COT was introduced. Fans don’t want to see drivers hurt, but when a driver can hit a wall as hard as Jimmy did and drive away like nothing happened then maybe the car is too safe. In the past drivers like Earnhardt, Senna, and Clark have lost their lives in motor racing and the thought was that if they could die anyone could. When you make it 100% safe it no longer has the same emotion. When I watch an INDYCAR race on an oval like Las Vegas, it’s like watching a tightropper at 1000 ft. with no net. I’m on the edge of my seat praying he makes it across. When a watch NASCAR it’s like watching the same thing, but a foot off the ground and I think I could do that.