NASCAR’s Johnson: Indycars On Ovals A Bad Idea
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
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.”
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