Five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson has called for an end to IndyCar racing on ovals following the accident that took the life of Dan Wheldon at the weekend.
A two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, Wheldon had nowhere to go when a wreck started in-front of him at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Briton’s Dallara become airborne after clipping the back of another car before making heavy contact with the outside catch fencing.
Johnson, who walked away from a high-speed head-on shunt in the NASCAR race at Charlotte on Saturday night, shared his thoughts on Wheldon’s accident with the media during a Hendrick Motorsport test day.
Explaining his horror upon seeing the carnage on television, Johnson revealed that he put aside his own ambitions to race in the Indianapolis 500 due to the danger of racing open-wheel cars on ovals.
“There’s a racer in me that wants to (race at Indy), but I know how dangerous those cars are and yesterday was proof to the danger of those vehicles on ovals,” said Johnson.
“I think it really boils down to the fact that, I guess if you really look at the big picture, why we run restrictor plates is so the cars stay on the ground. It doesn’t matter the type of race car, if it’s off the ground, you can’t control it in an accident, and those cars are going so fast that get airborne frequently on ovals.
“I wouldn’t run them (IndyCars) on ovals – there’s no need to. Those cars are fantastic for street circuits, for road courses. The ovals at those speeds, you can’t control the vehicle when it’s off the ground and there’s very little crumple zone around the driver, and then obviously it’s an open cockpit and then you add open wheels, you’re just creating situations to get the car off the ground at a high rate of speed.”
Meanwhile, Wheldon’s fellow former IndyCar Series Champion and long-time friend, Tony Kanaan, has vowed to continue competing in the class – claiming that danger is a part of all racing.
“If it ever crossed my mind that it was too dangerous, I should go and do something else,” Kanaan told CNN.
“Now I think if Dan Wheldon was here, and I announced I was going to retire, he’d be the first guy to call my team owner to take my place. I will try to honour him as best I can on the racetrack.
“As far as safety (goes), I think we’re getting better every time. I think that track was well equipped, the cars as well. Racing is dangerous. It’s been like that for 100 years.”
Fellow open-wheel racing veteran Paul Tracy however says the incident has left him contemplating his future in the sport.
“I have had a long career, I’ve been racing 20 years now in Indycars, and my wife said to me last night, ‘you have enough trophies and have enough money, do we need to do this any more?’,” Tracy told CNN.
“After seeing one of your friends die and knowing the family, that is the question mark I have to answer for myself.”