NASCAR: Johnson hashes out call on oval ban with IndyCar
CHARLOTTE ó Five-time defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said Wednesday heís spoken to many IndyCar drivers about his belief that the series should not be racing on ovals, and all understood what he meant.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon was killed in a 15-car accident Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. When asked the next day about the accident, Johnson said ovals were not safe for IndyCars and the series should abandon them.
ěI have a lot of friends that race in that series, and Iíd just rather see them on street circuits and road courses. No more ovals,î Johnson said Monday.
His comment led to an angry backlash from fans who believed Johnson had no business weighing in on another series. Mario Andretti and A.J. Foyt also rebuked Johnsonís comments, with Foyt telling USA Today that Johnson was ěpretty stupid to make a statement like that.
ěYou could say the same about stock cars. Iíve driven both, and Iíve been hurt real bad in both,î Foyt told USA Today.
Andretti called Johnson on Wednesday to discuss it, and Johnson clarified that he should have been specific about high-banked ovals. Las Vegas has progressive banking, and many IndyCar drivers expressed concern about racing on that kind of track.
Johnson called Foyt after he spoke to Andretti, and said heís also had conversations with Dario Franchitti, Danica Patrick, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Oriol Servia, Paul Tracy, Marco Andretti and IndyCar chairman Randy Bernard about his comments. He said all understood what he meant, and all supported him.
The majority of the drivers have said very little since Sundayís accident, and Johnson said many expressed hope that the focus will be returned back to Wheldon as his family prepares for his funeral.
Juan Pablo Montoya, a former Indianapolis 500 winner who now drives in NASCAR, echoed that sentiment Wednesday.
ěI think people really have to forget about that,î Montoya said in Miami. ěNow with the social media and everything anybodyís opinion really counts. And I think the only opinion that really matters right now is the one where we worry about Dan and his family. Letís let IndyCar deal with their problems.î
Johnson did receive some support from former open-wheel driver AJ Allmendinger, who last weekend announced he was starting an IndyCar team next season. Now a NASCAR driver, Allemendinger raced at Las Vegas in the Champ Car Series before the track was reconfigured to add its banking.
ěPeople have spoken out, does Vegas need to be safer? The chain link fences? Iím sorry, nothing was going to save (Wheldon),î Allmendinger said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. ěYou go flipping into the wall at 225 (mph), youíre not going to live through that. And itís just tragic … itís heartbreaking.
ěAnd it just doesnít need to happen. They donít need to be on those racetracks. Smaller ovals, they can still keep those. You can still keep Indy because it is tradition and at Indy youíre not running three, four wide. But you cannot have Talladega Superspeedway (style) racing with an IndyCar at Vegas or Texas. It finally happened and hopefully something changes.î
Johnson said the accident gives all forms of motorsports a chance to band together for the sake of safety improvements.
ěMotor sports needs IndyCar. NASCAR needs IndyCar. The (IndyCar series) was heading in a great direction,î Johnson said. ěWe need to figure out as a group how to make racing safer. Weíve got a lot of smart people and we can all pool together and make motorsports smarter.î