Tue Oct 18 10:02am EDT
Shock over Dan Wheldon's death has faded, to be replaced by anger and determination. Whatever went wrong, whoever was at fault, whatever could be done to prevent this from happening again ... fans, drivers and interested onlookers are now in the mood for answers.
Count Jimmie Johnson among those taking a very close look at how IndyCar has run its operations, specifically its decision to run on banked ovals traditionally reserved for closed-wheel NASCAR cars.
"I wouldn't run them on ovals. There's just no need to," said Johnson, whose five championships give him a bit more knowledge of racing than your average fan. "Those cars are fantastic for street circuits, for road courses. I hate, hate, hate that this tragedy took place. But hopefully they can learn from it and make those cars safer on ovals somehow ... Myself, I have a lot of friends that race in that series, and I'd just rather see them on street circuits and road courses. No more ovals." (Johnson later qualified that he meant high-banked ovals like Las Vegas, not flat ovals like Indianapolis.)
The issue, of course, is that high-banked ovals allow higher speeds and tighter racing, which is fascinating if the cars can take a bump or two and keep moving, but deadly if the cars' wheels touch, or more specifically, if there's a drastic difference in talent between drivers. And, in certain situations, it doesn't matter how talented a driver is if his car is no longer in contact with the track.
"There's very little crumple zone around the driver, it's an open cockpit and then you add open wheels," Johnson said. "It's just creating situations to get the car off the ground at a high rate of speed. And you can't control the car when it's off the ground."
Johnson's comments provoked immediate backlash from the open-wheel community, but he stood by them on Twitter. So we'll put it to you: Should IndyCar be restricted to road courses and lower-banked tracks? Or is the thrill of seeing bunched open-wheel cars at banked ovals worth the risk?
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