Oprah crew descends on IMS to chat with Jimmie Johnson

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NASCAR driver Jimmy Johnson—along with Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch and a handful of other fendered car pilots—are out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today as part of a Goodyear tire test.

Given what’s gone on with the Brickyard 400 over the last two years, that could be news in and of itself. Goodyear is testing compounds to match with the new spoiler in use on Sprint Cup Series cars. And they want to make sure that any changes don’t lead to a tire-shredding repeat of what happened here in 2008.

But The Oprah Winfrey Show isn’t in town to talk tires, though they do want to talk with Johnson.

Winfrey’s Harpo Productions is out at 16th and Georgetown today to film some segments and talk to Johnson for upcoming segment on texting and driving.

Johnson has been one of NASCAR’s poster boys against the practice of sending text messages on cell phones while driving, a practice which has been increasingly blamed nationwide for automobile accidents.

A new study by University of Utah has shed light on why texting while driving is riskier than talking on a cell phone or with another passenger.

In the study, University of Utah researchers found that texters in a driving simulator had more crashes, responded more slowly to brake lights on cars in front of them, and showed impairment in forward and lateral control than did drivers who talked on a cell phone while driving or drove without texting.

They found that attention patterns differ for drivers who text versus those who converse on a cell phone.

Today’s Oprah shoot will include a Johnson pit stop and some action on the track as well as an interview with the driver.

Harpo Productions was set to send there own crew to Speedway, but sensing a business opportunity, IMS Productions General Manager Robby Greene gave the Winfrey staff a call.

“We wanted to make sure they understood our capabilities,” Greene said. “We’re right across the street.”

In the end, Harpo officials decided to hire IMS Productions, which is making a push to win business outside of motorsports and make a turn toward becoming a profitable stand-alone entity.

Greene said the thrust of this diversification effort goes back two years, but is getting a big boost from new Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy Racing League boss Jeff Belskus.

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