NASCAR champ’s ill-timed comments no help to IndyCar

People are coming out of the woodwork in the wake of the massive accident Sunday that killed Dan Wheldon to say shame on the IndyCar Series for creating an unsafe atmosphere at the Las Vegas race.

Front and center is NASCAR champ Jimmie Johnson.

“I wouldn’t run them on ovals,” Johnson proclaimed during a test session Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “There’s just no need to. 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.

“I don’t know how they can really do it,” Johnson added. “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.”

I appreciate Johnson’s sense of sadness and concern.

But as I told Steve Simpson this morning on WIBC-FM 93.1, no one points fingers better than the people within open-wheel racing. Apparently that extends to NASCAR as well. Is Johnson really suggesting that the century-old Indianapolis 500 be ended?

This is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. And it’s certainly not the time for finger pointing.

Before IndyCar officials begin to contemplate the future of the series and the safeness of oval racing, raw emotions must be dealt with.

It’s a time to mourn the loss of Wheldon, by all accounts a wonderful ambassador for the sport. And it’s a time to have compassion for his family and close friends. It’s a time of quiet contemplation and prayer.

Those emotions then must somehow be separated from a careful scrutiny of the incident, and the future of the sport of open-wheel racing.

The design of the cars and engines, the tracks the series races on, the way the sport is promoted and myriad other things need to be looked at methodically, analytically and strategically.

Then and only then can IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, his lieutenants along with team owners and drivers, map out the best plan to go forward.


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