Mike Conway surprised everyone - even his own team - when he asked AJ Foyt Racing to release him from this weekend's MAVTV 500 IZOD IndyCar
Series finale on the two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval racetrack in Fontana, California.
"I've come to realize I'm not comfortable on the ovals and no longer wish to compete on them," Conway announced on Thursday afternoon, apologising to his team and sponsors for the late decision to pull out. "This is the hardest decision I have ever made in my racing career."
His fellow racers on pit road understood his feelings and were broadly supportive of his decision.
"I look up to Mike," said championship contender Ryan Hunter-Reay on Friday at Fontana. "He was somewhere mentally that he didn't want to be. He was man enough to say, 'Hey, this is not working for me right now.'
"Instead of going out there and being in a bad place mentally in one of these cars - which is a very dangerous thing to do, these cars are dangerous enough, racing on a track like this is dangerous enough - but to be in a bad place mentally and do it is not right. That's a smart decision from him.
"Ovals haven't been that nice to him either, you know, especially with Indy," Hunter-Reay continued, referencing the horror smash in the 2010 Indianapolis
500 which started with contact between Conway and Hunter-Reay on the final lap and saw Conway's car thrown into the air and torn up by the catchfence.
Conway suffered a broken leg and neck and back injurie that sidelined him from racing for the rest of the season. On his next outing at Indy in May this year, his race also ended in a serious crash this time with Will Power, although Conway escaped this one without any major injuries.
Although Conway hasn't explained his decision in detail, Hunter-Reay was assuming that it was incidents like this that had contributed to Conway's growing unease on the longer ovals: "If he doesn't feel like it, there's other days to fight this whole thing out. He chose to do that. I really look up to him for that."
Hunter-Reay's rival for the 2012 IndyCar
title, Will Power, was also sympathetic of Conway's decision: "There's no shame in what he did, at all, considering some of the things that happened to him.
"I can understand how he feels," said Power. "If the car's not right around here, you don't even want to be out there. Yeah, that's ballsy to say, Hey, I don't feel comfortable. Full credit to him.
"He's a great driver, too," Power added. "He's one of the quickest guys on the circuit. It's just the circumstance."