Current NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has stirred controversy and sparked anger among IndyCar fans by calling on the rival IZOD IndyCar Series to drop ovals from future seasons, after the devastating 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that resulted in the death of Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon on Sunday.
"Those cars are going so fast and get airborne so frequently on ovals that I wouldn't run them on ovals - there is just no need to," said Johnson, speaking during a break in NASCAR testing on Monday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was still sore from his own high-speed accident at Charlotte on Saturday night that probably put an end to his hopes of a sixth consecutive title - but at least he was entirely uninjured after smashing into the wall.
“Those cars are fantastic for street circuits and road courses," he explained. "The ovals at those speeds, you can't control the vehicle when it's off the ground. There's very little crumple zone around the driver, and obviously it's an open cockpit and then you add open wheels. You're just creating situations to get the car off the ground at a high rate of speed.
"I hate, hate, hate that this tragedy took place," he continued. "But hopefully they can learn something from it and make those cars safer on ovals. I don't know how you do it. Myself, I have a lot of friends that race in that series. I'd rather see them on street circuits and road courses—and no more ovals.
"It's been my dream to race the Indy 500,” Johnson revealed. "But wrecks like that ... There's the racer in me that wants to, but I know how dangerous those cars are, and yesterday was proof of how dangerous those cars are on ovals," he said. "The risk factor is multiplied by ten," he added.
IndyCar fans saw Johnson's comments as an attack on IndyCar in general, but Johnson was quick to respond on Twitter to make it plain that this was absolutely not the case.
"I hate some of you don't understand my opinion of IndyCars not running on ovals," he wrote later. "It's only because I care. I'm a huge fan of open wheel racing and all things racing ... I don't want to see my friends hurt or another tragedy.
“I know Dan ... or knew Dan. I have a lot of friends that race in that series. We just stared at the TV for a long time with long faces. It was just really sad," he said. "Knowing Dan and his wife and his two kids, and I'm sitting there with my daughter running around in the backyard – I was tore up."
NASCAR's next race is at Talladega Superspeedway, where the use of restrictor plates to limit air intake into the engines in the series was overhauled to lower speeds to under 200mph following the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001 after a high-speed accident.