TORONTO - In the aftermath of the Dan Wheldon tragedy at Las Vegas Motor Speedway there will be hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called experts called to give their two cents worth of advice on how to make racing and the IZOD IndyCar Series, in particular, safer.
And a vast majority of those opinions will come from folks who have never once sat in the cockpit of a race car capable of rocketing around a track at 200-plus m.p.h.
That’s why it was refreshing this week to hear from racing legend Mario Andretti, and his opinion of what happened at LVMS.
“It’s going to be very well investigated; all of us will have an opinion about it, and maybe some things will need to be done differently,” Andretti said. “Looking at the amount of exposure we have, week-in, week-out, thousands and thousands of miles being run on the track in racing and testing, I think we’re very proud of our safety record. I wish we could be 100% shielded from danger, but nothing is in life.”
Well put, Mario.
RACE CAR DRIVERS ARE A DIFFERENT BREED
Why do race car drivers do what they do the in face of huge danger?
Jeff Burton may have the answer.
“Racers have a way of having a ‘that can’t happen to me mentality,’” Burton, driver of the No. 31 Sprint Cup Chevrolet said in answer to a question about getting back in a race car after Dan Wheldon’s death.
“It’s pretty interesting how racers put that aside. Once you’re in the car ... a lot of that stuff goes away. I guess the day it doesn’t go away is the day you need to leave it. For me, and for everybody I know, we get in the car and, as silly as it sounds, it’s the medicine we want. That’s what makes us feel better.”
JOHNSON PILLORIED FOR INDYCAR OPINION
Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson has created a snit storm on Twitter over his comments that the IZOD IndyCar series should not run on ovals in the wake of Dan Wheldon’s death at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I wouldn’t run them on ovals. There’s just no need to,” Johnson said after testing the new NASCAR fuel-injected engines at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “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.
“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.”
Almost immediately IndyCar fans took to tweeting comments like: “you’re clueless.”
Johnson defended his stance by tweeting: “I hate that some of you don’t understand my opinion of Indy Cars not running on ovals... I don’t want to see my friends hurt or another tragedy.”
It took four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti to wade in to calm the waters.
Franchitti tweeted: “Lay off @JimmieJohnson, folks. He said same thing many others are saying, and he said it from a place of genuine concern.”