Following the tragic death of Dan Wheldon in a 15-car crash on Oct. 16, NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson is telling IndyCar to stop racing on ovals.
Johnson, a five-time defending champion, told the Sacramento Bee that he was glued to his television during the IndyCar season finale crash, as Indianapolis 500 winner Wheldon's car plowed into the fiery pileup at the Las Vega Motor Speedway.
Johnson himself is just recovering from his own crash, an accident at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Oct. 15. His car slammed into a wall headfirst, his back wheels lifting briefly off of the track. Johnson, however, was lucky: he walked away with only bruising and some minor sore spots. Wheldon was not so fortunate.
Johnson says that IndyCar racers are built for street circuits and road courses, according to the Bee. Cars drive far too fast when they race on ovals, and the cars were not built to withstand the rocking and bumping that happens on an oval track.
There were going to be at least one or two crashes.
Jimmie Johnson's criticisms of IndyCar come as journalists covering the event, and other racecar drivers, say that conditions were already suspect at the race, that some has serious safety concerns, and that some crashes could be viewed as inevitable.
Everybody, Bruce Martin, a Sports Illustrated journalist who witnessed the Indy 300 accident said, kind of expected that there [were] going to be at least one or two really big crashes.
Drivers also reportedly expressed concern about an oval track before Johnson, noting that cars race at speeds often near 225 mph. We all had a bad feeling about this place, driver Oriol Servia told CBS News. In particular just because of high banking and how easy it was to go flat.
The extent of the horrific crash, however, was something no concerns could have foreseen, according to CBS News. Just minutes after the Las Vegas 300 had begun, Wheldon -- driving No. 77-- went airborne and crashed into a fence.
[It was like] a scene from 'The Terminator', one driver said, describing the wreck and the massive pileup that followed.
Wheldon, who died at a local hospital after being airlifted off the track, is the first fatality at an IndyCar race since 2006, when Paul Dana was killed in a Miami crash. It was a race that Wheldon would go on to win.
Martin, however, said that drivers had a right to be concerned about this race specifically, beyond the oval shape it shares with many other racing areas.
[It was] not so much the track, the track didn't really do anything wrong, as much as it was the style of race cars that you have in the Izod IndyCar, he said in an interview with The Early Show, saying a crash could be expected in such conditions. On a high bank speedway, they're able to go flat -- that means flat to the floor with the accelerator -- and by doing that, there was no separation of the field. So you had a pack of 34 cars all racing in one large group.
At a lot of the other ovals, he noted, you have a little bit of separation. Here, however, danger could be expected.
Wheldon, a British driver, was competing in only his third IndyCar race of the season. He was trying, reports say, to earn a $5 million bonus, a league promotion for drivers who don't compete full-time in the series. The driver would have to win the race by starting at the back of the pack and then beating all the racers to the finish line.
In a preview for USA Today Sports, Wheldon told race fans that he was competing for team owner Sam Schmidt. Schmidt's own Indy driving career was cut short in a racing crash that left him quadriplegic.
A Tremendous Abassador for IndyCar Racing.
Other racers besides Jimmie Johnson have been rocked by Dan Wheldon's death. We lost a good friend, said fellow racer Dario Franchitti. I think everyone in IndyCar considered Dan a friend.
Danica Patrick, who was making her final IndyCar start, also posted a message on Twitter about Wheldon's death. There are no words for today, she wrote. Myself and so many others are devastated.
NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, meanwhile, who had considered taking on the $5 million challenge, feels numb. Really, all I can think about is that [the challenge], Kahne told ESPN Oct. 17.
Tonya Bergeson-Dana, however, Paul Dana's widow, said the race culture itself is not to blame for the wreck. A common misperception is that they're in it for that feeling of danger, she said, but it was not about the danger, it was about the possibilities of what could be accomplished... [these accidents] were hard to predict. In both cases, somebody spun in front of them and they got caught up in situations beyond control.
Dan Wheldon was 33 when he died. He left behind a wife, Suzi, and two sons.
His legacy is going to be how well-liked, how well-loved he really was by the fans, by his fellow competitors, Bruce Martin said. He was really a tremendous ambassador for the sport of IndyCar racing.