As an investigation into the death of Dan Wheldon continued, two auto-racing legends defended holding IndyCar races on oval tracks.
A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti, IndyCar and stock-car champions, addressed Jimmie Johnson’s criticism of oval-track racing for IndyCars. His comments were prompted by Wheldon’s death from head injuries in a fiery, 15-car crash Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I don't think Jimmie Johnson knows what he's talking about,” Foyt, four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 as well as a Daytona 500 champion, told USA Today. “He's never drove one, and he's pretty stupid to make a statement like that. You could say the same about stock cars. I've driven both, and I've been hurt real bad in both.”
Andretti, a Daytona 500 and Indy 500 winner and Formula One world championship winner, called Wheldon’s crash a “fluke, freakish accident.”
“We've come a long way. In the '60s and '70s, open-wheel drivers had a 35-40 percent chance of surviving a career. Today, it's a 99.9 percent chance of retiring on their own terms. Some things need to be revisited perhaps, but to say after 100 years that all of a sudden we don't have the knowledge to make these things safe enough for ovals is absolutely asurd.”
Nigel Mansell, Formula One world champion in 1992 and IndyCar champ in 1993, sided with Johnson.
“In Indy racing, there is simply nowhere to go,” Mansell told BBC Radio 5 live (via Reuters). “When an accident happens you are into the wall in a split second.
“To have 34 cars travelling at 220 mph on a mile-and-a-half long circuit, there are too many cars on the track. The trouble is there are no small accidents when accidents happen. There were a number of rookie drivers and others driving in their first race of the season.”
By late Wednesday morning, Andretti and Johnson had talked, with Andretti tweeting: “Spoke to Jimmie Johnson. He cares about IndyCar &his racing brothers. No tension between us, despite what you read. It's sensationalized.”
Johnson tweeted back: “Thanks for the call Mario Andretti, you're the man.”
As an investigation continued, Dario Franchitti’s test run of a new car was canceled. Franchitti had been scheduled to test the 2012 IndyCar this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Actress Ashley Judd, Franchitti’s wife, said on Twitter of the decision: “I appreciate IndyCar canceling my husband's test at Las Vegas track. The new car needs development — but not now, and never again there.”