Race Weekend Central

Potts’s Shots: Do IndyCars Belong on Ovals? NASCAR Gas Gimmicks & More

JD Stephens asks, “Is this American Ethanol a gimmick? Last week at Kansas Speedway there were two tankers parked in the infield and they both had SUNOCO RACING FUEL on them, and that’s where the teams were going to refill their gas cans. NO mention of ethanol any where on the SUNOCO tankers.”

I’m sure the ethanol was mixed into the Sunoco Racing Fuel, JD It has to be part of the agreement NASCAR has with Sunoco.


This comment from Steve, “I really like that race format you listed in the last question, John. It would make qualifying important and spice up the event which I assume would be run all in one day except maybe qualifying. It would beat some of the snoozefests we have to endure on a weekly basis. It would also allow breaks to get those commercials in every week and not interrupt as much racing. There are a lot of things that make sense with this format. Probably why it will never happen.”

Steve, there’s not much I can add to that. Your thinking and mine seem to coincide on every point you made.


George writes, “I assume you were watching the IndyCar telecast from Las Vegas on Sunday (Oct. 16), and I know you must be as saddened as all of us have. I’m wondering what your take is on the comments by Jimmie Johnson, as well as the future of those cars on oval tracks.”

See also
Fan's View: Working Through the Loss of an IndyCar Family Member

You’re right, George, I was watching that race, and the accident scared me from the second it began. An old friend of mine called shortly after it happened, and wanted to know how bad I thought it was. I told her that I was worried from the time I saw the crew cover up Dan Wheldon’s car after they took him out of it.

Yes, we’ve lost a driver. I didn’t know Wheldon personally, not having been at the Indianapolis 500 for 10 years or so. From all accounts, he was an outgoing, life-loving man, a devoted father and husband, and not so incidentally a great driver. It’s always tough when something like this happens.

I think Bobby Rahal spoke for a lot of us when he said, “Racing can be a bitter sport, but life in the racing community is so exhilarating that, year after year, incident after incident, drivers choose to race. “The community will grieve – racing isn’t heartless – and then it will do what it always does in the aftermath of tragedy: We will do what Dan would have done; we will go racing again.”

As for Johnson’s comments that IndyCar shouldn’t race on ovals … he’s entitled to his opinion, of course. And, because he’s a five-time champion, his opinions are going to be picked up and published.

My feeling is that he’s wrong because I don’t believe he has any knowledge of those cars. Also, that comment came shortly after he took what I think was his first big hit in a NASCAR stocker (and did anybody else find that crash freakishly similar to one in Feb. 2001 at Daytona?). His accident may have shown how far safety has come in NASCAR. Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt, two legends of racing who have won in NASCAR and in Indy cars (both in the front engine and rear-engine eras), have voiced disagreement with Johnson’s comments.

Foyt spoke with his usual shoot-from-the-hip style, something we’ve always admired, saying, “I don’t think Johnson knows what he’s talking about. 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 drove both and I’ve been hurt real bad in both.”

Foyt also noted that the two accidents which were probably his worst – in a stock car at Riverside in 1965 (broken back, ankle, severe chest injuries), and an Indy car at Elkhart Lake in 1990 (shattered legs), both occurred on road courses. (In fact, I was told that in the Riverside crash, the track doctor was ready to pronounce him dead, but Parnelli Jones saw some movement and he was revived.)

Andretti called the Las Vegas accident,“… a fluke, a freakish accident,” and said it would probably be addressed by a new chassis design next year – one for which Wheldon has done most of the testing, and which will be named in his memory.

“We’ve come a long way,” Mario added. “In the ’60s and ’70s, open-wheel drivers had a 35-40% of surviving a career. Today, it’s 99.9%. Some things need to be revisited perhaps, but to say after 100 years, we don’t have the knowledge to make these things safe enough for ovals is absolutely absurd.”

Andretti also said he had talked to Jimmie and there was no tension between them. I don’t think I’m as qualified to speak on this subject as two guys I respect. I have some other comments, but I’ve gone on long enough for this week.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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