Jimmie Johnson: Kevin Harvick winning Sprint Cup title was “the right thing”


Jimmie Johnson’s bid for a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup championship was cut short in the Contender Round of this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. Although he would win later in the Chase at Texas, he was left to essentially watch as Kevin Harvick emerged as the new champ.

During a Thursday function in Charlotte, North Carolina for his foundation, Johnson indicated that the final outcome was fine with him.

“I feel like Kevin winning was the right thing when you look at the winners and the dominant cars throughout the year,” Johnson said to reporters of Harvick, who won five times in 2014 and completed his run to the title with back-to-back victories at Phoenix and Homestead.

However, it could have all been different had Ryan Newman managed to defeat Harvick at Homestead in the final laps. Leading up to the championship finale, many observers pondered the prospect of Newman perhaps securing the Cup without a single race victory.

As the finale played out, it became clear that Newman would indeed have to beat Harvick to win the race and the title, and thus could not become the “winless champion.” But Johnson feels that had Newman won, it still wouldn’t have sat completely right.

“Ryan had every right in the world to be the champion – the rules were laid out that way – but if the 31 [Newman’s team] wins the championship, I think that would have been tough to swallow for the sport,” Johnson said.

“That’s not taking anything away from [team owner Richard] Childress or Ryan – they had an awesome year and collected a ton of points. [But] there’s some danger for the sport with this format.”

Before Homestead, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said that while the sanctioning body reserved the right to make tweaks, he put the possibility of tinkering with the Chase for 2015 at “very modest to zero.”

However, that did not stop Jeff Gordon from calling for a separate points system for all drivers involved in the post-season stretch. Additionally, NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, a former Cup champion himself, proposed that should a Championship 4 driver be winless, he/she would have to win at Homestead to earn the title.

On Thursday, Johnson said perhaps a more radical change for the sport in general was needed – a format change for race weekends.

“Maybe we qualify on Saturday and that’s televised, and then we run some heat races and a feature on Sunday,” he said. “That fits in a four-hour time window. It sticks to our roots, sticks to what we’ve always had and done, gives some natural pauses for the show for the social element at the track.

“I think there’d be some good momentum with that personally. We’d still get 500 miles between practice, qualifying and all of that. I think that would be a pretty entertaining format.”

Roger Penske discusses flying tire at Indy 500 with Dallara executives: ‘We’ve got to fix that’


INDIANAPOLIS – Roger Penske spoke with Dallara executives Monday morning about the loose tire that went flying over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway catchfence and into a Turn 2 parking lot.

The left-rear wheel from Kyle Kirkwood’s No. 27 Dallara-Honda was sheared off in a collision at speed as Kirkwood tried to avoid the skidding No. 6 Dallara-Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 183 of the 107th Indianapolis 500.

No one seriously was hurt in the incident (including Kirkwood, whose car went upside down and slid for several hundred feet), though an Indianapolis woman’s Chevy Cruze was struck by the tire. The Indy Star reported a fan was seen and released from the care center after sustaining minor injuries from flying debris in the crash.

During a photo shoot Monday morning with Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden at the IMS Yard of Bricks, Penske met with Dallara founder and owner Gian Paolo Dallara and Dallara USA CEO Stefano dePonti. The Italian company has been the exclusive supplier of the current DW12 chassis to the NTT IndyCar series for 11 years.

“The good news is we didn’t have real trouble with that tire going out (of the track),” Penske, who bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2020, told a few reporters shortly afterward. “I saw it hit. When it went out, I saw we were OK. I talked to the Dallara guys today. We’re going to look at that, but I guess the shear (force) from when (Rosenqvist’s) car was sitting, (Kirkwood’s car) went over and just that shear force tore that tether. Because we have tethers on there, and I’ve never seen a wheel come off.

“That to me was probably the scariest thing. We’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to fix that so that doesn’t happen again.”

Asked by NBC Sports if IndyCar would be able to address it before Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix or before the next oval race at Iowa Speedway, Penske said, “The technical guys should look at it. I think the speed here, a couple of hundred (mph) when you hit it vs. 80 or 90 or whatever it might be, but that was a pinch point on the race.”

In a statement released Monday to WTHR and other media outlets, IndyCar said that it was “in possession of the tire in Sunday’s incident and found that the tether did not fail. This is an isolated incident, and the series is reviewing to make sure it does not happen again. IndyCar takes the safety of the drivers and fans very seriously. We are pleased and thankful that no one was hurt.”

IndyCar provided no further explanation for how the wheel was separated from the car without the tether failing.

IndyCar began mandating wheel suspension tethers using high-performance Zylon material after a flying tire killed three fans at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a May 1, 1999 race. Three fans also were struck and killed by a tire at Michigan International Speedway during a July 26, 1998 race.

The IndyCar tethers can withstand a force of more than 22,000 pounds, and the rear wheel tethers were strengthened before the 2023 season.