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Let the overreaction begin

Jimmie Johnson's heart is in the right place. And considering he's one of NASCAR's most passionate advocates for driver safety - and, as its five-time champion, has a mighty tall soapbox from which to advocate -- I frankly expected him to go public in the wake of Dan Wheldon's tragic death at Las Vegas Sunday.

But this is every bit as much an overreaction as the calls to ban racing that inevitably come from some quarters whenever there's a notable racing fatality.

Really, J.J.? You think IndyCar should never race on ovals again, even though the sport grew up on ovals?

As I wrote earlier today, here's the skinny on this horrible business: IndyCar should use Wheldon's death as a forum to seriously reconsider running at tight, small, steeply-banked ovals such as Las Vegas -- particularly with a field of 34. Too many cars, too much speed, too little reaction time, if any. It's a recipe for disaster.

That said, IndyCar has run in relitive safety on ovals for decades, and there's no reason not to continue to do so. Michigan, the Milwaukee Mile, Kentucky, Kansas, Homestead -- all of them are configured in such a way as to minimize the risk to the extent it's possible in an inherently treacherous sport, particularly if you limit the fields to no more than 25 cars.

Thirty-four, at Vegas, was simply too many. But considering some of the deathtraps the sport made its bones on -- ask some old-timer about the tender mercies of Langhorne, Pa., sometime -- a fair chunk of the ovals IndyCar runs now are like kiddie rides at the fair.

Ben Smith's blog.