It's the last thing you'd expect to hear from a race-winning driver, but Thursday at the 2.0-mile Fontana oval, site of the season finale for the IndyCar Series, Mike Conway, driver of the Honda-Powered Racing car, made a bold proclamation.
"I'm truly sorry for putting the team and our sponsors in a difficult position, but this is the hardest decision I have ever made in my racing career," said Conway. "I've come to realize I'm not comfortable on the ovals and no longer wish to compete on them. I want to stress that I am not finished racing and to this end, I would love to continue with Foyt Racing, but that's something we need to discuss in the future."
The 29-year-old British driver, now in his fourth season in IndyCar, has 54 starts to his credit with half of those taking place on ovals, but the dangers associated with traveling in excess of 220 mph on big tracks like Indianapolis and Fontana proved to be too much for the respected road racer.
His oddly-timed decision to step out of the cockpit took place after taking part in the pre-race test at Fontana onWednesday where the series' low-downforce setup proved to be rather harrowing for some drivers.
The bumpy track saw three drivers—including championship contender —find the wall on Wednesday, and with his Foyt Racing car wiggling and dancing over the bumps on most runs, Conway decided he'd had enough of the high stakes game.
He'll be replaced by Wade Cunningham, the insanely funny (who else has a photo of his cat on the front of his helmet?) and talented (he won the 2005 Firestone Indy Lights Series championship and drove for Foyt at Indy this year) 28-year-old from New Zealand.
IndyCar fans will recall Conway's pair of mighty crashes at the Indy 500, starting with getting airborne in 2010 and splitting his car in half against the Brickyard's fencing. He'd suffer serious leg and back injuries in the crash which ended his season on the spot.
Conway would experience a nearly identical crash at the , but escaped without injury.
Racecar drivers are expected to push beyond their fears at every corner, and to overlook the lethal possibilities that separate hurling an Indy car around an oval from almost every form of organized sport.
In the case of Conway, and in an arena where testosterone is king, finding the inner strength to raise his hand and step away before the 500-mile season finale took a lot of balls.