Brave — v. To face or endure with courage. (Webster’s dictionary)
I like Mike Conway, and I agree with his decision to no longer contest races on ovals, a style with which he is obviously uncomfortable. It takes a big man to admit one’s shortcomings, and Mike has done so by walking up to one of the most revered tough guys in the sport in AJ Foyt and giving up his seat for this week’s MAVTV American Real 500 at Auto Club Speedway just two days before the event.
But I have to question how the resulting public opinion has been so vehemently divided between those citing Mike’s “bravery” and those resorting to such awful name-calling that it doesn’t bear repeating.
As with most arguments, the answer in this case lies somewhere in the middle.
Conway showed resolve in admitting his fears after Wednesday’s test day at Auto Club Speedway. “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,” Conway said. “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.”
Mike is to be commended for voting his conscience in this matter, but it hardly merits being termed as bravery.
Bravery in racing is Mario Andretti driving with bandages covering his burned face and winning at Indy in 1969. Bravery in racing is Niki Lauda racing in Formula One six weeks after having surgery to reconstruct his eyelids after suffering severe burns at the 1976 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring. Bravery in racing is Mel Kenyon racing with a special hooked glove he latched to the steering wheel after losing some three fingers on his left hand in a fire at Langhorne Speedway.
And bravery in racing is Alex Zanardi recovering from losing both legs in a horrific CART crash at the Lausitzring in 2001 to win two gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games; then professing his desire to return to INDYCAR to drive in the Indianapolis 500.
Mike Conway’s decision was a lot of things. It was the right one for him and his family. It was probably the end of his INDYCAR career. It was a reminder to fans of just how dangerous racing still is. It was also the start of a great opportunity for Wade Cunningham and a clean slate for AJ Foyt Racing going into 2013.
But as far as racing goes, brave is one thing Mike Conway’s decision was not.