Rookie Viso is turning heads in first IndyCar season
E.J. Viso has been called reckless, fearless and foolish during his rookie IndyCar season, but the Venezuelan is at a loss when asked to explain his driving style.
"It's me," Viso says. "Somebody else needs to describe me."
Some of the best drivers in the IndyCar Series have had much to say about Viso, and they no longer are using adjectives unsuitable for public consumption.
"He's a fantastic driver," Indianapolis 500 winner and points leader Scott Dixon says. "Him in a decent car would be a threat to everybody."
Or, as Dan Wheldon put it heading into this year's Indy 500: "The craziest (rookie) by far is Viso. Dude, he looks nuts!" Wheldon now says he meant crazy in a good way.
"His car was sideways but he still was keeping his foot (on the accelerator)," Wheldon says. "It was supremely impressive. He's building a reputation for having (lots of guts), and that's good. We need those personalities to keep growing the series."
Viso started 2008 without oval experience after mastering road courses in Europe's myriad Formula One ladder series such as GP2, where he gained fame flipping over a concrete barrier last year at Magny Cours, France. He was nonchalant recounting a horrific wreck ("Good thing I passed out") that drew nearly 300,000 views on YouTube.
|E.J. Viso gives thumbs up after last year's GP2 accident|
But HVM owner Keith Wiggins says Viso's oval debut March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was daunting for a normally unflappable driver who had expected to run mostly street and road courses in Champ Car this year.
"There were quite a few beads of sweat for 8 at night," Wiggins says. "He's matured a lot."
Viso approaches each track "like a puzzle," and the pieces began to fit April 27 at Kansas Speedway. He started 17th, quickly advanced into the top 10 and kept pace despite angering Scheckter and Patrick, who says Viso "was all over the track," rarely lifting off the throttle.
"Danica, she's never happy, so I don't care," Viso says. "Scheckter was just a racing incident. I'm friends with him and all the other drivers. No problems."
Aside from a few pit-road violations, he hasn't earned the ire of IRL officials, either. Chief steward Brian Barnhart says Viso "has been a pleasant surprise. He has been fun to watch."
Richmond was a good example of Viso's progress. In a race in which half the field left with damaged cars, Viso avoided calamity in charging from 19th to second and likely would have posted a top five if not for an ill-timed caution after a pit stop.
"Early on, he was reckless," driver Justin Wilson says. "Now he's more fearless."
Viso likes that description.
"It's great the other drivers think that," he says. "This is a job where fear is not good." USA Today