NASCAR remembers Wheldon as it prepares to race

JENNA FRYER - AP Auto Racing Writer
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NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson climbs in his car during practice at the Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — This weekend NASCAR becomes the first major series to run since Dan Wheldon died Sunday in the IndyCar season finale.

Tony Stewart says racers "know that can happen every week. It's been a part of racing forever."

But five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who walked away from a nasty hit in Saturday night's race at Charlotte, admitted Wheldon's death has made drivers confront the dangers.

Only some in NASCAR knew Wheldon, a popular two-time Indianapolis 500 winner who raced in a rival series. But his death touched everyone, and, 10 years after NASCAR's last fatality, brought the element of danger back to the spotlight.

NASCAR finds itself this weekend on its biggest and fastest track, where speeds can hit 200 mph and Carl Edwards' car went sailing into the fence in a 2009 last-lap accident.