NASCAR Safety Meeting Turns ‘Contentious’ In Concord

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 9 2022

Talk about safety in the new Cup cars has heated up. (File photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

CONCORD, N.C. – A safety meeting NASCAR had with Cup drivers Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway was described as contentious by some with Joey Logano saying the drivers’ emotions would calm down once the problem with the Next Gen car was resolved. 

In recent weeks, several drivers, especially Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, have aired their grievances to the media over the Next Gen car’s stiff rear end. Two drivers – Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman – are sidelined with concussion-like symptoms following accidents in which the rear of their cars slammed into an outside wall’s SAFER barrier. Busch’s occurred during qualifying at Pocono in July.

Bowman told his crew over the radio immediately after the crash at Texas last month that it “was the hardest I have crashed anything in my entire life.”

The week entering Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course NASCAR conducted crash tests on the car’s rear clip in its efforts to resolve the issue. In Saturday’s closed safety meeting between NASCAR officials and the drivers, an update was given on the test and there was an open discussion. In a media briefing afterwards, members of the motorsports press were told not everything was covered because they ran out of time and another NASCAR/driver meeting could occur on Sunday.

“We need to hold them honest now,” Logano said.

Logano noted that due to the drivers complaining to the media about the Next Gen car they got a meeting with NASCAR, who admitted to the motorsports press that it needed to do a better job of communicating with the drivers even though it had been working with the drivers council. Logano said he hoped the means the drivers used to get the meeting wasn’t the path to changes in the sport.

“I think we’re better than that,” Logano said after winning the pole for Sunday’s race with a 103.424-mph lap on the 2.280-mile road course. “Sometimes your emotions will get, I don’t want to say the best of you, but sometimes you have to act out a little bit to make change happen and make sure you’re heard.”

Defending NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Larson described the meeting as a “good open discussion.”

“It was good for NASCAR to look at drivers in the eyes and see the frustrations and hear it in their voices,” Larson said. “I feel like all of us know they didn’t just start working on this (problem with the car) three weeks ago. I feel like they’ve been working on this stuff for a while now, but either way, it was good to see the crash data.”

An in-car camera shows the violence of the Texas hit to Bowman’s body and how his helmet slammed against his seat’s headrest. Chase Elliott said his team has done everything it could to improve his seat, including adding padding in the headrest.  

“I think everyone’s frustrations in some ways are warranted in some areas, but you also have to be practical with like how fast you can fix things,” the sport’s most popular driver said. “We have a lot of single part suppliers that you have to buy from now, so to ask them to make changes that they can get to all the teams in a timely manner is going to be very difficult. It would have been difficult if we were all still building these cars at our own shops. So, it just takes time.”

Elliott believes there’s no problem with the seats, helmets and head-and-neck restraints which have been “tried and true for a decade or more.” He also believes NASCAR truly understands the drivers’ position and has been “super upfront with what they’re working on and trying to help, and I feel better about that.”

“I wish we would have had a talk like that a little sooner, but we had it, I appreciate it,” Elliott said. “I think it’s good. There’s a direction, so let’s make it better.”


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 9 2022
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