Well, NASCAR has quite the problem on its hands.
With two playoff quality drivers on the shelf with concussions, drivers are calling out the safety of the new Next Gen cars that hit the track for the first time this season.
After a wreck last week, Alex Bowman will miss today’s playoff race at Talladega with concussion-like symptoms. He joins Kurt Busch who hasn’t raced at all since July.
Throw in Kevin Harvick’s car bursting into flames and Martin Truex Jr.’s car falling apart in Texas, and it’s clear that the Next Gen car has more than its fair share of issues.
And here’s the thing… the drivers said this at the beginning of the season.
In light of the Bowman crash, Harvick recalled Denny Hamlin telling NASCAR that the new car was too stiff prior to the start of the season.
“Completely unacceptable that those in charge have let things get to this point. I remember it like it was yesterday, Denny Hamlin in the presentation of the new car to the drivers pleading that the car was to stiff. Data didn’t agree.
TIME TO LISTEN TO THE DRIVERS CRASHING THEM!”
He also pointed out that NASCAR drivers have had no say in the process.
Denny Hamlin chimed in as well:
“Pretty disappointing that our sanctioning body refuses to acknowledge or accept any responsibility for drivers getting hurt.
It’s the same THEY said. WE knew better. It’s wrong these drivers continue to get taken advantage of by the system.”
And then earlier this week, Chase Elliott made a spot-on point about driver safety moving backwards, despite technology being better than ever:
And then, while talking to press ahead of Talladega, Denny called the problem a result of “bad leadership,” and said the answer was new leadership:
“New leadership… start at the top and work your way down.”
So what’s the answer? For Denny, it’s a total redesign:
“The car needs to be redesigned. It needs a full redesign. It can still be called Next Gen, but it needs to be redesigned.
It needs to be redesigned everywhere. Front, middle, rear, competition, the whole thing needs to be redesigned. We’ve got a tough Martinsville race coming up. It’s going to be tough.
This thing is just going to get exposed about how bad it races. That’s just a part of it. Competition and safety, we’d like to have it all better, but certainly we just took a step back in safety and competition this year.
If I were to run this and say, ‘All right, we’re going to have a new car,’ we’d already be done with testing right now for next year’s car. We haven’t even begun. We’re just way too behind. This whole sport is behind.”
He added that the young guys need to speak up as well. When guys like him and Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are gone, who is going to advocate for the drivers?
“I know a lot of young guys are just happy to be here, but they ain’t going to be happy when their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives.”
Sounds like this will be an issue for the foreseeable feature as there are currently no plans to redesign the car.