INDIANAPOLIS – Kevin Harvick wonders how much NASCAR is prioritizing safety in light of driver complaints about experiencing harder impacts this year and Kurt Busch missed his second consecutive race due to concussion-like symptoms.
But NASCAR’s chief safety officer says, “We’re always looking for ways to make things better.”
Some drivers told NBC Sports last month that they felt a harder impact this year with the new generation car than the previous car. Other drivers talked about the matter on Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“The concerns that the riders just didn’t seem to resonate in a really, very quick response in an attempt to give better that way, “Harvick said.” This is worrying. I know everyone will tell you they’re working on it.
“I don’t think they understand the scope and actually the scope of how bad it is when you hit things. … I think nobody really understands, apart from drivers who have bumped into something, the violence that comes in the car. It doesn’t seem to be a high enough priority for me. “
John Patalak, chief executive of safety engineering for NASCAR, told NBC Sports earlier this month that this year’s crash data looks similar to years past. Drivers recognize this, but say they suffer the most.
A particular concern is when a car crashes into a wall. The modifications to the rear have stiffened some areas compared to the previous car.
“From the start, everyone could see that this car was too stiff,” Harvick said. “When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway basically), I thought the car was wrecked and barely backing off with the bumper. It looked like someone had hit you with a hammer. “
Christopher Bell said he had a headache after crashing into the wall in the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in May. Busch also backed up against the wall at Pocono before his car broke apart and made a second impact on the right side.
“The car is not off-limits,” Patalak told NBC Sports about possible safety improvements. “We are actively looking for ways, we are always looking for ways to make things better. We just shared with the drivers some simulation work we did for the rear impacts, looking at the structure of the car. … We always investigate (the car), look at how it behaves on the track and see what we can do better ”.
Drivers became more outspoken this weekend about safety following the Busch accident in Pocono. There is a belief in the garage that a series of impacts this year for Busch contributed to his injury. Denny Hamlin, co-owner of Busch’s car, said Busch “has taken many hits over 25 G. The body can only take so much.
“Just unfortunate for Kurt,” said 23XI Racing teammate Bubba Wallace. “You never know which shot can trigger it, right? That was that. I think back to my success in Atlanta and, numerically, that was the hardest of my career and I was ready to go up the next day. It’s crazy how it works. “
Daniel Suarez remains confident that NASCAR will find solutions for the drivers.
“It’s a little worrying that the impact our friend Kurt Busch had in Pocono has had these kinds of results,” said Suarez. “The impact didn’t seem that hard, but NASCAR has a very large group of smart people working there and I’m sure they will find the answers to our questions.”
Corey LaJoie is a member of the Drivers Advisory Council led by NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton. LaJoie and Joey Logano, another council member, are leading the council’s security efforts.
LaJoie told NBC Sports that among the additional areas being examined are the SAFER barrier, helmets, and mouthguard accelerometers.
LaJoie said NASCAR may remove a few pieces of foam behind the SAFER barrier in some tracks to allow the barrier to give more and potentially absorb more impact. NASCAR is also looking into some different padding in the helmets, similar to some changes made to football helmets. LaJoie was among four riders who raced last week with a mouthguard accelerometer, which is used to collect data on how an accident impacts a rider.
“It’s easy to point to the car, the car, the car, but the car is built for anomalous crashes, the wreck with the T-bone where it’s noticeably safer,” LaJoie told NBC Sports. “In almost every area it is safer.
“But the problem is when you hold one like Kurt did in Pocono, the rear, the gearbox, how it is and the reinforced fuel cell as it is now in this car and how the rear clip, the car is built. previous you go back into the fence and the entire back clip would fold under the rear end housing. … You had a foot and a half of crush, and now you have eight inches of crush and that’s a big difference in dispersing the power. “