Indianapolis — Kevin Harvick questioned how much NASCAR is prioritizing safety this year in light of driver complaints about feeling hard impacts and Kurt Bush missing 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 greater impact this year with the Next Gen car than with the previous car. More drivers spoke about the matter at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday.
“The concerns that drivers have raised have not really, really resonated in the quick response,” Harwick said. “It’s relatable. Everyone I know will tell you they’re working on it.
“I don’t think they understand the limits of it and really how bad it is when you hit stuff. … I don’t think anyone really understands, except drivers who have been hit by something Violence ensuing in the car. It doesn’t seem like it’s a high enough priority for me.”
NASCAR’s managing director of safety engineering, John Patalak, told NBC Sports earlier this month that this year’s crash data looks similar to previous years. Drivers acknowledge this but say they are feeling more impact.
Of particular concern is when a car is driven back into the wall. Changes in the rear have hardened some areas compared to the previous car.
“Going by, everyone could see that this car was very harsh,” Harwick said. “When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway in practice), I felt the car destroyed and it barely supported the bumper. It felt like someone hit you with a hammer.”
Christopher Bell said he had a headache after hitting a wall at the All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in May. Bush also supported the wall at Pocono before his car broke down and made a second impact on the right.
“The car is not off-limits,” Patalak told NBC Sports about the possible safety improvements. “We’re actively looking at ways, we’re always looking at ways to make things better. We’ve just shared with drivers some of the simulation work we did for past effects looking at the car’s structure. … we’re always checking (the car), seeing how it performs on the racetrack and seeing what we can do better.
Drivers became more vocal this weekend about safety following Busch’s accident in Pocono. There is a belief in the garage that multiple impacts contributed to his injury this year for Bush. Busch’s car co-owner, Denny Hamlin, said Busch “has taken a hit of over 25 Gs. That’s all the body can take.”
“Just unfortunate for Kurt,” said 23XI Racing teammate Bubba Wallace. “You never know what hit might trigger it, right? That’s what happened. I look at my hits in Atlanta, and number-wise what was the hardest hit of my career and I go back the next day to climb Was ready. Crazy how it works.”
Daniel Suarez is confident NASCAR will find solutions for drivers.
“It’s a little worrying that the influence of our friend Kurt Bush in Pocono had such consequences,” Suarez said. “The impact didn’t seem that hard, but NASCAR has a really great group of smart people working on that, and I’m sure they’re going to find the answers to our questions.”
Corey Lajoie is on the Drivers’ Advisory Council, which is led by NBC Sports analyst Jeff Burton. Lajoie and Joy Logano, a fellow board member of the council, are leading the council’s security efforts.
Lajoie told NBC Sports that additional areas being tested are safe barriers, helmets and mouthguard accelerometers.
Lajoie said NASCAR may remove some pieces of foam behind a safer barrier on some tracks to give the barrier more give and potentially absorb more impact. NASCAR is also seeing some different padding in helmets, similar to some changes made to football helmets. Lajoie was among four drivers who raced last week with a mouthguard accelerometer, which is used to gather data on how a crash affects a driver.
“Car, car, car is easy to point to, but car is built for outdoor accidents, T-bone debris where it’s safe enough,” Lajoie told NBC Sports. “It’s safe in pretty much every area.
“But the problem is when you back one like Kurt in the Pocono, the rear, the transaxle, the way it is, and the reinforced fuel cell the way this car is and how the rear clip is constructed. , last car you would buckle the whole rear clip back into the fence and under the rear end housing. … you had a one and a half foot crush, and now you get an eight inch crush and that’s a big difference in dissipating energy .
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Drivers raise safety concerns after Kurt Bush crash, originally appeared on NBCSports.com