That has led to a growing sense of urgency from drivers that NASCAR needs to soften the rear of the cars in the interest of safety.
Bowman and Busch were both injured when the back of their car hit the wall. Because the Next Gen was designed to be durable, their crashes looked routine, when in reality most of the energy from the impact was absorbed by the driver. Busch is out for the 11th race in a row; Bowman crashed on lap 98 in Texas last Sunday, radioed his team to say it was the hardest blow of his life, appeared unwell on his camera in the car and still went on for 231 laps. He was diagnosed with a concussion on Thursday.
“These kinds of incidents that lead to injuries . . . I’m not a doctor but I’ve seen a lot of cars hit the wall and the guy would be fine,” said Elliott, Bowman’s teammates at Hendrick Motorsport, before qualifying at Talladega. Christopher Bell took pole for Sunday’s Cup Series playoff race with a fast lap of 180.591 miles per hour ahead of reigning NASCAR champion Kyle Larson.
“No one is immune to it; I could be next week,” Elliott said. “It could be one of my colleagues or fellow competitors. I hate to see us deteriorate and I’m afraid we are.”
Elliott crashed last week when a tire broke down while leading in Texas. Though he has been voted the most popular driver for the past three years by fans, the 26-year-old son of Hall of Famer Bill Elliott rarely publishes his thoughts on controversies.
But the drivers have clearly had enough after the Next Gen was a disaster for a fourth consecutive playoff race. Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have publicly proclaimed NASCAR for not doing enough to keep the drivers safe.
Hamlin, who drives for Joe Gibbs Racing but co-owns 23XI Racing with Michael Jordan, continued his criticism of NASCAR on Saturday. He claimed senior leadership tells drivers “exactly what you want to hear to make you think they’re doing something, but in the end they have more problems than they have people to deal with.”
He dismissed a rumor that the drivers would boycott Sunday’s race, but called on Cup entrants to join the veterans in publicly pressuring NASCAR.
“We can’t do it alone. They also need to make their voices heard,” Hamlin said. “A lot of these young guys are just happy to be here, but they won’t be happy to be here if their brains are scrambled for the rest of their lives.”
Busch drives to Hamlin at 11pm.
NASCAR is adamant that it is working tirelessly to address issues, and rule changes have been made to deal with a sudden burst of car fires in the opening race of the playoffs in Darlington. NASCAR could begin checking air pressure levels on tires to determine if the recent failures have occurred as teams go past Goodyear’s recommended settings. But there doesn’t seem to be a quick fix to soften the chassis.
Elliott said NASCAR had ample time to develop the car and discover these new issues. The Next Gen was announced in 2019 as scheduled to debut in 2021, but in 2020 NASCAR moved its debut to this season due to COVID-19 delays.
“Damn, we had enough time to test this car and crash it, do all the things we had to do to make sure some of these things that are happening now don’t happen,” Elliott said. “We had a lot of time to do that, and this car was also delayed by a whole calendar year. We’ve been given an extra year to work on it and we’re still in this position.
“There is no excuse to go backwards. We have too many smart people, too much technology, too many years of crashing. We should not be in the position we are in. When you come out with a new product, you have to step forward, not stay the same or go backwards, especially in the safety category.”
. . .
NASCAR driver Jordan Anderson, 31, was flown out of Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday with burns from a crash in the Truck Series race.
Anderson’s truck towered over the track as flames began shooting beneath the Chevrolet. The truck continued to spin and slide toward an interior wall, and Anderson appeared to be halfway out of the window when it came to a stop in line with the wall.
Anderson scrambled to the top of the wall and away from the flames. He was initially seen at the infield care center and then taken by plane to a hospital in Birmingham.