Drivers lash out over 'completely unacceptable' NASCAR concussion issues


Extra-heavy impacts, cars catching fire and high-speed punctures are causing leading NASCAR drivers to increasingly voice safety concerns


Alex Bowman is the latest driver to be ruled out with injury this season


NASCAR front-runner Alex Bowman has been ruled out of this weekend’s crunch play-off race at Talladega due to concussion from a crash at last weekend’s Texas meeting, as other drivers in the championship continue to raise their voices over safety issues with the Cup series’ new Next Gen car.

2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick, who has been one of the most vocal on the matter, took to social media last night to say the situation had become “completely unacceptable”, whilst reigning second-tier Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric told Motor Sport that the situation was “not sustainable”.

Bowman is the latest driver to suffer serious consequences from a Next Gen accident, after Kurt Busch was unable to take up his place in the play-offs after being ruled out for the season with concussion earlier this year also.

Some competitors say that the issues stem from the new car being stiffer than the old one, meaning drivers’ bodies end up absorbing more of the impact as a result, resulting in increased injuries.

Denny Hamlin had to reduce his competition schedule after crashing at Daytona this summer, saying immediately afterwards: “I feel like my jaw is [from] one of those boxers that gets their whole face demolished.”

The three-time Daytona winner didn’t hold back on his feelings when Bowman’s injury was announced either.


Denny Hamlin, along with Kevin Harvick, has been one of the most outspoken on the tyre issues


“Pretty disappointing that our sanctioning body refuses to acknowledge or accept any responsibility for drivers getting hurt,” he posted on social media.

“It’s the same THEY said. WE knew better. It’s wrong these drivers continue to get taken advantage of by the system.”

Last night NASCAR released a recording of Bowman saying “That’s the hardest I’ve crashed anything in my whole life,” after his crash, prompting Harvick to comment.

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“Completely unacceptable that those in charge have let things get to this point,” he said.

“I remember it like it was yesterday @dennyhamlin in the presentation of the new car to the drivers pleading that the car was too stiff. Data didn’t agree. TIME TO LISTEN TO THE DRIVERS CRASHING THEM!”

This is not the only safety issue with the new NASCAR machines. Discarded rubber which has built-up inside intakes has caused fires inside several cars, something which series officials admitted was “unacceptable”.

Further adding to the Texas tension last weekend was NASCAR’s new low-profile tyre. A significant number of punctures have been seen this year, but the situation hit boiling point in a tense race where many cars were suffering almost identical crashes after experiencing right-rear tyre deflations, appearing to occur around the 35-lap mark of the tyre-life in each case.


Hemric says drivers are concerned, but has trust in authorities to remedy the issues


Championship supplier Goodyear has said that many teams have been running below the recommended air pressures in a bid to find pace, but Hamlin took issue with this also, believing some blame does lie at the manufacturer’s door.

“If you’re thinking that maybe NASCAR will look into someone else for tires, keep dreaming,” he said. “GY pays them a fat cheque so they are allowed to gouge the teams each week.”

However, not all drivers are quite so vociferous in their criticism. 2021 Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, who is competing for Kaulig Racing with sponsorship from Celcius energy drink this weekend, spoke to Motor Sport on the issue, saying that whilst feeling wary of the danger, he believes progress will be made.

“For the last 60, 70 years now, give or take, we’ve had the same type of technology, and a tonne of data gathered over all that time, to make the old cars as safe as they were, which are incredibly safe for sure,” he said.

“I’m not going to shy away from the [fact that] impacts [in Next Gen cars] are harder on the drivers and we’re feeling the pure force of the impact through our bodies a little bit more now. Long-term, for sure that’s not very sustainable.

“But I also trust NASCAR and the teams in general. They are continually having conversations behind the scenes to figure out why we’re feeling what we’re feeling inside the cars during impacts and looking at how do we move forward.

“I promise you NASCAR is not sitting on their hands with it.”

The tension is set to ratchet up another level this weekend, with the championship heading to Talladega, one of the most dramatic circuits on the calendar.

The longest lap of the year (2.66 miles), combined with being one of the widest tracks, encourages sometimes five-wide racing at some of the fastest speeds all season – incident is never far away.

Joey Logano currently leads the play-off standings, with Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney all close behind.