What drivers said at Michigan

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Joey Logano — winner: What a great execution day from our race car. Obviously very fast, our pit crew was amazing. T.J. Majors spotted his butt off up there.  The race fans sticking around till Monday.  You guys are the best. We love coming up to Michigan. Nothing like bringing a Ford to Victory Lane in their home turf, Roger Penske cars as well.  This is a big win for us. A day like that, you don’t get those days all the time. The best car, the best team. We executed perfectly all the way through.

Kurt Busch — finished second: That’s more than what I was hoping to see for damage. But I had a blast.  Tightest I ever put my belts at the end of a race.  We got enough stage points today, we said hell with it, we don’t need to get anything but the win.  We got second today. Logano’s car was tough.  I really wanted it to go green at the end with Truex.  I was going to push him straight through the 22.  My best shot at it. What a day for our Camaro.  From Chevy and Monster, thank you, guys.  We’ll get it.  It gives us reason to smile and be happy.  We ran up front, were strong in our manufacturer’s backyard, but got second today.

Martin Truex Jr. — finished third:I felt like before that we were going to finish second no matter what. My mindset there was at least we got a shot at it here.  Rack ’em up, have a green‑white‑checkered and see. I don’t know, my second gear was off a little bit all day on restarts.  I was getting Jonesed. Then (Logano) went like a whole car length before the restart zone.  I don’t know how you get away with that. I thought we were supposed to go in the box. Aside from that, great day for Auto Owners Toyota, everybody back at JGR, TRD.  We had a solid race car. Man, you have to be so patient in this racing, it’s really hard. Early in the race I kept getting runs, going underneath guys, getting them in the corner.  If you can’t clear them, you lose two, three, four spots every time. Everybody did a good job.  We had a fill‑in rear tire changer this weekend.  That’s a lot of pressure to come in.  He’s a young kid, did a good job there.  Great job by everyone. Came up a little bit short, but a solid day for us here.

Daniel Suarez — finished fourth: “The car was pretty strong the entire weekend and then again today. We just struggled for whatever reasons on the long runs in the first half of the race. We were able to make some adjustments and come back and I am proud of my guys. We still have some work to do but we are slowly heading into the right direction.”

Kyle Busch finished fifth: “We just did the best we could with what we had. Our Camry was not great, but we just kept working on it all day. We just kept falling back or doing rounds, doing air pressure, everything we could to get improving on it and make it better. I don’t think we ever really made it faster. It was still kind of slow at the end. We saw (Logano) just drive away from us on that restart there, but overall we came with way better than we should have. Let’s go with that. Way better than we should have. … We had some issues in traffic a lot. The further back we got, the worse we got. There on that green-flag stop, the guys did a phenomenal job to jump us there and got us into the top four to be able to position ourselves for the end. That’s what saved our day. We’ll just go on to the next one.”

Brad Keselowski — finished sixth: We just didn’t put it all together today. We were in a really good spot and had the pit road penalty and lost the lap and it took us til about 70 to go to get it back. It is kind of a miracle that we got back up to sixth to be quite honest. We have to execute the entire weekend and we just didn’t today. We were hoping if we could get a yellow, we were 24th with 60-70 laps to go and we got up to sixth. With a yellow we might have had a shot at winning it. I thought the team did a good job with the strategy all day. The cars when they get behind each other they make the car in front of them faster. If you go back 20-30 years ago that was not the case. You would draft but you wouldn’t make the car in front of you faster. Now it seems like when you get up behind somebody you make them faster, too.”

Kevin Harvick finished seventh: “We had a really fast Busch Lite Ford and just made a lot of mistakes today.”

Ryan Newman — finished eighth: “To have our best lap I guess other than maybe one lap to be our fast lap makes me proud of the guys. The Coca-Cola Ford wasn’t the greatest all day. We had some good restarts toward the end but just struggled with the dirty air. I think everybody did. It is obvious if you know anything about racing. It was a good points day for us. We need to get some stage points. Nevertheless I am proud of the guys.”

Alex Bowman — finished 10th:I feel like it raced better than we expected after practice. Obviously, it being cool and overcast was really the best-case scenario for the package. Hopefully, it worked out to be a good race. It looked like a good race from where I was at. It was really hard to pass without help, but we were still able to come through the field more than you were in practice, so that was good. I wish we would have ended up a little better, but we’ll take it and move on.”

Aric Almirola finished 17th: “We had a better Ford Mustang than 17th place today. We got way behind on the restarts and just couldn’t recover in traffic. I’m proud of our No. 10 Ford team for bringing a fast Ford Mustang to Michigan.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 19th: “Our car was a handful today. It seemed like we were battling back all race from the pit-road penalty to the nose damage that caused us to pit multiple times. With this package, it was really hard to pass. We will go back and regroup and get ready for Sonoma.”

Ty Dillon — finished 22nd: “Our Twisted Tea team fought hard all day. We didn’t start the race off with the balance that we wanted, but (crew chief) Matt (Borland) took a big swing at it in the first stage break to tighten up our Camaro ZL1. We had a significantly better race car after that. I maybe could have used a little bit more front grip, but I was really happy with it overall. From there we just needed track position. We were running in the top 20 to start the final stage. But, these restarts can get wild, and I was shuffled back on the restart with 60 laps or so to go. Our Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1 had good speed, so I was able to drive back up and regain some of those spots. We just really needed more cautions to get back to where we had been. Once the field gets strung out after these restarts, it’s hard to make passes. I’m happy with the team’s effort today, though. They worked hard, had clean stops and made great adjustments all day.”

Daniel Hemric finished 24th: “I was fairly happy with how this No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 took off to start the race. I feel like we had the ability to make some good moves. That made me feel more confident than I needed to be, and I hung myself out a couple of times and lost a little bit of track position. Early in the race, we tried to take fuel only and it just killed our balance. After that, we started chipping away at the positions ahead of us and were able to score some points at the end of Stage 2. We were setting ourselves up to have good track position to start Stage 3, but we had an issue with the air hose getting caught on the splitter and that caused us to lose all of our track position. I was able to drive back inside the top 10, which shows the speed we had. When that last caution came out, we got stuck in the dreaded bottom lane, where nobody wanted to be all day, and got shuffled back on the restart. We salvaged a 12th-place finish. We’ll learn from today and come back here later in the year ready for an even better result.”

Austin Dillon finished 26th: “The No. 3 Chevrolet team showed their tenacity this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. After a few struggles in practice, the team completely changed the setup and gave me one of the fastest Chevrolets I’ve ever had for the race. We showed speed in Stages 1 and 2 and even picked up the Stage 2 win. Shortly after the start of Stage 3, we were running strong in the top 10 when another car got a run and clipped the corner of the No. 3 Chevrolet. We ended up tagging the wall and had damage to the right-rear. We made multiple pit stops to repair damage and ended up finishing 26th. It’s definitely disappointing considering how good our car was today, but that’s part of racing. We will start preparing for the road courses and be ready for Sonoma Raceway in two weeks. I want to thank Dow for honoring veterans and active-duty military members this weekend. It’s always special when those guys can ride with us. I just hate we couldn’t get them a win today.”

Clint Bowyer — finished 35th: “Yeah, frustrating for all of us. It just wasn’t our day. (Erik Jones) got loose, and I tried to move down to not hit him, and then I got loose with (Austin Dillon) underneath of me and got into (Jones) and got wrecked. (On the racing) I mean, it is not racing. I am sorry. I am biting my tongue. I have never been penalized for trying to make a pass in my whole life since I was 4 years old. You get a run on somebody, and you can make a complete pass, and by the time you get to the next corner you have been passed by four people. It is really, really frustrating.”

Friday 5: NASCAR President says ‘We care’ about driver safety

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NASCAR President Steve Phelps says that he will tell drivers this weekend that “we care” about them and safety.

Phelps and other series officials are scheduled to meet with drivers Saturday morning to discuss safety measures with the Next Gen car.

Three drivers will miss Sunday’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval because of crash-related injuries. 

It is believed to be the first time in more than 20 years that three full-time Cup drivers will sit out the same race because of injuries suffered in on-track accidents.

Kurt Busch will miss his 12th consecutive race Sunday. Concussion-like symptoms have sidelined him since a July 23 crash in qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He said recently that he is “hopeful” of returning but didn’t have a timeline. Five races remain in the season.

Alex Bowman will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms after his Sept. 25 crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Cody Ware is sitting out Sunday’s race while he recovers from an impaction fracture to his right ankle suffered in a Sept. 25 crash at Texas. Ware stated this week on social media that given the “extensive footwork required for a road course event, I don’t feel I’m able to give 100% effort to my team, my sponsors or to Ford.” He plans to be back in the the car the following week at Las Vegas.

Drivers says that the impacts they are feeling this year are harder with the Next Gen car. Busch and Bowman were injured in rear-end impacts.

The car was strengthened to help protect drivers in severe crashes, such as Ryan Newman’s 2020 Daytona 500 crash and Joey Logano’s 2021 Talladega accident. In making the car safer for those types of crashes, it’s made the impacts feel harder in more common crashes. 

Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin have been the most outspoken among drivers about NASCAR’s safety efforts. 

Hamlin questioned NASCAR’s leadership and called for the car to be redesigned last weekend at Talladega. Phelps met with Hamlin a day later.

“Denny and I have a good relationship,” Phelps told NBC Sports and The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We do. He says things that sometimes I disagree with. I’m sure there’s things I say that he disagrees with. 

“I probably would have gone with a different approach, understanding kind of what he knows what’s going on in the process. I’m certainly glad we had a discussion. I gave him my opinion. He gave me his. I thought there was a healthy discussion.”

More drivers began raising concerns last week about safety concerns with the car, including Chase Elliott.

“We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to make our drivers feel safe in the vehicles and have them understand that we certainly care about their safety because we do,” Phelps said. 

“We’re working on things with our own people internally, our race teams, (manufacturers) and drivers to make sure that we have a plan in place moving forward so that — I don’t know that it’s gaining the trust — but doing better. 

“Our goal is to be the safest motorsports on the planet … that’s what we’re aspiring to do.”

NASCAR conducted a crash test of a rear clip and rear bumper structure at an Ohio facility this week. Series officials are also examining elements with the headrest foam and working with Wake Forest University to test mouthpiece sensors that track a driver’s head movements in a crash. 

Jeff Burton, director of the Drivers Advisory Council and an analyst for NBC Sports, says he’s had regular communication with NASCAR on behalf of the drivers.

“We feel like we have cooperation with NASCAR,” Burton said last week at Talladega in regards to safety issues. “We know the commitments from NASCAR. They’ve made real commitments to us. We want to see those commitments through. I believe that we will in regards to changes to the car.”

As for his message to drivers in Saturday’s meeting, Phelps said he would tell them: “We’re going to do our best to make sure that when you strap in that car, you feel safe.”

2. “Ridiculous statement”

NASCAR suspended crew chief Rodney Childers four races and penalized Kevin Harvick 100 points for modifications to a deck lid this week.

The penalties were discovered at NASCAR’s R&D Center. Series officials typically take a couple of cars back from most events to the R&D Center. More complete inspections can be done there than at the track.

NASCAR took the cars of Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. after last weekend’s race at Talladega. Truex’s car had no issues.

There are some who would suggest that NASCAR was getting back at Harvick for recent critical comments of NASCAR’s safety efforts. 

NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ response to that notion?

“I would say it’s ridiculous,” he said. “No one has a vendetta against Kevin Harvick or Rodney Childers at all. Or Stewart-Haas Racing. That’s a ridiculous statement.”

As for the inspection process, Phelps said: “Our (officials) are going to look at it, look at it again, look at it a third time to make sure that if there is a penalty given, that penalty is right. If the No. 4 team thinks that is not right, they will file an appeal and we’ll go through the appeal process.”

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Friday morning that it is appealing the penalty to Harvick and his team. However, Childers will sit out this weekend’s race at the Charlotte Roval. That way, regardless of the outcome, he will be able to return for the season finale at Phoenix. 

3. Report card

During a panel discussion at the Women in Motorsports seminar this week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said that The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport provided a racial and gender report card for NASCAR, its teams and the industry for the first time. 

The NBA, NFL, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer also have had reports done on their leagues and had the results made public. 

The report looks at the race and gender of athletes and front office personnel in those sports. Some reports examine the race and gender of officials and even broadcasters.

Phelps said that he would not disclose the results for NASCAR.

“We are doing some terrific work,” Phelps said during the panel discussion.

Phelps noted that the grades “are not going to be what they should be, but you need to face it. … We’re going to do better. One thing I will say is that the programs that we have put in place over the last few years have gotten an A.”

Asked by NBC Sports about the report, Phelps said: “It validated where I thought we were, which is why I want to keep it quiet. We’re actually doing really good work. … Hiring people of color, hiring women, promoting people of color, promoting women.

“I don’t want to lose that momentum to where our Diversity Industry Council is like, ‘Wait, wait, you said you’re doing all these things but it’s not working.’ 

“It’s going to take time. It’s not a snap your fingers (and it’s all done). Proud of the programs we’re doing.”

Thursday, NASCAR announced that 13 drivers have been invited to the Drive for Diversity combine. The program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track.

4. Change of strategy  

An appeal panel rescinding the 25-point penalty to William Byron moves him back into a transfer spot heading into Sunday’s elimination race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe drops out of the final transfer spot and is tied with Austin Cindric, 12 points behind the cutline. Daniel Suarez holds the final transfer spot.

Cindric said Thursday — before Byron’s penalty was amended — that what happened to Byron would impact how he races.

“It completely changes how our race looks this weekend, how our race strategy looks, what our priorities are,” Cindric said on if Byron got his points back.

“Even if (the points) get returned, we’re still in a reasonably good spot to think we could still point our way in. It’s not a must-win for us either way, but I think it definitely changes the race strategy for us.”

Cindric explained how the strategy could change with Byron moving back into a transfer spot.

“You probably have to take higher risk to get points … or take a higher risk to just go after the race win,” he said. 

5. Appeal Panel’s changes 

William Byron’s penalty marked the fourth time this year the National Motorsports Appeals Panel or Final Appeals Officer has amended or rescinded a penalty by NASCAR.

In January, the Final Appeals Officer rescinded a $50,000 fine and six-week suspension to Ryan Bell, crew chief for Mike Harmon Racing. The team and Bell had been penalized when Harmon used one of his team’s Xfinity cars for a charity event at Rockingham Speedway. 

Roger Werner, the National Motorsports Final Appeals Officer, wrote in his decision that “the decision of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel, upholding the original penalty that was issued by NASCAR, was incorrect in light of the NASCAR rulebook modification made on January 24, 2022.”

In May, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel overturned a disqualification to Matt Crafton following his fifth-place finish in the Camping World Truck Series race at Darlington.

Crafton’s truck was disqualified after NASCAR deemed the vehicle was too low in the front. The panel determined “the Appellants did not violate the Rule(s) set forth in the Penalty Notice.”

Crafton’s fifth-place finish was reinstated. No other reason from the panel was given. The panel consisted of Dixon Johnston, Tom DeLoach and Hunter Nickell. 

In September, NASCAR penalized Jeremy Clements for an intake manifold violation after his win at Daytona. NASCAR’s penalty did not allow the win to count toward playoff eligibility. 

Clements and his team took the engine to the NASCAR R&D Center to be inspected but left the intake manifold on, which was not required to be a part of the inspection. 

Clements and his team noted to the panel that they shouldn’t have been penalized for a part that was not inspected on other engines. The panel agreed and rescinded the penalty, allowing the win to count toward playoff eligibility. The panel consisted of Richard Gore, DeLoach and Johnston. 

Then came Thursday’s decision by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel to rescind the 25-point penalty to Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas. 

The panel did not state why it eliminated the point penalty but increased Byron’s fine from $50,000 to $100,000. The panel consisted of Dale Pinilis, Kevin Whitaker and Nickell.

Appeal panel gives William Byron his 25 points back

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William Byron is back in a transfer spot after the National Motorsports Appeals Panel rescinded his 25-point penalty Thursday for spinning Denny Hamlin at Texas.

By getting those 25 points back, Byron enters Sunday’s elimination playoff race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC) 14 points above the cutline.

Daniel Suarez is now in the final transfer spot to the Round of 8. He is 12 points ahead of Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric. Christopher Bell is 45 points behind Suarez. Alex Bowman will not race this week as he continues to recover from concussion symptoms and has been eliminated from Cup title contention.

NASCAR did not penalize Byron after his incident with Hamlin because series officials did not see the contact. Two days later, NASCAR penalized Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for intentionally wrecking Hamlin.

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel stated that Byron violated the rule but amended the penalty to no loss of driver and owner points while increasing the fine to $100,000.

The panel did not give a reason for its decision. NASCAR cannot appeal the panel’s decision.

The panel consisted of Hunter Nickell, a former TV executive, Dale Pinilis, track operator of Bowman Gray Stadium and Kevin Whitaker, owner of Greenville-Pickens Speedway.

Here is the updated standings heading into Sunday’s race at the Roval:

Byron’s actions took place after the caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race that the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Drivers for Drive for Diversity combine revealed

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The 13 drivers who will participate in the Advance Auto Part Drive for Diversity Combine were revealed Thursday and range in age from 13-19.

The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Development Program was created in 2004 to develop and train ethnically diverse and female drivers both on and off the track. Cup drivers Bubba Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Kyle Larson came through the program.

The 2020 and 2021 combines were canceled due to the impact of COVID-19.

“We are thrilled that we are in a position to return to an in-person evaluation for this year’s Advance Auto Parts Drive for Diversity Combine,” Rev Racing CEO Max Seigel said in a statement. “We are energized by the high-level of participating athletes and look forward to building the best driver class for 2023. As an organization, we have never been more positioned for success and future growth.”

The youngest drivers are Quinn Davis and Nathan Lyons, who are both 13 years old.

The group includes 17-year-old Andrés Pérez de Lara, who finished seventh in his ARCA Menards Series debut in the Sept. 15 race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Also among those invited to the combine is 15-year old Katie Hettinger, who will make her ARCA Menards Series West debut Oct.. 14 at the Las Vegas Bullring. She’s also scheduled to compete in the ARCA West season finale Nov. 4 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

 

Name

Age Hometown
Justin Campbell 17 Griffin, Georgia
Quinn Davis 13 Sparta, Tennessee
Eloy Sebastián

López Falcón

17 Mexico City, Mexico
Katie Hettinger 15 Dryden, MI
Caleb Johnson 15 Denver, CO
Nathan Lyons 13 Concord, NC
Andrés Pérez de Lara 17 Mexico City, Mexico
Jaiden Reyna 16 Cornelius, NC
Jordon Riddick 17 Sellersburg, IN
Paige Rogers 19 New Haven, IN
Lavar Scott 19 Carney’s Point, NJ
Regina Sirvent 19 Mexico City, Mexico
Lucas Vera 15 Charlotte, NC

 

Dr. Diandra: Crashes: Causes and complications

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Two drivers have missed races this year after hard rear-end crashes. Kurt Busch has been out since an incident in qualifying at Pocono in July. Alex Bowman backed hard into a wall at Texas and will miss Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Other drivers have noted that the hits they’ve taken in the Next Gen car are among the hardest they’ve felt in a Cup car.

“When I crashed it (at Auto Club Speedway in practice), I thought the car was destroyed, and it barely backed the bumper off. It just felt like somebody hit you with a hammer,” Kevin Harvick told NBC Sports.

The three most crucial parameters in determining the severity of a crash are:

  • How much kinetic energy the car carries
  • How long the collision takes
  • The angle at which the car hits

Angle

The last of these factors requires trigonometry to explain properly. You can probably intuit, however, that a shallower hit is preferable to a head-on — or rear-on — hit.

A graphic show shallower (low-angle) hits and deeper (high-angle) hits
Click for a larger view

When the angle between the car and the wall is small, most of the driver’s momentum starts and remains in the direction parallel to the wall. The car experiences a small change in velocity.

The larger the angle, the larger the change in perpendicular speed and the more force experienced. NASCAR has noted that more crashes this season have had greater angles than in the past.

Busch and Bowman both had pretty large-angle hits, so we’ll skip the trig.

Energy — in pounds of TNT

A car’s kinetic energy depends on how much it weighs and how fast it’s going. But the relationship between kinetic energy and speed is not linear: It’s quadratic. That means going twice as fast gives you four times more kinetic energy.

The graph shows the kinetic energies of different kinds of race cars at different speeds. To give you an idea of how much energy we’re talking about, I expressed the kinetic energy in terms of equivalent pounds of TNT.

A vertical bar graph showing kinetic energies for different types of racecars and their energies

  • A Next Gen car going 180 mph has the same kinetic energy as is stored in almost three pounds of TNT.
  • Because IndyCars are about half the weight of NASCAR’s Next Gen car, an IndyCar has about half the kinetic energy of a Next Gen car when both travel at the same speed.
  • At 330 mph, Top Fuel drag racers carry the equivalent of six pounds of TNT in kinetic energy.

All of a car’s kinetic energy must be transformed to other types of energy when the car slows or stops. NASCAR states that more crashes are occurring at higher closing speeds, which means more kinetic energy.

Longer collisions > shorter collisions

That seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Who wants to be in a crash any longer than necessary?

But the longer a collision takes, the more time there is to transform kinetic energy.

A pitting car starts slowing down well below it reaches its pit box. The car’s kinetic energy is transformed into heat energy (brakes and rotors warming), light energy (glowing rotors), and even sound energy (tires squealing).

The same amount of kinetic energy must be transformed in a collision — but much faster. In addition to heat, light and sound, energy is transformed via the car spinning and parts deforming or breaking. (This video about Michael McDowell’s 2008 Texas qualifying crash goes into more detail.)

The force a collision produces depends on how long the car takes to stop. Compare the force from your seat belt when you slow down at a stop sign to what you feel if you have to suddenly slam on the brakes.

To give you an idea of how fast collisions can be, the initial wall impact in the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt Sr. lasted only eight-hundredths (0.08) of a second.

SAFER barriers use a car’s kinetic energy to move a heavy steel wall and crush pieces of energy-absorbing foam. That extracts energy from the car, plus the barrier extends the collision time.

The disadvantage is that a car with lower kinetic energy won’t move the barrier. Then it’s just like running into a solid wall.

That’s the same problem the Next Gen car seems to have.

Chassis stiffness: A Goldilocks problem

The Next Gen chassis is a five-piece, bolt-together car skeleton, as shown below.

A graphic showing the five parts of the Next Gen chassis.
Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click to enlarge.
The foam surrounding the outside of the rear bumper
The purple is energy-absorbing foam. Graphic courtesy of NASCAR. Click for a larger view.

That graphic doesn’t show another important safety feature: the energy absorbing foam that covers the outside of the bumpers. It’s purple in the next diagram.

All cars are designed so that the strongest part of the car surrounds the occupants. Race cars are no different.

The center section of the Next Gen chassis is made from stout steel tubing and sheet metal. Components become progressively weaker as you move away from the cockpit. The bumper, for example, is made of aluminum alloy rather than steel. The goal is transforming all the kinetic energy before it reaches the driver.

Because the Next Gen car issues are with rear impacts, I’ve expanded and highlighted the last two pieces of the chassis.

The rear clip and bumper, with the fuel cell and struts shaded

The bumper and the rear clip don’t break easily enough. The rear ends of Gen-6 cars were much more damaged than the Next Gen car after similar impacts.

If your initial thought is “Just weaken the struts,” you’ve got good instincts. However, there are two challenges.

I highlighted the first one in red: the fuel cell. About the only thing worse than a hard collision is a hard collision and a fire.

The other challenge is that a chassis is a holistic structure: It’s not like each piece does one thing independent of all the other pieces. Changing one element to help soften rear collisions might make other types of collisions harder.

Chassis are so complex that engineers must use finite-element-analysis computer programs to predict their behavior. These programs are analogous to (and just as complicated as) the computational fluid dynamics programs aerodynamicists use.

Progress takes time

An under-discussed complication was noted by John Patalak, managing director of safety engineering for NASCAR. He told NBC Sports’ Dustin Long in July that he was surprised by the rear-end crash stiffness.

The Next Gen car’s crash data looked similar to that from the Gen-6 car, but the data didn’t match the drivers’ experiences. Before addressing the car, his team had to understand the disparity in the two sets of data.

They performed a real-world crash test on a new configuration Wednesday. These tests are complex and expensive: You don’t do them until you’re pretty confident what you’ve changed will make a significant difference.

But even if the test goes exactly as predicted, they aren’t done.

Safety is a moving target.

And always will be.