What drivers said after Southern 500

Southern 500
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Here is what drivers had to say after Sunday’s Southern 500:

Kevin Harvick — Winner: “We kept having a lot of trouble with the right-rear tire cording. The car was really loose all night long for whatever reason and would cord the right-rear tire, so I think that was probably about as far as they felt like we were comfortable of going and wound up being the right strategy in the end. Anytime you can win the Southern 500 is a good day. This is one of the most prestigious races in our sport and this is one the most prestigious racetracks in our sport, so anytime you can win at Darlington it’s a big deal, but, man, Southern 500!”

Austin Dillon — Finished 2nd: “Man, it would have been nice to get that win and lock ourselves into the next round of the NASCAR playoffs, but it was a heck of a finish for our No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet team. I’m proud of our second-place finish, especially after dropping to the rear of the field at the start of the race and having to recover from that setback. We battled really hard all night for every single spot we could get. We had a really good long run car and towards the end of the race I knew Kevin Harvick was getting tighter each lap. I caught him earlier in the closing run, but he took my low line in Turns 1 and 2, which was where I was running the best, and stopped the momentum that I had going. I gave it everything I had though.”

Joey Logano — Finished 3rd: “Man, hard fought. We kind of were decent, it’s just so hard to pass with these big spoilers on the car at this racetrack. That makes it challenging. We had a right-front go down the last lap of the second stage, hit the wall and we did a good job fixing the car and then strategy worked well, so Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) did great there, and then they had an amazing pit stop the last stop, had a good restart and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Shoot, we could win this thing.’ To see what the left-rear looks like after that I was pretty impressed to get whatever we got. It’s funny how the team always tells you, ‘How does the damage look?’ ‘It looks great. It looks great.’ You get out and you’re like, ‘Whoa!’ Overall, that’s what we needed to do. We need to come out of these playoffs running hard and having a solid top three finish to start the playoffs with a couple stage points is a good way to start.”

Erik Jones — Finished 4th: “It was good. It was really tough to pass. Once you got up inside the top seven or eight, those guys were all pretty equal, and it was hard to make ground from there. We started deep, 30th, today and drove up and finished fourth. We got a couple of extra spots at the end, but this Sport Clips Camry was quick. We just never got up front. We just needed to get up front and get some clean air. That’s what we did last year. I thought we had just as good of a car as what we did last year. We just never got to the lead. That’s what held us back, I think. It’s tough. The cars are finicky. They are on edge, and it’s really hard to make ground, but decent day.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 6th: “Sixth place isn’t terrible, but man we had a fast Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE tonight in Darlington. We had some issues on pit road that hurt us and we had to recover from that. I really feel like we were a car capable of winning. We just got buried there, but thankfully recovered from it. Sixth place isn’t the end of the world, but you know you had a fast car when you are bummed about sixth. This car looked amazing tonight and hopefully we can go to Richmond next weekend and do the same thing. It is a good feeling to have a good start to the playoffs.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 7th: “Traffic was definitely our detriment, there was just nothing I could do to try to find clean air in order to make up any speed back in traffic so I just got mired wherever the heck I was and that was it. Being out front in clean air, I was able to run with Martin (Truex Jr.) and had a fast M&M’s Camry and could really show how fast our car was when we drove away from the field by a couple seconds there until that caution that NASCAR flew that was not a caution.”

Kurt Busch — Finished  8th: I’m happy with our run tonight with the Monster Energy Chevy. I know it’s not a win, but we got everything out of the race that we were hoping for; except maybe the alternate strategy that we were trying with one stop in the final stage. I was hopeful for the long run. I like dancing with the Lady!”

Aric Almirola — Finished 9th:  “We got in a little bit of a hole early in the race with some left-rear quarter panel damage that we had to fix on pit road and really put us in a spot to where we couldn’t capitalize on stage points, so that hurt us a little bit just not scoring any stage points, but we were able to battle back from that and get back to the top 10, which is where we felt like we were capable of running.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 10th: “I certainly was hoping for more.  Frustrated to be honest with you. I have to go back and look at the race to see what happened with the debris. By the time that they picked it up I’d say it was way off the racetrack, so that kind of set us up to not have a not very good day. That put us in a hole. We were gonna be in the single digits for sure there, looking pretty good, but just had a lot of trouble. Right-rear (tire)— threw the rubber off the right-rear and had to pit there. It could have been catastrophic. At the end, the left-rear (tire) was about to fall off of it, so we’ve got to clean some things up. I told you going into this we’ve got to put 10 races together. We’ve got to put whole races together. We can’t make these mistakes.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 11th: “(Crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and everyone on the Discount Tire team did a great job tonight. I made a mistake early in the race, but we worked together and made a good recovery.”

Cole Custer — Finished 12th: “We definitely fought hard the whole night just to try to keep ourselves in the game. We had to go to the back with a speeding penalty and just overall fought as hard as we could all night and ended up 12th. Overall, I mean, we wanted to run better, but that’s something that can keep us in the game and keep us in the game for the next two races. Hopefully, we can put together better, but Darlington definitely hasn’t been our team’s strong suit, so it’s just a matter of figuring out what I can do better and what we can get better with the car.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 16th: “Well, that was a really positive end to what started out as a pretty tough day for our No. 34 team. We didn’t unload exactly how we had hoped to start the race, but Drew (Blickensderfer) and the guys did what they do best and made our race car a lot better by the time we took the green flag for the final stage. Overall, it was a pretty decent points day and another top-20 to add to our season. I definitely wanted that top-15, coming up just one position short; but we’ll take what we can get.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 18th: “That was not the result we wanted, we had a fast Ally Chevy until that last stage and it just kept getting tighter, but my guys just keep fighting. We will just focus on Richmond.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 20th: “He (Martin Truex Jr.) had a run on me there off of four and he just kind of cleared himself into one. He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot. I ran the bottom in three and four to see if there was anything left down there, that’s what kind of gave him the run and then he just slid up in to my left front, I felt like and on we went.”

MARTIN TRUEX Jr. – Finished 22nd: “It’s Darlington and typically you don’t want to go in side-by-side. I felt like I had enough of a run and enough space there that the last foot or so he (Chase Elliott) was going to understand that if I was committed, we both weren’t going to make it. Typically, here that’s kind of how you race. If a guy gets a run on you and he’s just about got you cleared, you have to give that last little bit. Now obviously, the end of the race, probably the pass for the win, he wanted to drive it on in there and I was committed to being clear and there was no way we were both going to make the corners. Basically, when I made up my mind and I was driving it in there and then he drove in on my right-rear quarter, there was no possible way that we both weren’t crashing. That’s what happened.”

Tyler Reddick — Finished 23rd: “I’ve gotten to run a lot of cool races, but the Southern 500 has always been towards the top of the list for me, so it was really special to be able to make my first start in it tonight. I love NASCAR’s throwback weekend, and our No. 8 Cat Power Chevrolet honoring Jeff Burton’s No. 8 scheme that he accepted Rookie of the Year honors with looked great out there. We fired off really fast tonight, but our handling was just a touch loose. My team made some good adjustments early in the run to tighten me up, but then the rear security of our Camaro became really unstable, which made it tough to manage the handling through the turns on both sides of the track. During the start of Stage 3, the field got stacked up on the restart and I received some damage to the nose of our car, right above the grille. That affected the handling a lot for the rest of the night and kept the temps up high, too.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 24th: “Definitely wasn’t our night for our Menards/Maytag team. We had the inspection penalty and lost points before the race started and had some bad breaks. We’ll get ready for Richmond and Bristol and try to gain ground back in the playoffs.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 25th: “We made the most of what we had in our throwback CommScope Toyota tonight. We didn’t have the speed we were hoping for, but everybody did a good job turning us around into the right direction. We struggled to find grip in the beginning, when we were not too good on the short runs but better on the long runs. That changed when the track changed – we were pretty good on the short run but then too free over the longer run. I’m proud of Dave (Winston, crew chief) and the guys for their hard work making the car better at the end of the race.”

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 36th: “That definitely wasn’t the way we wanted to end our night driving Elliott Sadler’s CITGARD throwback scheme. Our No. 38 Ford Mustang fired off pretty tight but then I got looser as the run went on and the sun set. We had some really good pit stops tonight and Seth (Barbour) and the crew made some good adjustments so that we had a good balance by the end of Stage 2. Unfortunately, we had a miscommunication on track early in the final stage and that ended our day. I hate it for my guys because they’ve worked so hard all year and they never give up. We’ll reset this week at the shop and get ready for Richmond.”

Bubba Wallace — Finished 38th: “We had some bad luck on our side. I don’t really know what the main issue was that ultimately led us to not finish the race. We started out decent. Our guys made some good adjustments on the car and then got it better, and I was really happy with it. After we had our mishap and went to the garage, we came back out and I thought our car was really good. We just had to survive until it went to night time and I thought we could have put a decent race together by that time, but it didn’t work out.”

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.

NASCAR weekend schedule for Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval

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NASCAR Cup Series drivers race on the road for the final time this season Sunday, as the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval course ends the playoffs’ Round of 12.

The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course incorporating the CMS oval and infield will determine the eight drivers who will advance to the next round of the playoffs. Chase Elliott won last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway and is the only driver who has qualified for a spot in the Round of 8.

Entering Sunday’s race, Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman are below the playoff cutline. Bowman will not qualify for the next round because he is sidelined by concussion-like symptoms.

The race (2 p.m ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Cup and Xfinity)

Weekend weather

Friday: Sunny. High of 81 with a 6% chance of rain.

Saturday: Mixed clouds and sun. High of 67 with a 3% chance of rain.

Sunday: Sunny. High of 68 with a 3% chance of rain.

Friday, Oct. 7

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 12 – 5 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Saturday, Oct. 8

Garage open

  • 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Rodney Childers fined $100,000, suspended for four races

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NASCAR has suspended Rodney Childers, Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, for four races and fined him $100,000 for what the sanctioning body called modification of a part supplied by a vendor.

The team was penalized for a modification to the deck lid.

Harvick, who is out of the Cup Series playoffs, and the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team were docked 100 points.

Harvick’s car and that of Martin Truex Jr. were taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. after last Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. There were no penalties assessed to the Truex team.

Harvick has been particularly critical of the Next Gen car in recent months, once referring to the “crappy-ass parts” provided by suppliers.

Harvick’s car erupted in flames during the Southern 500 Sept. 4 at Darlington Raceway. After he climbed from the smoking car, Harvick blamed the fire on “just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times. They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.

“The car started burning and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and then as the flame got bigger it started burning stuff up and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out the brakes and part of the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash.

“What a disaster for no reason. We didn’t touch the wall. We didn’t touch a car, and here we are in the pits with a burned-up car, and we can’t finish the race during the playoffs because of crappy-ass parts.”

MORE: AJ Allmendinger to return to Cup Series in 2023

Unless the team appeals, Childers would miss races at Charlotte, Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville and would return for the season finale at Phoenix.

NASCAR president Steve Phelps told the Associated Press that officials have not targeted Harvick. “I would say that’s ridiculous,” he said. “No one has a vendetta against Kevin Harvick or Rodney or anyone at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Harvick tweeted, “Seems strange…” A Childers tweet called the penalty “Shocker…..”.

NASCAR also announced Wednesday it has suspended Young’s Motorsports crew chief Andrew Abbott indefinitely for a behavioral violation during pre-race inspection. He must undergo anger-management training to be reinstated. The team races in the Camping World Truck Series.