Kevin Harvick sounds off on NASCAR, safety issues

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KANSAS CITY, Kans. —  Kevin Harvick, frustrated with how he feels safety is “second fiddle” in NASCAR, spoke up Saturday about the need for action.

Harvick’s comments came a week after his car caught fire in the Southern 500. Rubber collected inside the vehicle and burned, sending flames through the dashboard. NASCAR reacted with a safety change to the cars this week.

Multiple cars have had fires this year. Also, drivers have talked throughout the season about how much harder the impacts feel, raising concerns. Kurt Busch is missing his eighth consecutive race this weekend as he continues to recover from a head injury after a crash at Pocono in July.

Harvick was frustrated with last week’s fire and carried his feelings into the media center Saturday at Kansas. 

“There needs to be some better leadership on just the whole safety situation, and my road is shorter than most everybody’s in here,” Harvick said of his reason for being more vocal. “After the whole fire thing at Darlington — the reaction on Tuesday was drastic — but way too late.

“So, we look at the fire problem and I start digging through how that whole thing had transpired and gone down, and you look at the car, and you start asking questions. Why did everything melt? Well, this is really not 100% fire resistant. Here’s the coating that we presented a couple months ago after Chase (Briscoe’s fire) and it’s been rejected. Now, this week, it’s all in there. 

“You’ve got a piece of stainless steel in there. I go back and talk to my guys, and we basically had a car catch on fire every test. So it’s not like it was a new problem. We had (Alex Bowman’s car) catch on fire it at Darlington, I think the first race, and so we’ve seen a lot of these instances, and it’s just a really, really slow reaction. 

“I think if the teams were in charge of stuff like that, and the proper input was was put in place, we would have never had more than two fires … for the whole field because they would have collaborated and not been so slow to react. 

“The whole safety thing is really kind of second fiddle right now. And I just don’t think that’s fair to the drivers. I do not think it’s fair to the drivers, and we can debate all day. But debating isn’t really fixing anything. 

“I think when I look at the car itself, it’s not rear impacts. It’s not front impacts, it’s not side impacts. It’s all impacts. No matter what their filtered data says it’s not what the drivers are feeling. 

“We need a louder voice. As I sat and thought about it this week, it really needs to have more of an independent group that makes the decisions on how to implement things and how to go through a process that’s outside of NASCAR and the teams because NASCAR is slow to react, and the teams are always worried about money. That doesn’t do anything for the drivers.”

NASCAR employs three people who work only on safety and relies on a panel of independent safety experts that includes Jeff Crandall, director of the Center for Applied Biomechanics at the University of Virginia;  Barry Myers, who is on the Duke University faculty in Biomedical Engineering & Orthopaedic Surgery; James Raddin, retired US Air Force, vice commander of USAF School of Aerospace Medicine; and Joel Stitzel, head of the Virginia Tech – Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.

Harvick is the most senior driver competing in Cup. His series debut came for Dale Earnhardt’s team at Richard Childress Racing a week after Earnhardt’s fatal crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. Earnhardt’s death came after the deaths of Adam Petty, Kenny Irwin and Tony Roper in 2000. 

“I’ve lived this, man,” Harvick said. “I watched when we had all the trouble with with Adam and Kenny Irwin and then it resulted in Dale Earnhardt and then all of a sudden, it was mandatory to wear a HANS device, it was mandatory to wear the Hutchins device. We developed soft walls. 

“(Safety) can’t be slow. The safety cannot be slow and this car, it’s screwed up as far as the way that it crashes. Whether the data says that or not, every driver in this garage will tell you that it’s not right. And it hurts. Feet hurt. Hands hurt. Head hurt. 

Joey Logano said of his hit in the Coca-Cola 600: “I’ve never hit harder in my life. That was horrible, and it hurt really bad.” (Fox Sports)

“There has to be a better solution. When we want to solve problems, we can solve them quick, super quick. That plan didn’t come together in one day because there wasn’t stuff that was not already in the process, but it was just too slow to be implemented. And now, unfortunately, we’re in the spot that we’re in. The positive that came out of it was there was a lot of progress made on on a situation that shouldn’t have been there in September.”

Ryan Blaney said he appreciates Harvick speaking up.

“I definitely think someone has to do something about it,” Blaney said Saturday. “I think Kevin’s doing the right thing of speaking up about it. I’d be upset too. There’s multiple things that I think needs to be changed and improved on, from the fires to the hits the drivers are taking. Some of that stuff we’ve talked about in the offseason and it never got changed and now look where we are. 

“There’s always learning pains on you know, you have something new, and it takes time to kind of refine them. But some of these things we knew about in the offseason, there wasn’t a lot of kind of urgency to change some of the stuff. So I’m 100% with Kevin on trying to address some of these things, and sometimes it takes you being a jerk to do it.”

Asked where the dialogue with NASCAR, Harvick looked at a reporter and said “here it is. This is the dialogue.”

NASCAR stated Saturday that it met with the Drivers Advisory Council for two hours on Thursday. NASCAR met with Jeff Burton, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon and Corey LaJoie.

“I think that they’re being proactive right now,” Hamlin said of NASCAR. “Obviously, they made a bunch of changes this week. I think what the drivers and the teams are saying is that it shouldn’t take us yelling through the media to get it done. 

“That doesn’t help anybody and it certainly doesn’t help them, but the proof has been that yelling through the media typically gets results. That’s just kind of the way that it’s been. This is the most powerful tool (Hamlin gestured at his microphone) you can have and sometimes you have to use it to force change, and I think that’s what Harvick did this week. 

“He’s had enough of them saying they would get to it, they would get to it and we’re working on it. Instead, they made an immediate change. But we want to see it coming after the second fire, the first fire. There’s been many, many fires before that one.”

Hamlin said feels better about what NASCAR is doing after this week’s conversations.

“I certainly feel that they’re working to help us with the hits on the chassis,” Hamlin aid. “All that stuff does take time. They can’t just knee-jerk reaction and start cutting bars out of the chassis, that’s very irresponsible. 

“I think they’re doing things methodically to make sure that the next revision of car that comes out is one that is improved in the areas that we need improving on, but that does take time through design and testing.”

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)