Tuesday, February 7, 2023

NASCAR’s Scott Miller on Next Gen Fires: ‘We Have to Get to the Bottom of it Quick’

Kevin Harvick fire Darlington 2022 Video
Kevin Harvick exited Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington early after his No. 4 car burst into flames on lap 275. Screengrab from USA Network broadcast.

Despite Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway marking yet another incredible race during the 2022 season, safety of the Next Gen car took center stage — once again — as Playoff contender Kevin Havick saw his car burst into flames on lap 275 of the event.

Following an early exit of the race, Harvick was in no mood to play around on the topic of Next Gen cars catching on fire, something that happened with two cars in Sunday’s race, and has happened with multiple cars during the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season.

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

On Tuesday, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Scott Miller addressed the issue of Next Gen racecars catching on fire in an interview on Tuesday’s SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive, and he admitted that what happened to Harvick on Sunday is unacceptable for the sanctioning body.

“You know, we’re certainly digging into the cause. We have cars down there this morning looking for any signs of anything that may have triggered that. We have done so all year.

“There’s a lot of rubber at Darlington. The cheese grater that we always talked about. We’re not certain if rubber getting into the rocker box was the problem or not. We’re debriefing it all. It’s unacceptable for the cars to catch on fire,” Miller stated emphatically.

Miller says that while it may appear to outsiders of R&D in the sport, that the sanctioning body has turned a blind eye to the issue of door foam catching fire in the Next Gen car, he says the sanctioning body has been zeroing in on the cause and a fix all year long.

“We’ve been working on different solutions for different things along the way, That seem are maybe the trigger. Obviously, we still have work to do.

“We’re looking at clearances on particularly the Ford exhausts, because they seem to have been having a little bit more trouble with this than the others,” Miller explained. “There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of collaboration within the industry to get to the bottom of it and we have to get to the bottom of it quick, obviously.”

Here is a snippet of Miller’s appearance on SiriusXM from Tuesday:

Late Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR issued a bulletin to race teams, which stated that the Next Gen cars will now trim a portion of the Back Stop Ploymer Panel and replace the polymer with a 14 gauge stainless steel panel.

The thought is with replacing the portion of polymer with steel, it will help prevent flames from entering the cockpit in an incident like Harvick’s in Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington.

Additionally, NASCAR has mandated a lateral seal/dam that must be installe between the back of the front clip weight box and the top of the splitter panel. The purpose of the dam is to reduce the migration of tire debris from the splitter area.

Toby Christie
Toby Christie
Toby is the Founder, and Editor-in-Chief of Toby is also the co-host of The Final Lap Weekly Podcast. Additionally, he is a NMPA (National Motorsports Press Association) award-winning writer, and has followed the sport as a fan since 1993.

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