Despite being in the midst of one of the most unpredictable and competitive NASCAR Cup Series seasons in history, where there have been 19 different winners in the opening 30 races of the season, it’s been a rough few weeks for NASCAR when it comes to the safety and components involved with the Next Gen car.
While NASCAR was hoping for a good clean day for the Next Gen car at Bristol Motor Speedway, more issues arose during the 500-lap event. This time, it was the power steering systems that failed on several cars throughout the course of the race.
While it was far from ideal, on Tuesday’s edition of SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Morning Drive, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller stated that the unique nature of Bristol Motor Speedway really pushed parts to their limits and that ultimately Saturday’s race was part of the learning process with the new car.
“Bristol is definitely a unique load case,” Miller explained. “Some things cropped up with the steering that were not expected. But with the newness of this car and the newness of everything, it’s not acceptable to have problems, but it’s probably part of the learning process for us all.”
While it wasn’t what NASCAR wanted to see this past weekend, the timing of the power steering issues couldn’t have had any more poor timing.
The safety of the Next Gen car was called into question by numerous drivers four weeks ago during NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Media Day, as drivers have voiced that the hits the drivers are taking inside the car on smaller-looking crashes are much more severe than the Gen 6 car.
Among those that were outspoken on the issue were NASCAR Cup Series champions Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick.
For Harvick, his criticism of the Next Gen car ramped up to another level, when his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang burst into flames at Darlington Raceway, essentially ruining his odds of advancing through to the Round of 12 in the Playoffs.
Following the Darlington inferno, Harvick lashed out at NASCAR saying that the car was made up of, “Crappy-ass parts,” and that’s why cars were spontaneously combusting. Harvick even released a “Happy’s Crappy-Ass Parts 4 Less” t-shirt as a clap back at NASCAR this week.
Fast forward to Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, and yet another issue with the Next Gen car reared its ugly head as the power steering systems in cars began failing under the extreme loads at the half-mile track.
Four of the 36 cars in the field (Martin Truex Jr., Ty Gibbs, Aric Almirola, and Ty Dillon) were unable to finish the race due to their power steering system being absolutely destroyed in the race, while Bubba Wallace was behind the wall for nearly 100 laps receiving repairs to his power steering system.
Truex was probably the most frustrated of the bunch that was affected at Bristol as he echoed Harvick’s sentiments that, “Crappy-ass parts,” are to blame for the issues.
Miller takes exception to the “Crappy-ass parts” narrative that Harvick and Truex are beginning to peddle. In fact, Miller says that NASCAR was not alone in making the decisions on parts involving the cars’ steering.
“All the teams and the OEMs were involved in the RFD process when we chose the parts,” Miller stated. “Everybody has a stake in this and it’s not just NASCAR choosing, ‘crappy parts.'”
Miller says that with a car so drastically different from what NASCAR has previously fielded, there had to be some expectation of growing pains, and he feels Saturday’s race is just part of it.
“With every part of this car being a new part and a new design, I think historically in racing and in any walk of life when you do something completely new with a departure, there is a learning curve,” Miller explained. “We’re in that learning curve and working really hard to make sure that everything works. For the most part, it has.”
Miller also says that NASCAR are not the only one with culpability when it comes to the steering issues at Bristol.
“We did have some steering issues at Bristol. That is again a part that was chosen through the RFD process and it is team serviceable,” Miller said.
At the end of the day though, Miller says that NASCAR accepts the fact that what happened at Bristol was wholly unacceptable and that the sanctioning body will do everything in its power to keep that from happening again.
“Are we looking to improve when we have problems? We absolutely 100% are. Every single day,” Miller said. “What happened at Bristol was not acceptable and we will diligently work and come up with a solution so that doesn’t happen again.”
💭 "It’s not acceptable to have problems, but it’s probably part of the learning process for us all."
— SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90) (@SiriusXMNASCAR) September 20, 2022