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NASCAR’s NextGen car raises safety questions in 2022

NASCAR's NextGen car raises safety concerns after many drivers have talked about the impacts. What are people in NASCAR saying as they want it addressed soon?

Austin Konenski
NASCAR: Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum
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NASCAR’s NextGen car, which made its official points-paying race debut at the 2022 Daytona 500, has been a part of the news recently due to Kurt Busch’s concussion and the degree of crashes felt by the drivers.

What are people in NASCAR saying about the hits they have been taking this season and the NextGen car’s safety?

NASCAR drivers talk about the impacts of the NextGen car

The speculation on the safety of NASCAR’s NextGen car can go all the way back to May 2021 when rumors of the infamous dummy test started to surface in the public sphere. The specific rumor is that the crash “killed” the dummy.

However, those rumors did not end up being true after countless days of speculation on social media. Ever since that occurred, the chatter has been about the NextGen car’s safety.

Meanwhile, the drivers have been seeing the firsthand effects of crashing the vehicle. It’s very eye-opening to see all of their comments and lately, those have only increased after Busch’s concussion.

Related: 23XI Racing gives critical updates about its NASCAR future, Kurt Busch

Joey Logano had this to say about his crash near the finish of the Coca-Cola 600 and it was glaring to hear back in May as one of the first comments about the impacts.

“I’ve never hit harder in my life. That was horrible, and it hurt really bad…These cars, they hit harder than ever. They hit really, really hard. They’re super solid. It hurts.”

Joey Logano on his crash at the Coca-Cola 600

Logano said the NextGen cars are super solid and that is definitely the sentiment shared among drivers. Formula 1 champion Jacques Villeneuve called the vehicle stiff while comparing it to a GT car.

Even the veterans of the sport, who have been through many crashes over the years, think it’s a bigger impact on the driver than when driving previous cars. Kevin Harvick shared his thoughts on the NextGen car’s crashes.

“Every time I hit something, it’s a lot harsher than any hit I’ve took in any of the other cars. The only thing I can compare it to is hitting a concrete wall, compared to what it used to be.”

Kevin Harvick on the impact of his crashes

Harvick has been in the NASCAR Cup Series since he replaced Dale Earnhardt, Sr. after his fatal crash during the 2001 Daytona 500. The 46-year-old has over 20 years of experience and that’s what makes it notable.

It’s not limited to the veterans of the sport either. Ty Gibbs, substituting for Busch in the No. 45 car, had an issue during practice at Watkins Glen International and hit the wall. While it didn’t look that bad, it was notable for Gibbs to say the following.

I felt like it was a pretty hard hit for as soft as it was. So, hopefully we can figure out how to make these things softer and preserve the lives of the drivers. I feel like that’s the most important thing. I feel like we’re seeing it from everybody.”

Ty Gibbs on his Watkins Glen crash

Gibbs has only attempted six races in the Cup Series but he understands what others have been saying for months. As stated above, it’s a sentiment that is shared among many drivers in the sport right now.

The big crash at Daytona International Speedway in Turn 1 on Sunday morning has been talked about as the last instance where the NextGen cars have been showing more drivers what others have been feeling.

Bubba Wallace had this to say on the radio after being involved in the crash. However, Wallace did not hit the wall, he was only impacted from the rear of his car.

NASCAR, these (expletive) cars suck when you get hit in the rear! Never thought I’d get the breath knocked out of me getting hit in the rear. What a (expletive) joke we drive.”

Bubba Wallace on the radio after his wreck at Daytona

The No. 23 team’s radio does not lie. There is a clear improvement that needs to be made for the next season. It’s more important for the drivers to stay healthy, which is something Gibbs and others suggested above.

Wallace’s team owner Denny Hamlin had not experienced a massive hit in the NextGen car until that wreck. There has been a video circulating on social media where the listener can hear Hamlin groaning on the radio.

After the event, the 41-year-old driver was asked about the wreck and how he felt after the incident.

“That was certainly the first real big one I’ve had in this car. Everything they’ve been telling us, all the other drivers, it’s true. It’s legit.”

Denny Hamlin on his wreck at Daytona

Almost every driver has a comment on the matter; however, these are among the most notable statements. Obviously, NASCAR needs to be proactive about the situation and it’s hard to imagine they won’t at some point.

Related: NASCAR news: Denny Hamlin to attempt big Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway

NASCAR: Drivers think the sport needs to address the issues soon

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NIGEL COOK/NEWS-JOURNAL / USA TODAY NETWORK

NASCAR has seen an increase in complaints about the impacts coming from the NextGen cars as the season has progressed. It’s an issue that possibly dates back to testing at certain tracks.

Most notably, Christopher Bell talked about his crashes in an article with NBC Sports. Bell said after he crashed during a test at Pocono Raceway and backed into the wall at the All-Star Race, he experienced headaches that were different than he previously experienced.

Then, Bell talked about the NextGen car during his media availability on Tuesday before the first race of the playoffs. This is what Bell had to say on the question of the NextGen car’s safety.

“I think it is a really, really big deal and it needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. I know the few small hits that I’ve taken – you feel it a lot more – and most of the time it is in your head, not in your body.”

Christopher Bell on the NextGen car’s safety

The last line is very notable since concussions have become a major topic within the sports world as of late. The NFL is one of the major sports when it comes to concussions and many findings have come later from players that had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is one of NASCAR’s most notable figures when it comes to concussions. Earnhardt estimated that he suffered roughly 20 concussions throughout his career and that comes in cars that were not as violent on the head.

If the current trend continues, it’s going to severely hamper the lives of drivers as they age, not just on the track, but later into life as the effects of those concussions come to fruition.

This is not saying that drivers are experiencing concussions on a regular basis, but Busch’s concussion has certainly raised those concerns. The likelihood of an injury increases if the head is feeling it more than the body.

One notable video that surfaced from the crash at Daytona International Speedway is Daniel Suarez’s onboard camera. The head movement within the car seems extensive but it could be due to the headrest. Perhaps, the crash was just that aggressive.

Bell added more to his answer, reiterated its significance, and called for NASCAR to make progress on it for the safety of the drivers.

“It’s just a matter of getting the car to absorb the impacts and not your body, specifically your head. It’s a big deal and I hope NASCAR is able to make some progress on it here quickly.”

Christopher Bell on what NASCAR needs to do about the car

This is something that clearly needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, as Bell said in his availability. NASCAR will try its best to remedy the situation. The driver’s health and safety are simply too important to let this continue.

However, let’s hope that other drivers don’t suffer concussions or more serious injuries in the meantime. There is a process and won’t be overnight for NASCAR either.