Kevin Harvick

Kevin Harvick may not be the only person criticizing NASCAR’s Next Gen car but he is one of the most vocal.

While many focus on the safety aspect and the fact that drivers are experiencing harder hits in this car, Harvick expands on the point to criticize NASCAR’s response (or lack of) to the driver’s safety concerns.

At Sunday night’s Southern 500 in Darlington, Harvick’s car caught on fire. What was strange was the fire was so random. Harvick didn’t wreck or hit the wall or blow a tire. The car just burst into flames.

In a mid-race interview, Harvick blamed it on “crappy-a** parts” that teams must use.

“I’m sure it’s just the crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times,” Harvick said. “We haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff, we just let it keep going and keep going and the car started burning. And as it burns, you know, the flames started coming through the dash. And I ran a couple laps and then, you know, as the flame got bigger, and then it started burning stuff up, and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out of the brakes. It burned the brake line. But the fire was coming through the dash.”

“What a disaster, man. 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 can’t finish the race during the Playoffs because of crappy-a** parts.”

Some of this is due to cutting costs and making Cup racing more affordable for owners who have faced a loss of sponsorship money over the last decade. That’s a reason why there are 17 different winners so far this season, tying the overall record at this stage in the season. With more spec parts on the car, there’s more parity, and more people have a chance to win in any given week.

That being said, if parts are failing at a higher rate and those part failures cause the car to burn, then not only does the team owner has to pay to replace the parts on a burned up car, but it potentially puts the driver in danger having to get out of a burning car. Sure, parts might be cheaper now but if the value isn’t there and you have to replace them more often and costing you good finishes, it may not be saving teams as much money as we thought. I think that’s what Harvick was getting at.

Harvick has been rather consistent in his criticism with the Next Gen car and while he’s been embracing the change, he’s not happy with the lack of progress by NASCAR on making the cars safer so drivers aren’t having as hard of hits. Multiple drivers have said they have taken some of the hardest hits in their career with this car. Last week, Bubba Wallace cursed out NASCAR over the radio after a seemingly innocent hit in the rear end was felt so hard that it caused him to lose his breath. Kurt Busch has been out since July recovering from a concussion. This weekend, Denny Hamlin sat out the Xfinity Series race due to soreness he had in a crash from the previous week at Daytona.

While NASCAR should be credited with the Next Gen car creating close racing and more winning drivers, that should come with criticism that the car isn’t as safe as it used to be. Maybe NASCAR is working hard behind the scenes to make the car safer and no matter what, it’s just going to take some time to find an actual solution. But the longer this goes, the drivers who are going to be feeling the effects of this are going to be more encouraged to speak out.

[Photo: NASCAR on NBC]

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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