Getting a job done right by drivers over the weekend didn’t cost NASCAR chief Steve Phelps anything. He met with Cup Series competitors in Charlotte and promised to communicate with them frequently regarding how NASCAR can make the next generation car safer.
NASCAR, on the other hand, is about to run a seven-figure tab as it tries to make adjustments to team owners who thought they bought supercars and are now wondering if they sold a bill of goods.
Nothing says, “We cheated,” like writing a check.
The next generation car does not meet expectations
Justin Marks has hinted at it a few times while most other owners have remained publicly silent, but the next generation car is more expensive than promised. Trackhouse Racing co-owner anticipated the start-up costs associated with retooling the garage and stocking the shelves with replacement parts, but they were worse than expected.
The trade-off should have lower future costs. Rather than fabricating sheet metal and engineering components to make their cars faster, the theory saved money by purchasing NASCAR-certified front and rear sections that precisely fit the relatively indestructible tires and safety components.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Other than the toe ties that break if you stare at them with crossed eyes – it’s supposed to work that way because it’s a cheaper solution than swapping out suspension systems entirely – it might be the next generation car very solid.
Mounting evidence suggests that unforgiving breakouts may have caused Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman’s concussion. Other drivers have complained that his blows this year have felt worse than ever.
And none of this considers the next-generation car a lemonade on short trails and road courses, which make up a third of the trophy series schedule.
NASCAR pledges to foot the bill for important changes in the future
NASCAR notified its Cup Series teams on Tuesday of changes to the next-generation chassis that they expect to deliver next season’s safety improvements, particularly in accidents involving blows to the rear of the car. Road and Track reported that drivers heard about the changes on October 8.
The strategy emphasizes introducing more interior parts that would bend, thus absorbing energy during a wreck rather than transferring the force to the driver’s cabin. This will be achieved in part by reducing the thickness of some of the support rods, resulting in more twisted metal.
This will have the effect of requiring more frequent replacement of those parts until the cars go through checks at subsequent pre-race inspections.
More interestingly, the website also reported that NASCAR has committed to paying for parts needed for initial updates. If that ended up including the front and rear sections and applied to an average of two cars per driver, the total cost for NASCAR would easily exceed $1 million.
An example of what NASCAR intends to do
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When qualifying Kurt Bosch slipped into the Pocono over the summer and a Toyota rear sectional slapped the exterior wall, the damage to the car was minimal. Within hours, 23XI Racing learned that car repair wasn’t the #1 issue on the list; Bosch was showing signs of concussion, and the team had to bring in Ty Gibbs to replace Bush for the next day’s race. Gibbs has been filling his spot ever since, and there are strong indications that Bush will announce his retirement this weekend in Las Vegas.
Since then, concerns about the next-generation car have mounted, and the rear section of the car has been an area of particular interest. He explains why this part of the car is first addressed in the documentation that NASCAR released to its teams regarding improvements for 2023.
NASCAR will be moving on to thinner triangular struts connecting the bumper to the rear clip, which will have two longitudinal rods removed and two others redesigned to allow stacking of rear shock debris.
These changes alone should lead to a significant improvement in safety. The trade-off, of course, is that cars kept in contact with the wall with nothing more than a broken toe tie and possibly a broken tire would be subject to more damage under the sheet metal that could throw the team out of the race.
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