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more severe tremors, Effects look more difficult And the pain lasts longer for NASCAR drivers in the first season of the next generation car.
Stories of back pain, headaches, and damaged ribs that don’t heal as quickly as in the past are more common at the start of treatment. NASCAR Cup Series Qualifiers Sunday at Darlington Racecourse.
Just ask Denny Hamlin, part of a massive late wreck in Daytona a week ago. He pulled out of Saturday’s Xfinity event in Darlington due to persistent soreness in his neck, ribs and back.
“I feel like I got hit in a bar and someone was kicking me in the ribs while I was on the floor,” Hamlin said of the wreck on Thursday. “The whole right side, I felt shattered.”
The issue of driver safety has taken center stage since Kurt Bosch’s qualifying crash in Pocono. He suffered a concussion and missed the last six regular season races.
Bush’s condition prompted him to give up his place in the playoff, and 23XI co-owner Hamlin wasn’t sure when he would return. Hamlin said Bush was “stabilised” in his recovery.
“He got to about 80% (recovered) and he stayed there,” Hamlin said. “I think the rest will take some time.”
The Next Generation Car was introduced this season to provide a durable, competitive vehicle that can keep costs down and bring more excitement to the track by appearing like something consumers can buy from a dealership. He certainly hit par with 16 winners this year, including starters Chase Briscoe, Austin Cendrick, Ross Chastain and Daniel Suarez.
However, the hype among the hauler and in team meetings is that the average hits and accompanying pain aren’t average anymore.
“It seems to be a recurring theme,” said Chase Elliott, the 2020 Cup Series champion and number one playoff. “And I don’t necessarily think something everyone makes, do I?”
More evidence came in Hamlin’s radio conversation with his team moments after the accident. He hears him groan and tells them it “hurts” preceded by an expletive.
“Certainly, from a physical point of view, I was hit a lot harder than I’ve ever been on any other wreck,” Hamlin said.
NASCAR’s ongoing collision analysis agrees with the drivers: the hits are harder than they’ve been in the past.
“We’ve heard similar things about their experiences with the car being that it crashes harder or the crashes are worse,” said Dr. John Patalak, Managing Director of Safety Engineering.
“The really short answer is yes, drivers are in more serious accidents than in the past,” he continued. “But there is more to it.”
Patalak said the analysis shows that some drivers at high speeds hit walls at much steeper angles. Whereas in the past cars crashed at angles ranging from 14 to 16 degrees, some next-generation crashes are recorded in your teens or low twenties.
He said, “When you look at it on paper, you think, ‘Well, what’s the big problem, 14 really gets close to 19?'” “But it’s a big difference in the amount of energy going into the wall, not parallel to it.”
Kyle Bush, the series’ two-time champion, is skeptical. “The wreck doesn’t look that bad because the drivers are taking the brunt of it and the car isn’t,” rider Joe Gibbs said.
There is more work to come on safety concerns, but Elliott believes NASCAR is paying attention.
“You never want to take a step back,” Elliott said. “It’s been great conversations (with NASCAR) and I think it’s going to make a difference in the end.”
Patalak said the car was never designed as a final draft. There have already been modifications to the safety foam surrounding the driver’s head. Further analyzes may result in additional changes.
“There are certain solutions that cannot be implemented immediately,” he said. “There are other solutions that can be done.”
This likely means increased costs for financially conscious racing teams, according to 2017 NASCAR Champion Joey Logano.
“That’s the bottom line, safety is expensive,” he said. “I hate to say it, but it’s true.”
Lugano, too, has felt the blows this season the most. He and others said the car is very solid. But it’s not all bad. “In some ways, it’s safer than the old car,” he said.
Lugano is confident that the car will not collapse in the cockpit in a major accident or rollover accident. “The daily strikes are more severe than they were before,” he said. “It depends on how you want to look at it.”