NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller admits it’s “unacceptable” that the Next Gen car keeps catching fire, and said that work continues on finding solutions.
“We’re certainly digging into the cause,” Miller told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “We have cars down there this morning [at the R&D Center] looking for any signs that may have triggered that, and we have done so all year. There’s a lot of rubber at Darlington; the cheese grater that we’ve always talked about. We’re not certain if rubber getting into the rocker box was the problem or not, but we’re debriefing it all.
“It’s unacceptable for the cars to catch on fire, and we’ve been working on different solutions for different things along the way that seem to be the trigger. Obviously, we still have work to do. We’re looking at clearances on… particularly the Ford exhaust, because they seem to be having a little more trouble with this than the others. So there’s a lot of work going on, a lot of collaboration within the industry to get to the bottom of it. And we have to get to the bottom of it quick, obviously.”
Kevin Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing Ford caught fire over the weekend at Darlington Raceway. Harvick was the fifth Ford Mustang driver in the last month to have a high-profile incident. Harvick’s teammates Cole Custer and Chase Briscoe had issues at Michigan Speedway and Richmond Raceway, respectively, while Joey Logano and Chris Buescher had problems at the Indianapolis road course.
Even though it’s been a wide-ranging issue for one manufacturer, Miller said the series is talking to everyone in the garage. Alex Bowman, a Chevrolet driver, had a fire on his car during the spring Darlington race.
“We talk to everybody, and nobody wants to see this happen,” Miller said. “I think everybody will be forthcoming to try to help us as an industry get to (understanding) exactly what is creating this. And in fairness, Ford hasn’t been the only one who has had a problem. But I think some of the other problems we’ve seen, we have come up with solutions, but we can’t continue to have this. It’s all hands on deck with the teams and OEMs and everybody trying to get to a spot where this isn’t a story.”
Following the issues with Buescher, Logano, Briscoe and Custer, Brad Moran, the managing director of the NASCAR Cup Series, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio last month that the series had identified some of the problems and implemented changes. Moran also said work was continuing to find additional solutions.
Naturally, Harvick was heated after his fire. It ruined his night as a Cup Series playoff contender and gave him another reason to express his displeasure with the Next Gen car. Harvick called the parts “crappy” and said that NASCAR hasn’t fixed anything.
“I know that was an emotional time and his race was ruined, but to say that NASCAR didn’t care is about as far from the truth as you can get,” said Miller. “That’s really all I have to say about that. I’m not going to get in any kind of back-and-forth contest with Kevin over the airwaves, but I think he actually does know we do care.”
Miller also dismissed the notion that there is no communication between NASCAR and the garage.
“I think we’re better than we’ve ever been at understanding the struggles of the team and the different things that together we have to work through as an industry,” he said. “I think that communication between us, the teams, the OEMs, you as media partners, the TV networks as media partners… I think the collaboration of the entire industry is at an all-time high, and that’s one of the reasons why we’ve had a resurgence of popularity of the sport, quite honestly.
“We’re going to run into problems along the way. This is the problem that has come to the forefront. There’s always going to be problems, and we’re always going to solve them as an industry with collaboration.”