Elliott not holding back on Next Gen safety issues

Matt Thacker/NKP/Motorsport Images

Elliott not holding back on Next Gen safety issues


Elliott not holding back on Next Gen safety issues


Chase Elliott was as frustrated and forthcoming with his thoughts as ever over the safety of the Next Gen car on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

During his 15-minute media availability, Elliott addressed multiple questions about the car. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman is not competing this weekend because of concussion-like symptoms, and drivers have been outspoken all year about the state of the car and how hard the hits feel.

Elliott, usually reserved with his opinions, didn’t hold back with his answers this time. Each question was answered thoroughly and thoughtfully, repeatedly expressing bewilderment that the sport is dealing with such issues.

“I don’t feel like we should have ever been in this position to need to go forward [with the car],” Elliott said. “We should have gone forward with a new opportunity at a new car, in my opinion. You have all these years of experience and knowledge and time of racing and crashing these cars and teams working on them and building them, and it just blows me away that we can have something new in 2022 that offers all this technology and all this time and experience of so many just super talented people in this sport and we allow to go backward, especially with safety.

“I think it’s just super surprising to me that we allowed that to happen, but we did, and now it’s just about how do we go forward from here making sure we make the right choices to improve what we have and keep things like what happened to Alex this week from happening, and what happened to Kurt.”

He shared the same sentiment earlier this week on Twitter, but Elliott also acknowledged there are a lot of intelligent individuals in the sport to figure it out.

“I’m confident that we will, but it’s crucial that we do, in my opinion, because having guys out in the playoffs or any time for that matter, shouldn’t be happening,” Elliott said. “I think it’s taking away from our product on Sunday, which that should be the focus. Who wins? Who loses? How the race was and how a guy did driving his car, and how a team did executing a good or a bad race…”

NASCAR officials have a crash test scheduled for Wednesday in Ohio to go through a new rear clip and rear bumper structure. Drivers, when not tweeting or speaking to the media, also have the Driver Advisory Council, headed by Jeff Burton, to get their voices out.

“We had [plenty of] time to test this car and crash it and do all the things we need to do to make sure some of these things aren’t happening that are happening now,” Elliot said. “We had a ton of time to do that, and this car was delayed an entire calendar year on top of that. You have to think, we had an extra year of time to work on it, and we’re still in this position. There’s no excuse for going backward. We have too many smart people, too much technology, too many years of crashing and racing at all these same racetracks to have some of these things that are going on that are. Test next week or no test next week, we should not be in the position that we are in. When you come out with a new product, you should take steps forward, not stay the same or go backward.”

The problem is that no one seems to know what could be done in the immediate future. NASCAR will implement the bumper changes (if the crash test goes well) in 2023. Brad Keselowski also expressed Saturday that it’s unrealistic to implement something with so few weeks left in the season, given how cars are on the verge of being prepared for the season finale.

“I don’t really know what you do today,” Elliott admitted. “From Texas last week to Talladega tomorrow, I’m not sure what is realistically feasible to have that quick of a fix. I’m just disappointed that we have put ourselves in this box, to begin with. It’s not realistic to change something in six days. I just hate we put ourselves in this position we’re in. I think we’re, as an industry, we’re smarter than that, and I know the men and women who work in the garage are smarter than that because I work with them every day.”

So how did this happen, and how did the sport come to this point if the car had an extra year of development through the pandemic and there are smart people throughout the industry?

“I don’t know. You tell me,” Elliott said. “I don’t have a good answer for you on that. I really don’t. That is what baffles me. I have no idea how we got here. I don’t know.”