Keselowski sees more transparency in Next Gen safety process as an owner

Nigel Kinrade/NKP/Motorsport Images

Keselowski sees more transparency in Next Gen safety process as an owner

NASCAR

Keselowski sees more transparency in Next Gen safety process as an owner

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With the new perspective of a NASCAR Cup Series owner and driver, Brad Keselowski has not been as outspoken as his peers about the issues surrounding the Next Gen car.

“I’m sure it affects my view, absolutely,” Keselowski said Saturday. “I get to sit in meetings that I didn’t sit in before, where I have a better context of things that are happening. There’s more transparency for sure being in that spot.”

Some of Keselowski’s fellow drivers have been highly critical of NASCAR’s new car this year. There have been continued complaints about how hard the hits feel – particularly rear-end hits – and that the car is stiffer. The criticism ramped up after Kurt Busch was sidelined with concussion-like symptoms following a qualifying crash at Pocono Raceway in July.

This week, it’s gotten even louder. Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, and Chase Elliott were blunt on Twitter about where the sport is with safety, which continued at Talladega Superspeedway. Hamlin called for a redesign of the car and said it’s “bad leadership” that has NASCAR in this position. Elliott was baffled it’s gotten to this point with the smart people in the industry.

RKF Racing’s Keselowski hasn’t shown any frustration about it.

“There are people working on it,” the 2012 series champion said. “It’d be one thing if there was a magic wand with a solution that just wasn’t being applied. It’d be one thing if nobody was working on anything. But there are people working on things right now and there are projects underway.

“I’m kind of having reasonable expectations of those projects. The fact that there is movement and acknowledgment and NASCAR is working on things, the confidence is fine for me.”

NASCAR confirmed Saturday there would be a crash test Wednesday in Ohio on a new rear clip and rear bumper structure. It is something they have been working on for most of the season.

“I think there is some sensible work being done there,” said Keselowski. “You have to keep in mind that when this car was built, it was a bit of a pandemic baby. There was a lot of simulation work done and all those things, but there wasn’t a lot of real-world crash testing simply because you couldn’t do those things. I think in the sense of it being a pandemic baby, we’re going through some of those hurdles right now to work through those challenges.”

It wasn’t until late last year that a crash test took place. Ironically, it was at Talladega Superspeedway. Keselowski noted that the test, conducted with robotic dummies, featured one impact and was not representative of what Busch and Busch experienced.

Keselowski also shot down the chatter that changes aren’t being made because of cost. Some drivers have accused the industry of not doing anything because it costs money to fix the car.

“I don’t think the projects, that I’m aware of, are that expensive,” said Keselowski. “The rear clips — they’re a couple thousand dollars. If we have to replace every one of them next year, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t mean anything to our budget.

“Now, as you get into other parts of the car, it has bigger effects, but I don’t think there is a cost-minded objective, at least from my point of view to the things that I’ve heard at this point in time. I can’t speak for every owner, though, either. But I think changing some rear clips and changing the rules on them for next year is really not a big deal for cost.”

If the crash test next week goes well, NASCAR will implement changes to the rear bumpers for 2023. No one seems to know what could be done in the short-term to help the car, and the focus seems to be on banding together to solve the problem going forward.

“I don’t see that as being realistic,” Keselowski said of car changes before the end of the year. “I would like to think it would be, but given the timelines…we really have three to four weeks left in the season. If you think [about it], the Phoenix cars are all being built next week or in two weeks, just the way the teams rotate the cars. We’re usually three to four weeks ahead.

“I don’t see us having anything different before the year is over. I think we need to be working right now to have something for Daytona.”

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