NASCAR insists it's communicating with drivers about safety

John K Harrelson/NKP/Motorsport Images

NASCAR insists it's communicating with drivers about safety

NASCAR

NASCAR insists it's communicating with drivers about safety

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NASCAR’s Elton Sawyer shot down the notion that the sanctioning body is not communicating with its drivers about the safety aspects of the Next Gen car.

Sawyer, NASCAR vice president of officiating and technical inspection, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that officials want to put safety concerns out of the driver’s minds and have them focus on racing. In hopes of doing that, there will be more dialogue with NASCAR Cup Series drivers this week on the continued work on the car after a second driver, Alex Bowman, was sidelined over the weekend with concussion-like symptoms.

“There will be some dialogue this week with the drivers that we’ll update them on the development that’s going on with the Next Gen car,” Sawyer said on Tuesday morning. “Safety is never going to end. It’s a journey, as you’ve heard us say before. Every day there is something they are working on to make our sport safer.

“It’s an inherently dangerous sport, we all know that, but there are things we can do and we are doing that, and that’s things being worked on as far as simulation now as far as a new rear clip.

“They’ll be doing some actual crash testing later this week with the hope that’s in a positive direction, and if it is and all those enhancements will be implemented in 2023.

“The question may come up, why not now? Well, if you look at our season, we’re five races to go, the amount of inventory that’s out there today, and to get that replenished is a tall task. Just almost impossible to make it happen. But that hasn’t stopped the development. That hasn’t stopped the work that’s being done to make our cars and our sport safer.”

The crash testing is expected to take place on Wednesday at a facility in Ohio. Since earlier this season, NASCAR has been working on modeling for a different rear clip and rear clip structure they want to put through the paces in hopes of implementing the changes for the ’23 season.

Jeff Burton serves as a liaison between the drivers and NASCAR to help make sure both sides have an open line of communication. However, Sawyer said drivers could make a phone call to NASCAR themselves if they have questions or concerns.

“There’s ongoing dialogue with the drivers, and there will be this week, as I said earlier, just to get them fully up to speed on where we’re at, what we’re doing, how we’re going to progress, how we’re going to get better and continue to build on this Next Gen car that’s had a phenomenal roll out,” said Sawyer.

“Now that hasn’t been without some challenges, which in any new project you’re going to have. Just feel like there are some things that we’re working on behind the scenes now. We’ll get them up to speed on those projects this week.”

Over the weekend, Denny Hamlin doubled down on his comments about the car and NASCAR not doing anything. Hamlin blamed “bad leadership” for the sport being in this position. Kevin Harvick has also been particularly outspoken this season about how stiff the car is and that all the concerns drivers have raised have gone unaddressed.

Drivers have used the media and social media to express their concerns and frustration. However, Sawyer said there have been conversations held privately between NASCAR officials and drivers throughout the season about the car.

“Again, there are so many things that are in the background being worked on, and it’s important to get that in front of them and make sure they understand the direction we’re going with the car,” he said. “As far as the comments, I’m really not going to get into that with Denny or Kevin. That’s not fair to them. That’s not fair to us.

“What I will say is I think over the last four or five years, the leadership from Daytona and getting through a pandemic and things we’ve had to deal with to roll out a new car, I think we’ve got good leadership and I think we will see that continue to unfold as we move forward.

“But it doesn’t come without challenges, and again, can’t emphasize this [enough], the dialogue will be with the drivers this week to get them up to speed on the changes that are coming.”

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