Harvick met with media members at Kansas Speedway for just under 15 minutes, and he spent the entire time talking about the fires, hard hits, and other safety concerns. He said that he hasn’t had any phone calls from NASCAR and that he has used the media to deliver his message. Harvick then explained why he has taken this approach.
“It just feels like the right thing to do for my colleagues,” Harvick explained. “I’ve watched it. I’ve watched this whole process when it’s too slow. You want to believe that it’s just going to happen, right? Just the process and the way that things are going to go.”
The potential boiling point for Harvick occurred during the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway. His car caught on fire without any previous contact with the wall or any other drivers. Harvick climbed out of his car and made strong comments to multiple media members about the cars being used. Meanwhile, crew chief Rodney Childers posted a video on Instagram showing him burning the material that lines the inside of the vehicles.
NASCAR made some changes prior to the Kansas Speedway weekend with the ultimate goal of preventing these fires that have been prevalent during the 2022 season. Though Harvick noted that this change could have been made much earlier.
“Why does the foam melt? Do we know those answers?” Harvick asked during his availability. “They’re not as fire retardant as they should be. The only reason I stopped this weekend is because the flames were coming inside the freaking car. Because this used to all be steel right there. And you look at the foam, all the foam, it looks like a marshmallow.
“So, you know, I think now it’s all coated with the coating that we presented two months ago. That doesn’t catch on fire on the right side of the car. Like I say things have progressed. And we are here today. But it can’t be that slow. There’s just no reason. It is not fair to the drivers to be compromised like we are right now and not have at least a progress plan. And it’s not just a rear clip. It’s a front clip, a rear clip, side, every hit hurts.”
Harvick Has Support From Fellow Drivers
Harvick has been the most outspoken driver in regard to safety and potential issues that he sees with the Next Gen car. This has caught the attention of his fellow competitors, and many have shown their support.
Ryan Blaney, in particular, commented that he believes “it speaks more volume” when Harvick makes these statements. Blaney added that he can’t speak for everyone in the Cup Series garage, but he “likes what Kevin is doing” in the media.
“It just has a lot of weight,” Blaney said. “Kevin’s been around. He’s seen all these different race cars. There’s a lot of guys who have seen all these different types of cars, from the COT (Car of Tomorrow) to the previous generation and this generation. Even some… a lot of guys, pre-COT.
“They’ve just seen it all, and they’ve experienced it all, so they’ve got the most knowledge of different types of cars and how the safety has come the last 15-20 years. They have a lot of the pull when it comes to that stuff, I just feel like, because they have more experience.”
Harvick Called for an Independent Panel to Contribute
How does NASCAR fix the safety concerns?
Harvick doesn’t believe that this is something that they can achieve during the offseason. He explained that the short amount of time would make it difficult to get everything done by the Busch Light Clash at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
One thing that Harvick called for is for NASCAR to implement an independent panel. There is a drivers’ advisory council that features former driver Jeff Burton, as well as Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Corey LaJoie, Austin Dillon, and Joey Logano. However, Harvick believes that the independent panel could move faster while implementing changes.
“Safety can’t be about money. I’ve lived this, man,” Harvick added. “I’ve watched … I watched when we had all the trouble with Adam [Petty] and Kenny Irwin and then it resulted in Dale Earnhardt and then all of a sudden, it was mandatory to wear Hans devices, it was mandatory to wear the Hutchins device.
“We developed soft walls. It can’t be slow, the safety cannot be slow. This car is … it’s screwed up as far as the way that it crashes. And whether the data says it or not, every driver in this garage will tell you that’s not right and it hurts. Feet hurt, hands hurt, head hurt. And there has to be a better solution.”
According to NASCAR, there is an independent panel with which it consults about safety issues and the Next Gen car. This group includes Jeff Crandall, who serves as director of the Center for Applied Biomechanics at the University of Virginia, and Barry S. Myers, a Duke faculty member in Biomedical Engineering and Orthopaedic Surgery.
The other two members of the panel are James Raddin Jr., a physician and engineer concentrated on human impact prediction and injury biomechanics, and Joel Stitzel Jr., head of the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences.