NASCAR Inspecting No. 5 Chevrolet After Massive Talladega Wreck

Getty NASCAR has taken the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the R&D Center.

The NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway had one of the largest wrecks of the Next Gen era. It sent two drivers to the infield care center and led to NASCAR taking the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro back to the R&D Center.

The sanctioning body announced this following post-race inspection. A press release noted that Kyle Busch’s No. 8 had passed, confirming his Geico 500 win. An additional note said that the No. 2 of Team Penske, the No. 45 of 23XI Racing, and the No. 5 of Hendrick Motorsports would all go to the R&D Center for teardown inspection.

The day after the Geico 500, NASCAR also obtained the No. 41 of Ryan Preece. This was the other vehicle involved in the crash, and it was the one that hit the No. 5 broadside.

The crash occurred as the end of regulation approached. Noah Gragson began to slide up the track while Ross Chastain dove to the inside of the No. 42. The field went three-wide with Aric Almirola on the bottom, which pinched the No. 1 and sent it backward into Kyle Larson’s No. 5.

The 2021 Cup Series champion spun off the nose of Kevin Harvick into the infield grass. He then slid back up onto the race track directly in the path of Ryan Preece’s No. 41. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver had nowhere to go, and he hit Larson broadside at a high rate of speed. This destroyed the side of the No. 5 Chevrolet and sent both drivers to the infield care center for evaluation.

“Thankfully I’m OK but my car is absolutely destroyed,” Larson said after undergoing evaluation. “The cockpit’s a mess. I’m just thankful that I’m alright and all that. It’s just a bummer. We put ourselves in position once again on a superspeedway and the results don’t show it.

“Another wreck not of my doing on a superspeedway. I just hate it but we’ll keep getting better, and eventually, it’ll have to work out I would think.”

The Passenger’s Side of the No. 5 Was Destroyed

Kyle Larson

GettyKyle Larson prepares for qualifying at Auto Club Speedway.

The hit created more discussions surrounding the safety of the Next Gen car and the overall stiffness of the body. They only increased as a photo began circulating that showed how the door bar had been pushed into the window area.

The hit from the No. 41 Ford Mustang was so violent that it destroyed the metal plate that acts as a fire barrier on the passenger’s side of the Next Gen car. This side does not have the structural steel plate over the door tubing like on the driver’s side, so it crumpled much easier.

The violence of the hit and the damage to Larson’s Chevrolet created concern among fans and industry members, to the point that anonymous crew members from one Toyota team made comments on pit road about how the collision could have been fatal.

The aftermath of the collision was evident when looking at the side of Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet. The in-car cameras also showed the violence of the hit as bounced Preece around in his seat and knocked his helmet visor open. His head went forward and back, which is the opposite of what the drivers want to happen.

“We had a really fast Hunt Brother’s Ford Mustang today, and just when you lose track position, it’s really tough to get it back,” Preece told FOX Sports reporter Regan Smith.

“Definitely probably one of the hardest hits I’ve ever taken in my racing career, but we’ve just gotta figure out how to — when we get track position — keep it or stay up there so you aren’t in those positions.”

The Inspection Could Lead To More Improvements

Taking the No. 5 back to the R&D Center is not about looking for an illegal part that could lead to a penalty. Instead, NASCAR officials will likely use the opportunity to see if there were any parts that failed and where there could be additional moves made in the pursuit of safety.

The safety of the Next Gen cars has been a point of emphasis since they first debuted with the 2022 Cup Series season. This has been a work in progress, and it has led to some friction between the drivers and the sanctioning body.

This was made especially clear after both Alex Bowman and Kurt Busch sustained concussions after backing their cars into the outside wall. Bowman was able to return for the 2022 season finale at Phoenix Raceway, but Busch still has yet to receive clearance from his doctors.

There have been changes made since the end of the 2022 season. NASCAR introduced a new rear clip to help with rear-end collisions. It also addressed the fires that occurred in the rocker boxes.

There is still work remaining. The pursuit of safety does not have an endpoint. There will never be a moment when NASCAR and its teams stop looking for ways to make improvements. Instead, they will continue holding meetings every few weeks while trying to build toward a better future.

“The cars have gotten safer,” Alex Bowman told media members ahead of the Geico 500. “Could they still be safer? Yes. Does NASCAR still want them to be safer? Yes.”

Will NASCAR find more ways to improve the Next Gen car after inspecting the No. 5? The answer remains unknown, but there is no doubt that the industry will continue putting an emphasis on safety as more superspeedway races loom on the horizon.

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