Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have made several comments about safety issues and the Next Gen car. They have been the most vocal drivers, but Ross Chastain has said that they “aren’t the mouthpieces” for the entire garage.
Chastain made comments after finishing fourth in the YellaWood 500. He said that there have been ongoing talks about how to make the cars safer and that the chase for that never stops. Chastain also provided his own reason for his relative silence on issues of safety.
“They don’t speak for all of us on everything they say,” Chastain told the assembled media members. “I know that they… Denny says, ‘Look, these guys are just being quiet because they are happy to be here,’ but we have our own thoughts too. I know I do.
“Everything he says just isn’t the mouthpiece for the entire garage. Sometimes, saying less is more too, and there’s a better way to do it than just doing that.”
The “happy to be here” comments reference a statement that Hamlin made during his media availability at Talladega Superspeedway on October 1. He said that the younger drivers are not speaking out about safety because they “are just happy to be here.” He continued and said that they will not be happy when “their brains are scrambled.”
A Team Owner Weighed in About Safety Discussions
NASCAR executives and drivers have been the most vocal in the ongoing discussion about the Next Gen car and the changes that could be made. The team owners haven’t had as many opportunities to weigh in, but the winningest one made some comments.
Rick Hendrick met with media members after Chase Elliott won the playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway. He provided a potential timeline for Alex Bowman’s return from a concussion, and he also made it clear that he would be willing to spend whatever it costs to improve the safety of the Next Gen car.
“Our drivers are so important, we don’t want ’em hurt,” Hendrick said. “So if it meant buying all new clips Monday morning, I’d do it. I’d be happy to do it. We want ’em safe. Be it like Alex, Kurt Busch, that’s hard. So I’m all for whatever it takes.
“I think the teams could fix it. If NASCAR wants to do it, I think everybody working together, we could do it in a hurry, test it, have it on the cars ASAP.”
Other Drivers Have Taken Stances on the Matter
Hamlin and Harvick have been the most vocal drivers — by far — in terms of safety concerns. Martin Truex Jr. has openly talked about the quality of parts during the 2022 playoffs. Meanwhile, Chastain and some other younger drivers have remained relatively quiet on the topic.
Elliott, the reigning Most Popular Driver, surprised some media members on October 1 when he made some strong comments about how NASCAR has “gone backward” in terms of safety. This seemed to be out of character for him considering that he is one of the quietest people in the garage, but it actually may have a greater impact on the conversation.
“I think these guys are concerned. He sees a teammate hurt,” Hendrick continued. “He saw Kurt hurt. He’s a young guy with a career ahead of him. Nobody wants to do something that they could fix and eliminate it.
“I think this has been on Chase’s mind. I’m proud of him. He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks, everybody knows he’s just not popping off, that he’s concerned.”