NASCAR to pay race teams for safety upgrades to Next Gen car for 2023 season

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Getty Images NASCAR is covering the initial costs to race […]

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NASCAR is covering the initial costs to race teams for enhancements to the Next Gen car’s center section, rear clip, and rear bumper supports for 2023, according to a report by Bozi Tatarevic of Road & Track. The changes to the Next Gen car were outlined in a meeting with drivers last Saturday and are now in the process of being implemented.

The changes to the Next Gen car should create a better crumple zone behind the driver so that they absorb less force in rear impacts, which has been the case in several crashes in 2022 due to the rigidness of the Next Gen car’s current rear bumper structure and supports. The changes are as follows:

  • New rear bumper struts with a new material thickness of 0.080 inches, which will allow them to crumple better.
  • Longitudinal bars in the upper part of the rear clip are being removed, while the lower rails are being changed from relatively straight to angled compound mitered tubes.
  • Outer diagonal tubes near the top of the center section of the chassis will now feature a trigger on the inboard side as opposed to two existing inner diagonal support bars. Outer diagonal tubes on the bottom of the chassis are being replaced by 1.75 inch diameter tubes with an 0.65 inch wall and triggers. Inner diagonal tubes at the bottom of the chassis will be reduced to one inch in diameter with a 0.065 inch wall without triggers.

NASCAR later confirmed both that they sent the technical updates to race teams on Tuesday and that the sanctioning body would cover the costs associated with them — a highly unusual step, given that race teams have historically been independent contractors who have had to incur the costs of any technical changes mandated by NASCAR.

Although the introduction of parts with a shorter lifespan will likely lead to increased costs moving forward, NASCAR team owners indicated at Talladega Superspeedway that any costs incurred are a small price to pay for the health and safety of their drivers.

“Our drivers are so important, we don’t want them hurt,” said Rick Hendrick, whose driver Alex Bowman has missed the past two races with concussion symptoms. “So if it meant buying all new clips Monday morning, I’d do it. I’d be happy to do it. We want them safe.”

“Listen, we invest a lot in our drivers,” said 23XI Racing co-owner Denny Hamlin, whose driver Kurt Busch has been out with a concussion since July. “When I lose someone like Kurt Busch, that financially is not good for me. As a team owner, I’m gonna spend whatever I have to spend to make sure my drivers are safe. I’ll worry about who’s gonna pay for that later.”

NASCAR footing the bill for their race teams to make improvements to the Next Gen car comes at an interesting time, as the two parties are currently in a dispute over the financial split that race teams would receive from NASCAR’s next media rights deal. Race team executives met with reporters on Friday to express their frustrations on that front, the day before NASCAR met with its drivers to address safety concerns and outline changes to the Next Gen car.

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