NASCAR faces more questions about new car after Bristol blowout

Kyle Busch deserved better than two failed Toyota engines in the first round of the NASCAR playoffs. But at least Bush…

Kyle Busch deserved better than two failed Toyota engines in the first round of the NASCAR playoffs.

But at least Busch knows what happened to end his night at Bristol Motor Speedway and leave him “surprised” out of the playoff field.

Martin Truex Jr.? He could only laugh as he stood in the garage next to his disabled car as fellow Toyota driver Bubba Wallace arrived for repairs.

“There’s one more,” he said with a grin. Truex also echoed Kevin Harvick’s words after his car caught fire in the opening race of the playoffs at Darlington three weeks ago.

“What will Harvick say?” Truex said of his own release Saturday night. “The Bad Parts.”

At least a dozen playoff drivers had some sort of problem with NASCAR’s new next-generation car at Bristol, where the car’s specification leveled the playing field, revealed by the myriad durability issues that have dogged its entire debut season.

The Ford camp suffered from a rash of blown tires, the Toyota suffered from power steering failures, the drivers fighting for the win were knocked out of contention by any number of mechanical gremlins, and passing was the most difficult task.

The 12 lead changes were the fewest in more than a dozen years at Bristol, and only four of those passes were under green.

“It’s just tough to get through,” Harvick said. “The car is too fast in the corners. I can’t participate in races.”

Harvick was in contention for the win until a wheel fell off his Ford during the final round of pit stops, knocking him out of the playoffs.

Now there’s a new round of questions surrounding Next Gen, an industry-wide project to develop a car with single-source parts that has both held down costs and helped smaller teams bridge the gap with the powerful NASCAR organizations. It worked as Chris Buescher became a record 19th Cup winner this season on Saturday night.

Buescher’s victory marked the first time since the inception of this version of NASCAR’s playoffs that non-title contenders swept the entire round. Eric Jones won at Darlington and Wallace at Kansas; is also not a playoff driver like Buescher, who earned his second career win in his 250th career start.

But Buescher won, stretching his final two-tire pit stop into the final 61 laps of the 500-mile race, as a lack of tire wear (save for the Ford’s right-front tear) kept second-place Chase Elliott four new tires comfortably in your rearview mirror.

Next Gen has been called into question by safety concerns after rumors of disastrous crash tests during the development phase, and those concerns have only intensified since July, when a qualifying crash left Kurt Busch with a concussion that ruled him out of competition for almost two months. Other drivers report that they feel the force of the impact during crashes much worse than ever before, and the wave of fires at Darlington has prompted NASCAR to make a number of rule changes.

Now there’s a fresh batch of complaints after Bristol, where Harvick, Kyle Busch and Richard Childress’ teammates Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick were eliminated from the playoff field.

“We need NextGen 2.0. Just need to figure out who’s going to pay for it,” Denny Hamlin tweeted. Hamlin is part owner of the 23XI Racing team, which has been without Kurt Busch for nine races.

“It was just impossible to pass,” Hamlin said after the race. He also had a flat tire in Bristol, but felt the difficulty of passing was the bigger problem.

“I would like to see racing improve in general. Some lap time change. We’re just running out there and it seems like we’re running faster in the corners than we are on the straights,” Hamlin said. “We had some steering issues and it looks like our Toyota teammates had some steering issues as well.”

Yes, all six Toyotas had issues ranging from tires for Hamlin and Christopher Bell, steering problems for Truex, Wallace and Ty Gibbs to engine failure for Kyle Busch.

And it was a mixed night for Brad Keselowski, who won the first stage of the race for his first stage win of the season and looked to be in contention for his first win of the season. Keselowski moved from Team Penske to RFK Racing this season to manage an ownership stake in Jack Roush’s team, and he was desperate to give RFK his first win.

But then he suffered a flat tire while leading with 87 laps to go, and Keselowski took to victory lane to congratulate teammate Buescher. He acknowledged the transition was difficult, but said it shouldn’t be easy and said NASCAR must continue working on the next generation.

“Would I like us to keep working on cars? Undoubtedly. I’ve said it to NASCAR, I’ve said it to the media before, and I’ll say it again: “If the Next-Gen car looks the same as it did this year, then we’ve failed,” Keselowski. said. “We have to keep growing. We must continue to learn. We have to keep doing it better. There are probably some car owners out there who don’t want to hear about it because it costs money to replace cars.

“There is a camp that says ‘this car is wrong’, and there is a camp that says this car is wrong,” added Keselovsky. “I would like to continue working on it. Polarization seems to mean there is no room for middle ground. In my opinion, I would like to see some small changes, but I am grateful and proud of our sport and where the Next Gen car has taken us.”

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