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NASCAR has been plenty secretive about its next-gen race car. So they are coming from a place of little to no updates as to how NASCAR is coming with testing. That’s why, when Chase Briscoe confirmed that crash test dummies used in simulated NASCAR crashes were “fatal” drivers went nuts.

NASCAR is being coy about its testing and results

Casey MEars at Michigan Speedway
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway | Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images

The crash testing is taking place at Talladega. There has been no word from NASCAR about its ongoing testing for the next-gen car that was supposed to be close to ready. NASCAR has repeatedly said accidents performed did not show concerns. That the results were what NASCAR expected.

That is the extent of its communication with the drivers, teams, and public. But it also runs contrary to what has been passed around to drivers in the form of rumors. A post by NASCAR assuring drivers everything is sunshine and rainbows referred to the test dummy as having “functioned nominally.” 

The NASCAR word “nominally”

Chase Briscoe NASCAR driver
Chase Briscoe, the driver of the #04 Ford, walks the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Corn Belt 150 | James Gilbert/Getty Images

Nominally. That is a word that most drivers don’t want to hear when referring to the potential for survival in a NASCAR crash. Nominally. Even the definition of nominal has conflicting meanings. We would say that in theory, something might exist, but not in reality. But a live driver crashing in a race car is reality, not theory.

What happens while the drivers try to get information about the cars they may be flinging around an oval track? Four doctors will evaluate the data and then release a report. When NASCAR reviews the report and receives an OK from legal consultants, it will begin distributing to teams the approved chassis. 

But once the bad rumors made their way to a Reddit thread, the question was asked whether the driver test dummy essentially was killed. Briscoe confirmed with a “Correct” one-word reply to the question. Then, he deleted it. Hmmm…

Only one supplier will provide chassis for the entire series. Individual teams will no longer create their own chassis. With the holdup, while testing and reporting continue, the teams themselves feel they are behind. 

The window for teams to build out supplied chassis is closing in

“Seeing NASCAR’s presentation (in May) and the things that they’ve done with the car is very impressive and the data and all the things that go with that is very impressive and how they lay the crashes out in the simulation that they have,” said Cup driver Kevin Harvick. “I think it’s just when the drivers were a part of the process is why everybody is a little frustrated with that, and, here we are, we’re supposed to go to Bristol in a month with our car to do a tire test and can’t get the chassis.” 

If there is one issue that concerns the drivers more than any other, it is the right front impact with the wall. If the chassis compresses as intended, the driver will be relatively safe. If it doesn’t, then it is too rigid.

In a rigid situation, the car absorbs less of the forces upon impact. Instead, the driver absorbs more of them. That leads to more serious injuries to drivers. 

Drivers assume that no news means bad news for next-gen

Chase Briscoe #14 Ford
Chase Briscoe, the driver of the #14 One Cure Ford, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 11, 2021 | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

“Simulation, while very, very good, is still not the real thing,” Hamlin said. “We were eagerly awaiting what the results were going to be from the June 30 test. I guess there are rumors that start from people that are kind of close to it, and it doesn’t sound great. But again, there’s no hard data. “I would assume if things went fantastic, we would have heard about it pretty soon.”

“It’s our butts in the car and our heads in the car,” Penske driver Joey Logano told Fox Sports. “The car looks strong, which is good in a lot of ways. But in other ways, you’ve got to have some crush zones. So I think we’re all curious to see what the numbers come back at.”


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