Harvick’s #4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford caught fire during last weekend’s first playoff race at Darlington, despite no crash damage or contact with the wall. Flames erupted out underneath both sides of the car and came in through his dashboard at one point, causing the 2014 champion to retire and be classified 33rd.
After he vocally took NASCAR to task following the incident, NASCAR responded that cars catching fire was “unacceptable” and mandated several changes to the car’s chassis this week that have taken effect this weekend at Kansas Speedway.
However, Harvick said the entire process takes too long and is one reason why he quit the original driver’s council.
“Safety cannot be about money,” said Harvick, who has been a fixture in the Cup Series since 2001 when he was chosen to replace Dale Earnhardt Sr at Richard Childress Racing following his fatal Daytona 500 crash.
“I’ve lived this, man. I watched when we had all the struggle with Adam (Petty) and Kenny Irwin and it resulted in Dale Earnhardt’s [death at Daytona].
“And then all of a sudden, it was mandatory to wear the HANS device or it was mandatory to wear the Hutchens device.
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“We developed soft walls (SAFER barriers). It can’t be slow. Safety cannot be slow.
“This car is screwed up as far as the way that it crashes. Whether the data says it or not, every driver in this garage will tell you it’s not right and it hurts.
Kyle Larson, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro, Erik Jones, Petty GMS, Chevrolet Camaro, Noah Gragson, Beard Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro, Todd Gilliland, Front Row Motorsports, Ford Mustang, crash
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“Feet hurt, hands hurt, head hurts and there has to be a better solution.
“NASCAR has been slow to react and the teams are always worried about money and that doesn’t do anything for the drivers.”
Earlier this week, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller pointed out that NASCAR has been working on the fire issue since it first came to light at the Indianapolis road course earlier this season.
At the time, the cars of Chris Buescher and Joey Logano both had fires erupt in the rocker box from crash damage, mostly coming from under the right-side of the car.
Following the fires suffered by Buescher, Logano and others by Chase Briscoe and Alex Bowman, NASCAR mandated an exhaust shroud be added to the car, which appeared to help address the problem.
Harvick’s issue at Darlington appeared more unique and additional measures – including the addition of a steel plate and fire retardant material – were added this week.
Harvick suggested when it comes to safety issues, there should be a more independent process.
“The safety thing should go into a bucket that has a council or board of some sort that handles these types of problems,” he said.
“When it goes into that safety bucket, NASCAR and the teams wouldn’t have a say in it.
Daniel Suarez, TrackHouse Racing, Freeway Insurance Chevrolet Camaro, Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, FedEx Cares Toyota Camry, Justin Haley, Kaulig Racing, LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet Camaro and Ricky Stenhouse Jr, JTG Daugherty Racing, Kroger/ NOS Chevrolet Camaro, massive wreck
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“I’ve been on both sides of this and it’s the reason I didn’t stay on the driver’s council because things were too slow. Like if I was running it… It just happens too slow for me.
“I think this playing the politically correct, we got to keep our eye on the racing, we got a TV contract coming up – whatever all that is, it’s still not fair to the drivers to be compromised inside of the car, having the slow reaction that we’re having and the not listening to ‘every hit hurts.’ Because every hit hurts.”
Some drivers raised concerns about the car’s safety during its initial testing but last July an independent panel of experts signed off on the car’s safety following the results of a review of crash test data.
In addition, NASCAR meets periodically with a group of drivers – a two-hour meeting took place this past week – to discuss safety concerns. Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Corey LaJoie and Austin Dillon were among those who took part in the discussion this week.
“Things have progressed to where we are today but it can’t be that slow,” Harvick said.
“It’s not just the rear-clip – it’s the front clip, rear clip, side – every hit hurts. Now, you’re in an emergency situation because the car doesn’t crash right. I don’t what the solution is but I know it needs to be way faster.
“If you start in the offseason, it’s going to be a complete cluster to try to get it done before the (Busch) Clash. So, where are we headed here? What’s the plan?
“Your data may say it’s the same, but it’s really not the same. When you start looking at it, and I know Denny has talked about this before, you look at how quick the hits come up and how fast everything accelerates, I think it’s very apparent it’s not the same.
“The total G (forces) may be the same, but the quickness that you get there is very different.”