NASCAR will reportedly test a new rear crash structure for its new-for-2022 Next Gen car later next week, opening the possibility that the car will be updated with a new safety structure at a crucial point of concern for drivers by next season.
The car's rear crash structure has been a particular focal point of concern after last weekend's race at Texas Motor Speedway, which saw many cars blow their right-rear tires while in clean air. That led to an unusual number of high-speed spins into the outside wall with the rear hitting first at awkward angles, including one crash that did not take the No. 48 team out of the race but did leave Alex Bowman with lingering concussion-like symptoms that forced him out of this weekend's race at Talladega. Kurt Busch, who suffered a concussion at Pocono in July and withdrew from the NASCAR postseason in August, will also miss the race as he continues to recover.
Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports reports that the structure, which consists of a new rear clip and rear bumper structure, has been in development in computer modeling since "earlier this year." That suggests an understanding from NASCAR that the rear crash structure was a major concern from drivers before the recent issues at Texas, but the series has at least responded proactively and begun development quickly on a solution. As drivers have been concerned about the car's safety since at least early crash testing last Summer, the development unusually signals both an understanding of those concerns from NASCAR that was never communicated and a much-needed decision to actually improve on the problem already in place.
If the test goes well, NASCAR may have already solved the new car's biggest problem. However, the way the development of the new part was handled amid vocal, public concerns from competitors signals a continuing issue of communication between the series and its competitors. Whether or not it can solve the rear crash structure problem, the series also needs to figure out how to work more closely with competitors to identify problems and work toward solutions more directly in the future.
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