By David Morgan, Associate Editor
Kevin Harvick has had enough.
The safety of the Next Gen car in the NASCAR Cup Series has been a common topic during its inaugural season on track and Sunday night at Darlington Raceway, safety was back at the forefront again.
Harvick, who was running inside the top-five with less than 100 laps remaining in the Cook Out Southern 500, suddenly had fire erupting from under the right-front wheel well as he ran down the frontstretch.
As he drove into Turn 1, the fire grew larger and larger, consuming more of the car and even coming into the cockpit before Harvick pulled to a stop and bailed out of his smoldering No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
The former Cup Series champion would escape the flames unharmed, but didn’t hold back in showing his displeasure with how the sanctioning body has handled the issues with the Next Gen car this season.
“I’m sure it’s just the crappy parts on the race car that we’ve seen so many times,” Harvick said. “We haven’t fixed anything. It’s like the safety stuff, we just let it keep going and going. The car started burning and as it burned, the flames started coming through the dash.
“I ran a couple of laps as the flames got bigger and it started burning stuff up. [Motions to the replay] Right there, you see all the brake fluid that was coming out of the brakes. It burned the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash.
“What a disaster, man. No reason. We didn’t touch the wall. We didn’t touch a car. And here we are in the pits with a burned-up car and can’t finish the race during the Playoffs because of their crappy ass parts.”
Prior to Sunday’s incident, there have been other occasions in which the Next Gen car has caught fire during a race, including Chris Buescher and Joey Logano at Indianapolis, Cole Custer at Michigan, and Chase Briscoe at Richmond.
NASCAR made some changes to try and alleviate the fire issue in recent weeks, but as Harvick’s incident shows, the problem has not yet been solved.
In addition to the car fires, drivers have been vocal about the harder hits they have sustained while driving the Next Gen car this season, especially in the wake of Kurt Busch’s crash at Pocono that has left him sidelined with concussion-like symptoms in the weeks since.