Drivers, crew chiefs want NASCAR to react to injuries from Next Gen car

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - OCTOBER 01: Crew chief Greg Ives (R) speaks with Noah Gragson, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series YellaWood 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 01, 2022 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman announced on Thursday he will not be competing this weekend after experiencing concussion-like symptoms during the week. He crashed his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet during last week’s Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway but repairs were made and he returned to competition ultimately finishing 29th.

Although Bowman’s absence this week removes him from NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contention in terms of the driver championship, his car will continue on toward the owner’s championship. NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 this week at Talladega. Bowman’s crew chief Greg Ives said he expected that Bowman would be back in the car in the near future.

Ives, a long-time Hendrick Motorsports crew chief, mentioned a couple of areas that immediately occurred to him in terms of safety improvements – from work on the rear of the cars to modifying the drivers compartment to lessen the head movement.

“We can’t just knee-jerk react to it, but we have to react, and try to implement something as calculated as much as you can,” Ives said. “There are small things we can do [soon]. I think you just have to put focus and emphasis on one thing [at a time] and try to get that right.”

On Wednesday of next week, NASCAR is holding a crash test at a facility in Ohio to further develop the car.

A NASCAR spokesman said Saturday that the sanctioning body has been hard at work on evolving the rear clip and bumper structure since early season. And if the test this week goes as expected, there will be modifications made to the car for the 2023 season.

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe acknowledged the safety issues are always on the minds of drivers – that it is the nature of the sport. But he was confident in NASCAR’s efforts.

“Having more people work on this, the better it is,” Briscoe said.