NASCAR, Drivers to Discuss Superspeedway Rule Changes

Following a blowover crash at Talladega Superspeedway last month, Joey Logano lobbied NASCAR to address superspeedway regulations in advance of the final two races at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway this season.

NASCAR is listening.

Logano said the sanctioning body couldn’t afford even two races of complacency with the Next-Gen car set to debut in February during Daytona Speedweeks. The industry dodged a bullet with Ryan Newman surviving his final lap crash in the 2020 Daytona 500 and Logano narrowly avoided a similar ordeal when Bubba Wallace drove under and around the airborne No. 22 Penske Ford at Talladega.

While multiple drivers praised the gains on safety made over the past 20 years, and even since the Newman incident, they all agreed NASCAR should take additional steps to keep cars grounded.

During the Next-Gen car unveiling, NASCAR vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnel says the sanctioning body had completed an initial investigation of the incident and recently presented its findings to drivers.

The next step will be the drivers, teams and sanctioning body agreeing to any necessary changes to the rules package.

“In terms of Joey’s incident, yeah, we’ve done a lot of work on that,” O’Donnell said. “We actually just presented it to the drivers. We’re having ongoing dialogue with the drivers.

“I think if anything you can see us take a look at the speeds of the car as we head potentially into our next Superspeedway race, but yeah, it all had kind of to do with the angle and where the car was and the contact.”

Running third late in the GEICO 500, Logano was hit from behind by Denny Hamlin after Hamlin himself was struck by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The contact turned Logano sideways and his car went airborne in front of the field, with Wallace darting left to avoid involvement. The Penske No. 22 flipped upside down and skated off its roof before flipping back over and sliding into the grass.

Logano told his team that the roll cage was pressing against his helmet from the roof impact.

“I’m wondering when we are going to stop because this is dangerous — doing what we are doing,” Logano said on TV after being released from infield care. “I got a roll bar in my head. That is not okay. I am one hit away from the same situation Ryan Newman just went through. I just don’t feel like that’s acceptable.”

Logano received a call from NASCAR after getting home that night. Such communication after a concerning incident is standard and begins the investigation process.

The Next-Gen car will debut in February and features a rear diffuser, which O’Donnell believes will discourage the car was lifting when it gets turned backwards. Typically, the aerodynamic features of a car that keeps it pinned to the track when moving forward acts as a liftoff function when turned backwards at speed.

O’Donnell says the rear diffuser will aid passing opportunities while helping the car stay on the ground in incidents.

“I’d say from the diffuser, we’ll certainly add to the components of lift-off and help,” O’Donnell said. “That’s why we put it there. But similar to the characteristics of the current car, we’ll be at if not better than where we are today in terms of lift-off.”

The car also moves the driver 1.6 inches towards the center of the car while providing additional bracing. The driver will also sit lower, which was important to Logano given that the roof came down on his helmet at Talladega.

“The first thing I noticed sitting in it, I sit lower,” Logano said. “For a driver like myself that’s 6’3”, getting lower in the car is important. I realized that in Talladega a few weeks ago when the roof was crushed down on my head.

“I need to sit a little lower, that will give me a little bit more margin to start. Initially that’s a big win for me, sitting more at a comfortable height. Not crammed down in the car so much opens up a little bit more room.

“Then you see added structure around you, more support braces to the roof in case of a situation where one rolls over, which will probably happen at some point. It’s racing, cars roll over. We got to protect for that.

“Door foam is different. The driver I think is sitting a little bit closer to the center of the car. That’s a win. There’s added dash bars to try to keep the car from getting narrower during a T-bone incident. Front and rear crash structures in the bumpers. That is something that will be good. …

“That’s why we are the No. 1 most safe racing in the world. I don’t think there’s a safer race car you can jump in than a Cup car. That’s because of the attitude and mentality we’ve had to become better and better and better in the safety department.

“This is no reason to stop now. Just because we’re already the best, you don’t stop. I think NASCAR has been able to continue that throughout the design process coming up with what they have here today.”

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