Monday, April 15, 2024

NASCAR introduces safety improvements for Next Gen car

At the NASCAR Cup SeriesTalladega Superspeedway round in April, Kyle Larson‘s day ended in wild fashion when his car slid up the track amid a multi-driver crash and was T-boned by Ryan Preece at such high speed that his door bar broke off its original location while the passenger’s side door was partially torn off.

In response to such a destructive wreck, NASCAR announced Thursday the introduction of various safety changes to the Next Gen car that will first be rolled out at Atlanta Motor Speedway on 9 July. Atlanta is a 1.5-mile track but its current configuration promotes superspeedway-style racing akin to what is seen at Talladega.

The front clip and strut of the car have been softened through means like adding slots and holes to the front ballast box, which must remain empty at all times. The cross brace is also different.

On the right-side door, a steel plate approximately .060 inches thick has been added and is now required for all cars. The opposite side has two plate gussets and the driver’s side of the cage is also supported by additional tubing.

“We’ve taken a lot of the steel structural members and removed material from key elements to make this structure less stiff,” commented NASCAR vice president of safety engineering Dr. John Patalak. “We have slots on both sides, we have deleted some cross members between the upright mounts and we’ve treated some of the areas down low that are some of the first to contact the wall on the front clip. We’ve also added slots to this ballast container as well as some holes, and it’s all an effort to increase the amount of displacement we’re getting out of the car and to reduce the accelerations that the driver is experiencing.

“The right-side door bars of the centre section is getting a steel plate welded to it and really what it does it’s strengthening the right-side door bars against intrusion for crashes like we saw at Talladega with the #5 and #41. We reconstructed that crash at a test facility and we’re pleased with the performance where we’re hanging on to everything. We still do have bent door bars but minimal intrusion and much better performance.”

To determine what changes needed to be made, NASCAR ran through a series of crash tests that included launching a Next Gen test car at another. Analysis of the Larson/Preece wreck found that Preece had been going 59 mph faster than Larson at the time of impact, hitting him at a 55-degree angle. The tests took place at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio, whose Impact Laboratory is a popular host for crash evaluations of production vehicles.

Chassis builder Technique Inc. will provide the upgrades, while NASCAR covers the costs.

“If you remember back to when we started, we did a lot of work in simulation,” Patalak continued. “You have one clip and it’s got to live at Bristol and Dover and kerb jumping at road courses and the wheel-to-wheel contact that happens every weekend. NASCAR and Dallara needed to make sure that the structure of the car was strong enough to not bend during all of those things. That presents a challenge to crash defamation that we want to occur for the safety of the drivers.

“There’s always a balance in all of that. After we got a year of data under our belt, NASCAR and Dallara could really go back with wheel-force data, tyre-test data and our teams are a huge resource giving us data that they get to really understand what are the true loads going through the front clip. After we got that data, after a year of racing, we were able to go back and make our simulations better.”