NASCAR: "Unacceptable" for Next Gen cars to catch fire

A NASCAR official on Tuesday said it was “unacceptable” for the Next Gen cars to catch on fire, but took issue with Kevin Harvick’s claim the sanctioning body “don’t care.”

Harvick was forced to retire from the first race of the NASCAR Cup playoffs in Sunday night’s Southern 500 at Darlington when his #4 Stewart-Haas Ford caught fire on lap 276 of 367.

The 2014 Cup champion safely exited the vehicle, which quickly became engulfed by smoke and fire, and was classified a disappointing 33rd to leave him in danger of elimination from the playoffs' round of 16.

Harvick had not experienced any issues with his engine prior, nor suffered any damage to the car prior to the incident.

In an interview afterwards, Harvick blamed the issue on “crappy parts” on the Next Gen car and suggested that NASCAR wouldn't address the problem, stating that “they don’t care”.

In an interview Tuesday with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller disputed Harvick’s assertion.

“Nobody wants to see this happening,” Miller said.

“I know that was an emotional time and his race was ruined but to say that NASCAR didn’t care is about as far from the truth as you could get. That’s really all I have to say about that.

“I’m not going to get into any kind of back-and-forth contest with Kevin over the airwaves. I think he actually does know we do care.”

Miller pointed out NASCAR has been working on the issue since it first came to light at the Indy road course race, when the cars of Chris Buescher and Joey Logano both had fires erupt in the rocker box from crash damage, mostly from under the right side of the cars.

“We’re certainly digging into the cause,” Miller said.

Kevin Harvick, Stewart Haas Racing, Busch Light Apple #BuschTrickyTrivia Ford Mustang

Kevin Harvick, Stewart Haas Racing, Busch Light Apple #BuschTrickyTrivia Ford Mustang

Photo by: Jasen Vinlove / NKP / Motorsport Images

“We had cars in this morning looking for signs of anything that may have triggered that. We have done so all year.

“There’s a lot of rubber at Darlington, you know the cheese grater that we’ve all talked about.

“We’re not certain if rubber getting into the rocker box was the problem [in Harvick’s case] or not.

“We’re debriefing it all. It’s unacceptable for the cars to catch on fire.”

Following the fires suffered by Buescher, Logano and others by Chase Briscoe and Alex Bowman, NASCAR mandated an exhaust shroud be added to the car, which appeared to help address the problem.

Harvick’s issue seemed unique in that his car had not been damaged and fire had come out of both sides of the car simultaneously.

“We’ve been working on different solutions for different things along the way that seem to maybe are the trigger,” Miller said.

“And, you know, obviously we still have work to do. We’re looking at clearances on particularly the Ford exhaust because they seem to be having more trouble with this than the others.

“There’s a lot of work going on, a lot of collaboration within the industry to get to the bottom of it. We have to get to the bottom of it quick, obviously.”

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