Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!
From thrilling, late-race wins to bizarre, weather-driven finishes, the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series has developed into one of the most exciting seasons in recent history, yet lingering concerns over cars catching fire threatens to upstage this year’s competition.
Veteran wheelman Kevin Harvick became the latest victim of this scary trend during the first Cup Series Playoff race, the Cookout Southern 500 at Darlington. The 2014 champ’s Ford Mustang spontaneously erupted, with the blaze fully engulfing his hood. Harvick thankfully managed to bail out, away from the billowing flames that torched his cockpit. In an interview with FOX Sports, he later described what it was like to go through such a harrowing ordeal.
“The car started burning,” Harvick recalled. “I ran a couple laps, and as the flames got bigger, it started burning stuff up. I think you see all the brake fluid. It burned the brake line. The fire was coming through the dash."
Harvick and the No. 4 car for Stewart-Haas Racing were not alone either as J.J. Yeley’s No.15 Ford Mustang also caught fire in the race, but because Harvick is vying for the Championship, the media coverage primarily stayed on him. In the same interview, an angered Harvick did not hold back his thoughts.
“What a disaster without a cause,” the veteran racer declared. “We didn’t touch the wall. We haven’t touched a car, and here we are in the pits with a burning car. We can’t finish the Playoff race because of the poor-ass parts.”
The blazes at Darlington mark the fifth time a vehicular fire has dramatically impacted a Cup Series event in just a handful of months, have led many drivers to voice concerns about the NextGen car. Joey Logano and Chris Buescher – both Ford drivers – experienced similar fires while Chase Briscoe endured a front-end fire in his Ford at Richmond, forcing him to pit when the burning rocker plate failed to extinguish itself. The 2020 champion compared the recent events at Darlington to his own in an interview Sunday night.
“I know that the 15 [Yeley] that caught fire seemed to be exactly the same thing I had in Richmond,” Briscoe recounted. “I don’t know if Kevin was an engine or the same thing I had. If it’s the same thing I had, that’s definitely a concern because it keeps happening. We’ve got to figure that out, whatever the problem is and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
After witnessing several cockpit fires, Logano has also vocalized his worry about the persisting problem.
“It took a lot of points away from Kevin, and he’s racing for a championship,” Logano stated. “That’s concerning. The second thing that’s concerning is that his car’s on fire. Maybe that’s the first thing that should be concerning is that cars are still catching on fire. We’ve got to fix that.”
When pressed about the cause of the dreadful ending to his time at Darlington, Harvick, who finished 33rd, pointed the finger squarely at NASCAR’s NextGen car.
“I’m sure it’s just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times,” Harvick asserted. “They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.”
Harvick completed just 274 of the 367 laps at the 73rd Annual Cook Out Southern 500, finishing next to last among the 16 Cup Series Playoffs contenders. Though he rolled into Darlington in ninth place, Harvick’s now 13 points below the cutoff line to advance to the Round of 12. In lieu of a win, the crafty vet must makeup those points at Kansas or Bristol if he hopes to advance.
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on USA Network. And catch up on all race action on Peacock.
USA Insider is your source for all things USA, from behind-the-scenes access to breaking news, information about USA’s original shows, and much more. Sign up for USA Insider and be the first to get extras and updates on your favorite shows.