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There’s the fast, but as an unsettling mix of mechanical issues continues to mount a robust case against NASCAR's new Next Gen car, there’s mostly the furious. With both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch seeing their Cup Series Playoff futures guillotined due to disastrous mechanical problems, superstars Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson are lending their own voices to Harvick’s and Busch’s heavy criticisms of the new Next Gen car and the unreliability of its parts.
Over the race weekend, Bristol Motor Speedway’s high-banked 0.533-mile oval track illuminated the quickly deteriorating, problematic relationship between drivers and NASCAR’s Next Gen car with Hendrick Motorsports teammates Elliott and Larson both voicing their concern over failing parts.
“I think when they did the wheel force testing here, every manufacturer had issues, and it showed up today too,” Larson, the 2021 Cup Series Champion Larson, said. “[I] hate that it happened, but that’s what you get when you got spec parts.”
Larson is referring to the fact that this season marks the first time in the storied history of NASCAR where a spec model is used with nearly all its parts built and supplied to the entire field by single-source vendors.
Driving the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, an unsurprised Elliott, who won the Cup Series in 2020, not only seemed to agree with Larson, but he also highlighted other critical areas where the car has failed to perform.
“It was exactly what I thought it might be,” Elliott noted when asked about the Next Gen car’s part problems. “Power steering problems that had been a topic of conversation. There are some tire issues as well.”
Catching up with NBC Sports’ Dave Burns, Denny Hamlin joined the fracas, not mincing his words about the performance of his Toyota either.
“Passing was just impossible,” Hamlin revealed. “It was just a type of day where you needed to stay up front at all costs, and we just couldn’t quite do it and ended up having a blown tire that set us back, and we were trying to play catch up from that point.”
“[The Next Gen] was tough. I would like to see the racing improve overall,” Hamlin added. “We’re just running around there, and it’s like we’re running faster in the corners than we are on the straightaways. Just extremely hard to pass. We had some steering issues, and it looks like our Toyota teammates also had steering issues.”
As the season throttles deeper into the playoffs with the Round of 12 starting Sept. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway, the Next Gen car’s pervasive parts problem has hit a fever pitch with fans who are angry over seeing their favorite drivers sidelined due to mechanical issues.
Still, for wheelmen like Larson, all they can do is put the pedal to metal and hope for the best.
“I was getting nervous,” Larson said of his car’s performance over the weekend at Bristol. “I’m sure all of us were, but thankfully our parts held up.”
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