NASCAR faced more questions about a new car after the Bristol Bash.

NASCAR faced more questions about a new car after the Bristol Bash.


Jenna Freer, Associated Press

Kyle Busch deserves better than two failed Toyota engines in NASCAR’s first round of the playoffs.

But at least Busch knows he ended the night at Bristol Motor Speedway and was left “confused” when he was removed from the field.

Martin Truex Jr.? His fellow Toyota driver, Bubba Wallace, only laughs as he stands in the garage with his disabled car when it arrives for repairs.

“There is another,” he said with a smile. Truex quoted Kevin Harvick after his car caught fire in the opening playoff race at Darlington three weeks ago.

“What does Harvick say?” Truex spoke on Saturday night’s edition of himself. “Funny parts”

At least a dozen race drivers have had problems with NASCAR’s new next-gen car at Bristol, which has been plagued by the myriad of durability issues that have followed the special car that leveled the playing field throughout its debut.

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The Ford camp was plagued by a rash of blown tires, the Toyota was plagued by power steering failures, any number of drivers vying for victory were dropped from contention by mechanical gremlins and passing was a tough task.

The 12 lead changes at Bristol were the lowest in more than a decade, and only four of those passes were under the green.

“It’s hard to pass,” Harvick said. “The car is too fast through the corners. It’s impossible to race.”

Harvick was poised to fight for the win until a wheel fell off Ford in the final round of pit stops and he was knocked out.

Now there’s a new round of questions surrounding Next Gen, an industry-wide project to build cars with single-source parts that both contain costs and allow smaller teams to close the gap on powerhouse NASCAR organizations. On Saturday night, Chris Buescher did as he won his 19th different trophy this season.

This is the first time since the inception of NASCAR’s playoffs that Buscher’s win has swept the entire round of drivers not competing for the championship. Eric Jones won at Darlington and Wallace at Kansas; Buscher, who scored his second win in his 250th career start, is not a playoff driver.

But Bucher won the 500-mile race, spanning the final 61 laps, the final two-wheel pits, due to a lack of tire wear (aside from a rash on the Ford’s right front), leaving runner-up Chase Elliott in fourth. New tires in the rear view mirror comfortably.

The Next Gen has been questioned over safety issues since rumors of crash tests in the development phase, and those issues have kept Kurt Busch out of the race for two months since a qualifying failure in July. Other drivers reported feeling the effects of a crash worse than ever, and a fire at Darlington prompted NASCAR to change the series’ rules.

Now there’s a new complaint after Bristol, where Harvick, Kyle Busch and Richard Childers Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick were eliminated from the field.

“We need NextGen 2.0. I just need to know who’s going to pay,” tweeted Denny Hamlin.

“It was impossible to pass,” Hamlin said after the race. He, too, had a flat tire at Bristol but felt that passing was the biggest problem.

“I would like to see the competition improve as a whole. A little bit of some lap time difference. We’re running around there and it seems like we’re running faster in the corners than when we’re going straight,” Hamlin said. “We had some driving problems, and it looks like our Toyota teammates have steering problems as well.”

Yes, all six Toyotas had problems, from tires for Hamlin and Christopher Bell, steering problems for Truex, Wallace and Ty Gibbs and an engine failure for Kyle Busch.

And it was a mixed night for Brad Keselowski, who took his first win of the season and was chasing his first win of the season. Keselowski moved from Team Penske to RFK Racing this season to drive for an ownership stake in Jack Rush’s team, and he was desperate to give RFK his first win.

But leading on lap 87, a tire blew and Keselowski’s trip to victory lane was to congratulate teammate Buscher. He acknowledged that passing is difficult — but it shouldn’t be easy — and said NASCAR must continue to work on the next-gen.

“Do I want to see us continue to work on the cars? Absolutely. I’ve said this to NASCAR and I’ve said it to the media before and I’ll say it again: ‘If the next-gen car is like this year, we’ve failed,'” Keselowski said. We must continue to learn. We must continue to do better. There may be car owners who don’t want to hear that it costs money to change the cars.

Keselowski added that there’s a “everything is wrong with this car” camp and a “there’s nothing wrong with this car” camp. “I want to keep working on it. Like many things today, polarization means there is no room for middle ground. In my eyes, I’d like to see some tweaks, but I’m thankful and proud of our sport and where the next-gen car has gotten us so far.



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