Kevin Harvick Sends Strong Message on Bubba Wallace Penalty, and Calls on NASCAR to Act
Kevin Harvick has consistently shown his veteran leadership this season as one of the most outspoken drivers in the garage, addressing concerns with the Next Gen car. Sometimes his voice grew louder with harsh criticism, and NASCAR responded.
This past weekend in Las Vegas, the 2014 Cup Series champion was racing against Bubba Wallace when Kyle Larson joined the party and made it three-wide going into Turn 3. We all know what happened next. The 46-year-old responded to that incident this week on Twitter and called on the very body that’s been on the receiving end of his barbs this year to come to the drivers’ rescue.
Kevin Harvick vocal on safety concerns with Next Gen car
Numerous drivers have been outspoken in recent weeks over safety concerns with the Next Gen car after both Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman missed races due to concussions. Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin were also part of those conversations, but they aren’t new to the party. In fact, they started it.
Both Harvick and Hamlin addressed concerns about the Next Gen car in July 2021 when rumors started swirling around potential safety issues discovered in crash tests, where test dummies reportedly suffered what would be considered fatal injuries. Harvick discussed the issues before the Cup race at Atlanta.
“As we sat in the drivers’ meeting that NASCAR had with us (in May) to show us everything, I think that the most frustrating part of the whole process is the fact that the safety piece to the drivers and the conversation with the drivers, which was asked for by the drivers, was had at the very end of everything,” Harvick said. “And as you look at that, I think the guys driving the cars are owed at least the respect enough to at least be a part of the process of what’s going on. Everybody is just a little bit frustrated with how all that’s been handled.”
Harvick calls on NASCAR to act
Fans will remember the 2022 season for the debut of the Next Gen car. Some good, like entertaining races with plenty of passing and exciting finishes. But plenty of bad, including loose wheels, tires and parts failures, and the most painful, concussions.
Kevin Harvick has been a central figure in the discussion. In August this year, he vocalized concerns about the increased intensity of hits.
“I think when you look at the things that happened with the accidents, I think these are the exact concerns that the drivers had from the very first day we saw the car,” Harvick told Racer.com at Indianapolis. “There hasn’t been a lot of progression other than we changed some of the rear clip stuff; we changed some of the impact stuff. But these cars don’t crash like the other cars crash.”
Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, Bubba Wallace wasn’t thinking about safety when he drove into the right rear of Kyle Larson’s car traveling around 170 MPH and sent him hard into the outside wall. The 23XI Racing driver received a one-race suspension.
This week, a fan on Twitter asked Harvick and Hamlin for their thoughts on what happened in Sin City in light of all the safety concerns.
“Intentionally hooking people in the RR should never be acceptable,” Harvick responded. “Protect us from ourselves. I hope this is the beginning of the end of it happening.”
Retaliation still part of the sport
Harvick asking the sanctioning body to intervene reveals how important he views the issue. He specifically called out, “hooking the right rear.” That can be dangerous, but even more so in the new car prone to producing head injuries.
However, he didn’t say retaliation. That’s still acceptable. And if anyone should know about it, it’s the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. It was just a year ago that he and Chase Elliott had their run-in at Bristol, which then carried on for weeks, with the veteran dumping the 2020 champ on the Charlotte Roval.
It’s an integral part of the sport. It’s a way for drivers to keep their more aggressive counterparts in check on the track. It’s worked for years. But it’s never been accepted to deliberately wreck someone and send them into the wall, especially on the bigger tracks with higher speeds. And it never will be. And like Harvick suggested, NASCAR needs to do something about it
Have thoughts on this topic? Keep the conversation rolling in our comments section below.