Kurt Busch had one of his best races in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season at Nashville last weekend, finishing second. While the 23XI Racing driver was understandably pleased with the performance, he was unhappy about one particular issue with the Next Gen car and didn’t hesitate to call on NASCAR to address the problem and suggested the governing body needs to start by listening to the drivers.
Kurt Busch calls out heat issues in Next Gen car at Nashville
Kurt Busch and the rest of the drivers knew about the summer heat expected at Nashville Superspeedway. The media and many in the industry were talking about the sweltering conditions in the days leading up to the race. And they were right.
Sunday’s temps approached 100 degrees at the start of the race, making it the hottest race thus far in the 2022 season. Fortunately, Mother Nature intervened, and a couple of rain delays later, the air and track had cooled considerably.
However, before that, the drivers were subjected to scorching temperatures inside the car that were only made worse by the Next Gen car’s design, which features a split exhaust system that directs the exhaust under the driver’s seat.
After finishing second for his seventh top 10 of the season, the 43-year-old driver was happy with the result but couldn’t help himself and addressed the conditions inside the car.
“It was like a greenhouse. I’ve never been that hot when I got in a car,” Busch told The Tennessean. “There’s some work to do. NASCAR needs to listen to the drivers.”
Busch complained of heat during Next Gen testing
While Busch and the rest of the field endured blazing temps inside the car, it didn’t come as a complete surprise. Drivers, including Busch and his 23XI Racing boss Denny Hamlin, were vocal throughout Next Gen testing regarding heat issues inside the car.
“The next biggest bullet point that I marked down was the exhaust heat,” Busch said before the start of the season. “It’s now a split exhaust system, so it comes out of the left and the right, which means the exhaust goes right underneath the driver on the left side. We need better insulation, more venting, and a cooler situation [in the car].
“I have only driven the car in November and in January, and I would say it was already on the hot side of what it felt like after a 25-lap run. I am sure we can get that fixed and have more venting and airflow within the car.”
NASCAR needs to address multiple issues with Next Gen car
The Next Gen car has undoubtedly been a success this year, with exciting action throughout most of the races, including plenty of passing and thrilling finishes. NASCAR absolutely deserves credit for that.
But if you’re looking at the complete picture of the car, two major issues still have yet to be properly addressed. The first is what Busch described with the cockpit effectively becoming an oven for the drivers. That’s a potential safety hazard for the drivers who could potentially have their decision-making affected while traveling at speeds near 200 miles an hour.
That issue is serious enough. The other, which is concerning for both drivers and the fans, is loose wheels. Through the first 17 races of the season, there have been 11 incidents where a car has lost a wheel. That’s a problematic pattern.
NASCAR, as Busch said, needs to listen to the drivers, especially when it comes to the car’s heat issues. But the sanctioning body also needs to listen to the crew chiefs.
Just this week, seven-time championship-winning crew chief and Hendrick Motorsports Vice President of Competition Chad Knaus echoed what Kyle Larson’s crew chief Cliff Daniels said several months ago that the loose wheels are not an individual team problem but an overall NASCAR problem. This isn’t a matter of teams trying to get the single lugnut on too fast, but a mechanical issue with the nut and the gun. The numbers don’t lie.
NASCAR must step up and address both issues before disaster strikes and eradicates all of the positive momentum that has developed around the new car and has taken the excitement around the sport to another level.