A couple of years ago, NASCAR began promoting the new Next Gen car and all it brought to the table. It debuted earlier this year in the glitz and glamour of LA in the Clash at the Coliseum. But, as expected for a first-year car, it’s had its share of bugs to work through. There have been plenty of highs and lows throughout the year.
There’s no doubt it has stirred up the base. Fans have turned out in the healthiest numbers in years to see races in the new car this season, including numerous sellouts. Its proponents talk about the entertaining on-track action, which includes a lot of passing. The critics point out safety issues, like loose wheels, harder hits than normal, and fires.
This weekend at Kansas Speedway, there will be a very noticeable change in the new car. And this one should receive overwhelming support from all fans because of how it improves the fan experience.
Next Gen car had its share of problems
Since the first points race at Daytona, the Next Gen car has shown its flaws, starting with a couple of loose wheels in the 500. Then another one. And another. There have been more than a dozen this season. Surprisingly, there hasn’t been one in weeks.
Along with the runaway wheels, another issue that’s been consistent throughout the season has been violent impacts. One driver after another has spoken about crashes that have been more intense than anything experienced in previous cars.
In recent weeks, with Kurt Busch missing more than a half-dozen races due to a concussion from a qualifying crash at Pocono, Kevin Harvick and others have been more outspoken about those impacts and the car’s overall safety. That includes addressing a more recent development, the surprisingly regular occurrence of fires.
After the 2014 Cup champion escaped his burning car on Sunday at Darlington, he was appropriately hot about the situation.
“We just keep letting cars burn up. Letting people crash into stuff. Get hurt. We don’t fix anything,” an agitated Harvick told reporters. “Now we’re just riding around out there and the car catches on fire. Just s***** parts. They don’t care. It’s cheaper to not fix it.”
NASCAR making change to Next Gen car fans will love
This week, just after the start of the 2022 playoffs, NASCAR announced that fans can view in-car cameras from every car, beginning in this Sunday’s race at Kansas.
Fans can choose any driver’s feed, and the streams will remain a free, ad-supported offering for the remainder of the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and beyond.
“Our goal is to deliver an immersive experience for the most passionate fans in all of sports, no matter where they are,” NASCAR senior vice president and chief digital officer Tim Clark said. “We know the significant role second screens play in the overall viewing experience, so to provide live video from inside every car and alongside leaderboards, performance data, pit stats, live betting odds, and more is something we’re excited about.”
Fans have important role to play with latest addition
For several years, NASCAR has offered live in-car streams for a select number of drivers each week across various platforms. This expansion to include all cars is not only a chance for fans to see whatever driver they want, but it will also provide the viewing audience with an opportunity to get a better sense of what’s happening inside the car, and interestingly enough, make NASCAR more accountable.
Take Kevin Harvick’s fiery crash at Darlington last Sunday, for example. With a substantial number of fans watching his in-car camera, there would undoubtedly have been an uproar on social media and a live account of what was happening as the No. 4 lumbered its way around the track while the flames intensified. That feedback, coupled with an aggressive response like Harvick’s, only highlights issues that the governing body will need to address.
NASCAR has taken a lot of criticism this year for the new car, and justifiably so, with so many repeated safety-related incidents. While this latest addition doesn’t specifically address those concerns, it does give fans a chance to see those concerns from the driver’s perspective. That type of transparency is necessary and important for the sport’s continued improvement and growth in the future.