NASCAR’s ‘Disaster without a Cause’ Has Drivers Hot under the Collar
There have been no injuries, but drivers are increasingly angry and frustrated at the apparent lack of attention by NASCAR and its safety teams to the issue of car fires.
In the latest incidents, the Ford Mustangs of Harvick and backmarker J.J. Yeley caught fire during the 500-miler.
As usual – and quite understandably – Harvick didn’t hold back on Sunday night after getting knocked out of the race at Darlington.
Kevin Harvick’s fire-related DNF at Darlington during Sunday night’s Cookout Southern 500 marked the fifth time in recent months that a cockpit fire has impacted a NASCAR Cup Series race.
There have been no injuries, but drivers are increasingly angry and frustrated at the apparent lack of attention by NASCAR and its safety teams.
In the latest incidents, the Ford Mustangs of Harvick and backmarker J.J. Yeley caught fire during the 500-miler. Harvick’s fire was more serious because as a Playoff contender, everything he does is magnified. NBC-TV concentrated on his No. 4 Mustang as it made several fiery laps while green-flag pit stops cycled around. As the fire began to spread, he stopped on the apron and bailed out as safety crews arrived.
“What a disaster without a cause,” he told reporters later. “We didn’t touch the wall. We haven’t touched a car and here we are in the pits with a burning car. We can’t finish the Playoff race because of the poor-ass parts.”
Is the caution out yet? https://t.co/Q93Ns1x9mo
— Kevin Harvick (@KevinHarvick) September 5, 2022
While most of the attention was on Harvick and his blazing car, Yeley had his hands full on pit road. As green-flag pit stops cycled around, Yeley’s No. 15 Mustang also lit up. Although not as dramatic as Harvick’s fire, it nevertheless knocked him from the race. Ironically, Yeley was forced to scramble from his Toyota when it caught fire during Saturday afternoon’s Xfinity Series race.
Sunday night’s fires were the latest since the mid-summer road course event at Indianapolis, where Ford drivers Chris Buescher and Joey Logano had in-car fires. Those incidents were determined to have been caused by contact knocking foam against the exhaust. NASCAR has said it has addressed that issue.
Earlier in the year, Ford driver Chase Briscoe had a front-end fire at Richmond. He ran several laps with the right-front rocker plate ablaze, but had to pit when it didn’t extinguish itself.
“I know that the 15 (of Yeley) that caught fire (at Darlington) seemed to be exactly the same thing I had in Richmond,” Briscoe said Sunday night. “I don’t know if Kevin (at Darlington) was an engine or the same thing I had. If it’s the same thing I had, that’s definitely a concern because it keeps happening. We’ve got to figure that out, whatever the problem is and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
My view pic.twitter.com/RWn3xMn6
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) February 28, 2012
By finishing fourth in the 500, Logano took the lead by six points in the Playoff standings. He was pleased by that, but is seriously concerned about the spate of in-cockpit fires in recent months, especially Harvick’s. “Absolutely, I worry about it for two reasons,” he said. “One, it took a lot of points away from Kevin and he’s racing for a championship. It’s stuff that’s out of his control and out of his team’s control. That’s concerning.
“The second thing that’s concerning is that his car’s on fire. Maybe that’s the first thing that should be concerning is that cars are still catching on fire. We’ve got to fix that.”
As usual – and quite understandably – Harvick didn’t hold back. “I’m sure it’s just crappy parts on the race car like we’ve seen so many times,” he said after finishing 33rd, next-to-last among the 16 championship hopefuls. “They haven’t fixed anything. It’s kind of like the safety stuff. We just let it keep going and keep going.
“My car started burning, and as it burned the flames started coming through the dash. I ran a couple laps and then as the flame got bigger it started burning stuff up and I think right there you see all the brake fluid that was probably coming out the brakes and part of the brake line, but the fire was coming through the dash. The rocker was on fire for a couple laps. I just stopped because I couldn’t see anymore. I couldn’t make myself sit in there and burn up."
JJ Yeley's No. 66 car caught fire, putting an early end to his day. #NASCAR
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— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 3, 2022