The Associated Press, Jenna Fryer
Kyle Busch deserved better than two failed Toyota engines in the first round of the NASCAR qualifiers.
But at least Bush knows what happened to end his night at Bristol Motor Speedway and leave him “stunned” at being eliminated from the field.
Martin Truex Jr.? He couldn’t help but laugh as he stood in the garage next to his wrecked car while fellow Toyota driver Bubba Wallace came in for repairs.
“There’s another one,” he said with a smirk. Truex also cited Kevin Harvick’s words after his car caught fire at the opening race in Darlington three weeks ago.
“What does Harvick say?” Truex said about his Saturday night issue. Bad parts.
At least a dozen qualifying drivers had some sort of trouble with NASCAR’s new next-generation car in Bristol, as the spec car leveled the playing field for the myriad of durability issues that followed in its entire first season.
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The Ford camp suffered a series of blown tires, Toyota had power-steering failures, drivers racing for wins were out of competition for any number of mechanical gremlins, and passing was the hardest job.
The 12 lead changes were the lowest in over a dozen years at Bristol, and only four of those passes have been under the green.
“It’s just hard to pass,” Harvick said. “The car is going too fast through the corners. It can’t be racing.”
Harvick was in a position to battle for the win until a wheel fell off his Ford during the final round of stops and knocked him out of qualifying.
Now there’s a new round of questions surrounding Next Gen, an industry-wide project to develop a single-source parts car that has contained costs and helped small teams fill the gap in NASCAR’s powerful organizations. It worked, with Chris Bucher on Saturday night becoming the 19th winner of a different cup this season.
Buescher’s win marked the first time since this edition of the NASCAR Qualifiers were created that drivers who are not in contention for the title have swept the entire tour. Eric Jones won at Darlington Wallace in Kansas; Nor is he a playoff driver, nor is Boucher, who scored his second win of his 250th career.
But Buescher won by extending his last two-tire stop in the last 61 laps of the 500-mile race, where a lack of tire wear (except for that rash of blown right fronts on Fords) kept runner-up Chase Elliott on four new tires comfortably in the rearview mirror. .
The Next Generation has been questioned about safety concerns since rumors of catastrophic crash tests during development, and those issues have only escalated since July when a qualifying accident caused Kurt Bosch to concuss him, keeping him out of the competition for nearly two months. Other drivers reported feeling the force of the impact during crashes much worse than ever before, and a wave of fires in Darlington prompted NASCAR to make a series of rule changes.
Now there is a new set of complaints after Bristol, with teammates Harvick, Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing Austin Dillon and Tyler Riddick being left off the field.
“We need NextGen 2.0. You just have to know who will pay for it,” tweeted Denny Hamlin. Hamlin is a partial owner of the 23XI Racing team that has been without Kurt Bosch for nine races.
“The pass was impossible,” Hamlin said after the race. He, too, had a broken tire in Bristol but felt the difficulty of passing was the biggest problem.
“I’d like to see the race improve overall. Some lap time difference a little bit. We’re running there like we’re running faster in the turns than we are in the straights,” Hamlin said. They also have steering issues.”
Yes, all six Toyotas had trouble, starting with Hamlin and Christopher Bell tires, steering issues for Truex, Wallace and Ty Gibbs, and Kyle Busch’s engine failure.
It was a mixed night for Brad Keselowski, who took the first stage of the race with his first stage victory of the season and looked in a position to race for his first victory of the season. Keselowski moved from Team Penske to RFK Racing this season to drive a stake in Team Jack Roush, and he desperately wanted to give RFK its first win.
But then his tire blew out while he was ahead with 87 laps left and it was Keselowski’s trip to the victory lane to congratulate his teammate Buescher. He acknowledged that passing was difficult — but said it wasn’t supposed to be easy — and said NASCAR should continue to work on the next generation.
“Would I like to see us keep working on cars? Absolutely. I’ve said this to NASCAR and I’ve said it to the media before and I’m going to say it again: If the next generation car looks what it does this year, then we’ve screwed up,” Kiselowski said. To grow. We must continue to learn. We must continue to make it better. There are probably some car owners who don’t want to hear that because changing cars costs money.
“There is an ‘everything wrong with this car’ camp and there is a ‘nothing wrong with this car’ camp,” Kiselovsky added. “I’d like to keep working on it. Polarization, like so many things today, seems to mean there’s no room for compromise. In my eyes, I’d like to see some small tweaks, but I’m thankful and proud of our sport and where the next generation car has taken us so far.”