Cup playoffs continue NASCAR's 'crazy year' theme

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Bristol, Tennessee – The next-generation car endured a durability nightmare, including power steering failure, blown tires and mechanical gremlins, as it made its debut on the harsh concrete of Bristol Motor Speedway.

On top of that, passing 500 laps on the 0.533-mile high-bank oval was tough on Saturday night.

There were 12 lead changes (only 4 under the green), the fewest in over 13 years at Bristol, and no tire wear, making it easier for the leaders to control the race. Race winner Chris Buescher led the final 61 laps after two tire stops, while the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing driver led runner-up Chase Elliott (four on the last stop). ) maintained a stable gap.

“Not only did I have the opportunity to lead the parade, but I got to participate in it.”10th-Place finisher Kevin Harvick told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch.

The lack of overtaking, coupled with reliability issues, has sparked new complaints against the car, which has weathered mounting criticism of violent impacts and faulty components in recent weeks. Next Gen marks the first time in NASCAR’s 74-year history that the Premier Cup Series has used a “spec” model. In this model, virtually all parts and chassis are manufactured by a single-source vendor and supplied to the entire field.

Denny Hamlin then tweeted “We need NextGen 2.0. We have to think about who will pay for it.”

“It was impossible to pass,” Hamlin told NBC Sports’ Dave Barnes. I was trying to catch up from that point on.

“(The Next Gen) was tough. I hope the race improves overall. It’s very difficult to pass, I had some steering issues and it seems like my teammate at Toyota also had steering issues.”

All six Toyotas in the field experienced problems with tires (Hamlin, Christopher Bell), steering (Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs) or engines (Kyle Busch), Tire problems continued throughout the field.

After running (and winning) the 125-lap first stage without changing tires, Brad Keselowski mysteriously suffered a puncture while leading with 87 laps to go. However, the winning team’s owner defended his generation’s passing ability, acknowledging that it still needs improvement.

“We restarted from third place (140 cars) and were able to pass the first two cars,” said Keselowski. “Yes, I think we can pass. It wasn’t easy, but it shouldn’t be easy. Do you want to see us keep working on the car? Absolutely. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if the next generation of cars looks the same as this year, we’ve failed, we have to keep growing, we’ve got to keep learning. We have to keep improving it.

“Some car owners don’t want to hear it because it costs money to change their car, but like anything, when you make something new like a next-generation car, there are things that are optimized. I think we still have an opportunity to make this car better and to race better and I think in many ways we are still a step up from where we were. I think we’ve seen some great races because of it, and there are a lot of big pluses, and like any industry, you’re more likely to get caught up in the negatives than the positives, but the two I feel like I have a faction.

“Everything is wrong with this car camp and nothing is wrong with this car camp. Good thing…keep working on it.Like many things today, polarizing means no compromises.In my eyes, some small adjustments are needed, but We are grateful and proud that our sport and the next generation of cars have brought us here.”

The voices of the detractors have been louder in recent weeks.

Harvick has spoken candidly about the fire that engulfed his No. 4 Ford and safety concerns at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver called out next-generation suppliers over shoddy parts and Martin Truex, Jr. said last Saturday that he had a problem with his No. 19 Toyota’s steering. After finishing the night repeated disapproval of Harvick.

“It blew a seal and pushed all the (power steering) fluid out to the right front tire.” Truex told NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder“I can’t believe it. What did Harvick say? Crap parts. … Literally you can’t drive a car here without power steering. You lose it, you’re done.”

Bristol was the latest in a string of short track disappointments this season for Next Generation.

After the Next Gen’s lackluster debut at Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR is testing tweaks to the car for the race on October 30, setting the championship field for the finale at Phoenix Raceway. To do.

When asked if NASCAR would be heading to Martinsville for aerodynamics and tire development, Keselowski said: I know that if I don’t try, I won’t get there. I think he puts a lot of effort into that. I haven’t been able to identify what they are. We certainly have room to grow and get better. “