NASCAR has a bumper-cars problem that is getting out of hand, and one driver blames the new NextGen cars
- NASCAR's race at the Indianapolis road course turned to chaos as it looked more like bumper cars at times.
- Daniel Suarez says some drivers are taking advantage of the new, tougher cars, calls it unprofessional.
The NASCAR race at the Indianapolis road course got confusing when some drivers took wild shortcuts, but the real chaos came when the field kept trying to fit 10 gallons of cars into a five-gallon turn.
NASCAR and IndyCar hosted a trio of races at the Indy road course this past weekend, and while the IndyCars successfully navigated the tight first turn on race starts and restarts, the NASCAR cars struggled.
Over and over, as the cars entered the right-hand turn three- and four-wide on restarts, several inevitably were knocked off the course or spun, and lost tons of track position to the rest of the field.
—NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) July 31, 2022
So why were the IndyCars having an easier time? NASCAR driver Daniel Suarez says it is because they know that contact with another car will ruin their day, while NASCAR drivers no longer have the same fear.
"IndyCar, they make it work," Suarez said on "NASCAR Race Hub." "Why? Because if they hit the guy in front or the guy on the side, their race is over. Our race is not over. That is why we are taking advantage of that."
Suarez added that NASCAR drivers no longer fear being knocked out of a race because the new NextGen cars introduced this year are much more resilient, maybe to a detriment.
"This car is tougher," Suarez said. "This car, you can hit a wall a little bit, and you're fine. You can hit another guy, and you're fine. The previous car, you had to worry about the left-rear [tire] having a rub [and going flat] or situations like that. I feel like these cars can take so much that there are a lot of drivers that are taking advantage of that in the wrong way."
Suarez was caught in the mess on the final overtime restart, when he was hit from behind and shoved into Ryan Blaney. Both drivers had a shot at the win, but Suarez ended up with a flat tire, and Blaney spun.
After the race, Blaney retaliated against Suarez.
Suarez, who earlier this season became the first Mexican driver to win a NASCAR Cup Series race, also noted on "RaceHub" that Austin Cindric first hit him from behind, and somebody else hit Cindric.
"Nobody is really caring about who they are going to push, and that's just not right," Suarez said. "I don't feel like that's professional racing."
Former NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus noted that the issue of drivers being less fearful of hitting others is not unique to Indy. "I have seen an awful lot of that," Knaus said. "Drivers taking advantage of other drivers, putting them in awkward situations. There has been a lot of that happening."
NASCAR also has a respect problem
The toughness of the new cars may not be the only problem. Veteran Denny Hamlin noted earlier this year that some younger drivers are more aggressive because they don't respect other drivers.
"The newer, younger generation that came in, it just seems like they are more aggressive," Hamlin said. "Now, more aggressive is fine, but I think it's just, you could talk about a much bigger subject here of, like, just the lack of respect that people have for each other nowadays. All you have to do is log on Twitter to find that."
Earlier this season in Austin, Ross Chastain picked up his first career win by playing bumper cars on the final lap.
Hamlin also said that today's drivers don't have to worry about being punched in the teeth after a race.
"I think in the past, what happened is, you got wrecked or knocked out of the way, you'd get your front teeth knocked out," Hamlin said. "Nowadays, crew members protect their guys, and it's very corporate, very different sport than what it used to be. So these young guys feel like — and it's not always young guys, us old veterans, we make our mistakes too — but they're just more aggressive in thinking that, 'Hey, the risk is worth the reward because the reward is winning. The risk is, eh, I might get a little backlash here and there, and I might have to worry about that guy wrecking me in the future.' But people just think it's worth it nowadays."
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