NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR unveils significant safety changes due to Kyle Larson's mangled car
NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR unveils significant safety changes due to Kyle Larson's mangled car

Updated Jun. 8, 2023 2:32 p.m. ET

NASCAR will make significant changes to soften the front bumper and front clip and strengthen the center passenger section of the NASCAR Cup Series car, the result of crash testing that recreated the scary Ryan Preece-Kyle Larson accident in April at Talladega. 

Preece's car slammed into Larson's car so hard at Talladega, the bars on the passenger side buckled, putting the front end of Preece's car dangerously close to Larson.

"He was in my cockpit [passenger area]," Larson said the week after the accident. "Thankfully, I couldn't see it."

In changes announced Thursday, NASCAR will remove about three pounds of material from the front clip and front bumper as well as modify some of the braces. Teams will no longer be allowed to add wait in a box on the front bumper (some teams likely had 100 pounds there) in order to allow for more crushability.


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The changes go into effect with the July 9 race at Atlanta and include replacing an aluminum plate on the passenger side of the car with a steel plate to protect for intrusion. The driver's side already had more protection but there will be additional tubing added to the driver's side to provide more strength.

"We're reducing the buckling strength of those individual parts and pieces [in the front area of the car]," said NASCAR vice president of safety engineering Dr. John Patalak. "The simplified version is we are increasing the amount of crush that the front clip will be capable of.

"And that's all an effort to reduce the accelerations that center section [and] driver will be exposed to during these frontal crashes."

NASCAR determined Larson's car was at a 55-degree angle and Preece's car was going 59 mph faster at the time of their collision. 

Larson's big wreck

Kyle Larson gives his thoughts on the severe damage to his car in the crash at Talladega and why he feels lucky.

Last month, NASCAR took cars with the proposed changes to a crash-testing facility in Ohio and crashed a car that was stationary at a 55-degree angle and had it hit by another car going 59 mph.

NASCAR said it took data from teams and testing over the last 18 months and from conducting simulation programs to determine how to put slots in chassis and bumper pieces and not make the car unsafe. It was pleased with its crash tests, where the primary concern was not to have any intrusion or deformation of the area where the driver's legs and feet are.

It worked with chassis designer Dallara on the changes. Putting any sort of holes in a chassis is a delicate balance because obviously they don't want to impact the overall integrity.

"You can't have things bending just going around in circles [when racing] and have part failures that result in a crash," Patalak said. "When we first started this process, a lot of that work was done in simulation. ... We're able to make those simulations better [with the data], which then allows you to take material out of the front with more confidence, knowing that it will survive these operating loads, but gives us way more room to work to get the additional deformations.

"So then when you get to the holes and the slots, ... for the quickest turnaround time possible, that was the best option to modify existing parts."

Two drivers suffered concussions last year as the result of hits of the rear of the car into the wall. NASCAR made changes prior to this season in hopes of addressing those concerns.

Cup rookie Noah Gragson will miss this weekend’s race after suffering concussion-like symptoms this week following a hard crash Sunday when a brake rotor failed, sending his car spinning, hitting the wall first with the rear of the car and then the front.

Prior to the season, NASCAR also was working on how to soften the front clip and their test in January showed proposed changes did not have the results they had hoped. Drivers have wanted the front of the car to absorb more of the impact to reduce the impact on them from when getting hit from behind, especially at short tracks.

Then the Larson-Preece accident rattled the industry. NASCAR allowed teams to make some temporary fixes to strengthen the connections of the bars on the passenger side last month. 

NASCAR will allow the teams to make the modifications announced Thursday in the interest of safety. Any new chassis would come from supplier Technique. The Next Gen car is designed so that all teams purchase the parts and pieces from a single-source supplier, but Technique would not be able to modify all the chassis teams have in a month.

As far as any concerns on whether teams will use this as an opportunity to tweak something while making these modifications in order to gain a competitive advantage, NASCAR will hope that's not the case and that its teardown inspection process would catch any violations.

"Everybody has a vested interest in making this work and making this work the best we can," said NASCAR vice president for vehicle design Brandon Thomas. "We are relying on the teams to carry out their end of that bargain."

Bob Pockrass covers NASCAR for FOX Sports. He has spent decades covering motorsports, including the past 30 Daytona 500s, with stints at ESPN, Sporting News, NASCAR Scene magazine and The (Daytona Beach) News-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @bobpockrass, and sign up for the FOX Sports NASCAR Newsletter with Bob Pockrass.

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