In only the second appearance for the Nationwide Series Car of Tomorrow, Robert Richardson Jr. not only put the car to a test, he showed it might have some big flaws. Created to help Nationwide teams cut cost and ultimately increase safety, Richardson’s unusual hit last weekend in Michigan shows NASCAR may have more work to do on both fronts.
Just over 100 laps into last weekend’s event, Steve Wallace made contact with the back of the Richardson’s No. 23 Chevrolet exiting the second corner. Richardson hit the wall flush with the right side in what appeared to be an inconspicuous incident. However, Richardson momentarily blacked out from the contact before driving the car back to the garage.
Once out of the car, the team realized the extent of the damage and was surprised to see how badly the new ‘safer’ car was torn up. After admitting he blacked out, Richardson was taken to the infield care center and was taken to the hospital for CT scans. Everything turned out alright for the 28-year-old who was bruised and sore, but overall alright.
Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Richardson talked with Frontstretch about his wreck and what NASCAR had to say about the car.
“[NASCAR] pulled the black box from the car and it says a 46-G hit against the fence,” Richardson said. “I did black out temporarily. I wouldn’t have taken it so serious if I hadn’t blacked out, but I ended up going to the infield care center to get everything checked out. I had to go to the hospital after that to get some CT scans done. All-in-all, everything came back okay and they approved me to come here and race at Bristol.
“I watched the replay and it didn’t look like [a hard hit], but when you’re in the car and it takes a solid right side impact – it broke the leg brace in the car, broke the seat, the head rest was opened up quite a bit, the whole chassis on the right side was moved in 3/16ths of an inch, just totaled the car.
“[NASCAR] came by our shop and looked at the car, took some measurements on some stuff and pretty much said, ‘Hey, your car is wrecked,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, tell me something I don’t know.’ They came by to check the safety of the new car the Nationwide Series has come out with and any changes they may need to make from here on out looking at other people’s wrecked racecars.
“It’s just going to hurt a lot of these teams next year, because if you do wreck a racecar like that you pretty much have to start all over and scrap the racecar you have because [NASCAR is] so strict on their measurement rules and template fits and everything else we have to go through for technical inspection…. When you do bend a chassis like that you have to scrap your racecar and start over.
“I don’t know if they can maybe build some more reinforcements where you do take a right-side impact, maybe put foam in the doors or something so it won’t impact the lead rails or the main parts of the chassis. It was such a solid hit that it did bend everything, it’s just unfortunate that we had to scrap that one and start over.”
Richardson says he hit the back of his helmet on the backside of his head rest on the right side, and that is what caused him to black out.
“I hit hard enough the right side window popped out, bent the frame rail on the right side, broke the motor mount on the right front and pretty much just junked the whole car from there.”
This new Nationwide Series car was pegged as the biggest safety innovation for the series, yet Richardson’s hit shows NASCAR still has some work to do. A NASCAR spokesman told Frontstretch the sanctioning body has the black box and is still examining all the details of the wreck.
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