Ryan Preece’s Dover Car Fire was ‘Self-Inflicted’ Damage

The fire that led to Ryan Preece’s early retirement at Dover was due to a Stewart-Haas assembly error, not a flaw of the Next Gen race car. More importantly, all four SHR cars could have experienced the same problem.

What Happened

Ryan Preece was angry when he left the garage after having completed just 66 laps at Dover.

His car had been smoking since the race started. Television footage showed a steady stream of smoke inside the cockpit. The team told him to bring the car to pit road, but they couldn’t see any fire.

Preece took the car back out on track, but the fumes were too much. He brought the car to the garage. There, the team discovered that the door foam, which is required to be in place had melted. They were through.

Preece told FOX Sports’ Bob Pockrass he became worried there was an oil line loose and the car might eventually be engulfed in fire.

Preece didn’t want to be the one to tell what had happened, but he was very clear that the fire was ‘complete unnecessary’.

“We can’t afford days like this,” a frustrated Preece told Pockrass.

Why Preece’s Dover Car Fire Happened

Monday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Late Shift, Preece told hosts Brad Gillie and Todd Gordon that the collectors had separated from the headers. He said that this was just as good as putting a blowtorch to the foam.

Let’s break that down.

Fuel and air combust in an engine cylinder and produce very hot gases. Those exhaust gases must be removed from the car’s engine to make room for more fuel and more air. The piston pushes the exhaust gases out in the engine’s headers.

The image below shows the headers for a C8 Corvette. There are 8 headers, one for each cylinder. Four headers merge into two, then two into one. That happens on both sides of the engine.

This image of the headers for a C8 corvette is used to help explain Ryan Preece's Dover Car Fire

The NASCAR Next Gen car has a different geometry, but it’s the exact same principle. You end up with one tube containing exhaust gases that exit the car through the exhaust pipe.

In order for this process to go as planned, there can’t be any gaps in the tubing. But there were.

“That was self-inflicted,” No. 10 Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer explained on Wednesday. “That was the bolts between the headers and the collectors keeping everything together.”

Because the bolts were not installed properly, Blickensderfer explained, the collectors separated from the headers and all of the exhaust gases were going right at the safety foam in side the doors.

“A little change in process that someone didn’t catch,” Blickensderfer explained, “and it was close to happening on all of our cars to be honest with you. So they (the No. 41) were unfortunately the victim of it but when we got back to the race shop all of our cars were close to having a similar issue.”

SHR has already rectified the situation in their cars for this week’s Kansas race, so they shouldn’t face that issue there.

Long-Term Implications

This screw up is a major quality control problem for SHR. As Preece pointed out, a company that is struggling so much cannot afford to cause their own problems. And it’s far from the first time it’s happened.

Last year, SHR incurred a massive 130-point penalty on the No. 14 car for showing up at the racetrack with what they said was a test part that someone forgot to remove. They’ve already had two L1 penalties for roof rail violations at Atlanta this year.

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