NASCAR has new rule to keep drivers in cars under yellow – USA TODAY
BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR announced a new rule Friday governing driver behavior under caution in the wake of the incident in which Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. in a sprint car race.
Vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the rule was distributed to teams before Sprint Cup practice Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway.
During a caution period, if a driver’s car is involved in an incident and stopped on or near the racing surface and unable to make forward progress, the driver must:
–Shut off the car and lower the window net if uninjured;
–Wait for directions from safety personnel or NASCAR officials to loosen safety equipment
–After being directed to exit the car, proceed directly to the ambulance or other vehicle as directed, without approaching the racing surface or another vehicle.
Pemberton said the new rule formalizes the guidelines NASCAR already provides for drivers during a crash. In virtually every prerace meeting, drivers are told to stay in the cars in the event of a crash.
No specific punishment was listed for a driver who disobeys the rule. The bulletin states that, “as with other behavioral infractions, NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.
“This will be a behavioral‑type thing, and they’ll be addressed according to each situation,” Pemberton said.
Ward was hit after exiting his car and confronting Stewart under caution at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park on August 9.
“Through time, you have to recognize when you get a reminder or a tap on the shoulder of something that may need to be addressed,” Pemberton said. “This is one of those times where we look outside our sport. … It was one of those that obviously everybody paid attention to and it is on the heels of that.”
Expressions of frustration during a yellow flag are common by NASCAR drivers. After a crash in Saturday’s Nationwide Series race at Watkins Glen International, J.J. Yeley walked away from safety workers gathered around his crumpled car and approached the edge of traffic running under yellow so he could gesture at Trevor Bayne. In one of the more memorable episodes of Stewart’s career, he hurled his heel pads at Kenny Irwin Jr. and tried to reach into his cockpit during yellow-flag laps after a wreck.
NASCAR’s move comes after several dirt tracks made rules changes this week requiring drivers to stay in their cars during an accident.
“It was one of those that was obviously something that everybody paid attention to,” Pemberton said of Ward’s death. “And it is on the heels of that.”
It isn’t the first time that NASCAR has made a rules change based on a fatal accident in another series. When Eric Martin was killed in an ARCA crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October 2002, NASCAR mandated the next day that spotters must be positioned above the grandstands during practices (as they already were during races).
“As we’ve demonstrated in our history, we’re willing to react quickly to different incidents,” Pemberton said. “It’s not just about NASCAR, but it’s all of sports and motorsports that we take note in.”
In a release provided by Front Row Motorsports, No. 34 Ford driver David Ragan approved of the rule.
“It’s a good decision on NASCAR’s behalf to be proactive,” Ragan said. “We are constantly reminded how our race cars can be dangerous. And if this is a step to make the driver safer after an accident or to prevent an accident from happening while getting out of the race car, this is a good move by NASCAR and I support it. I think it’s a move you’ll see from a lot of other series as well.”
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