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Two N.Y. dirt tracks mandate all drivers must stay in cars after on-track incidents

Aug 11, 2014, 5:45 PM EDT


A common question that has been asked by many in the aftermath of Saturday’s Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident is if it could have been prevented.

After Ward spun out at Canadaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park on Saturday night following a wheel-to-wheel battle with Stewart, an angry Ward exited his car and walked down the racing surface to show his displeasure with the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Sadly, Stewart’s car ended up striking Ward, who was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. The 20-year-old will be laid to rest on Thursday.

Now, in a likely response to the tragedy, two New York dirt tracks have adopted an immediate rule change that mandates all drivers must stay in their cars in the event of on-track incidents.

As part of the change, the 3/8-mile Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway and 1/3-mile Brewerton (N.Y.) Speedway now decree that only safety and wrecker crews are allowed on their tracks in the event of an accident.

Additionally, should a driver leave their car on the track during a caution period for any reason, the race will be immediately red-flagged and all cars will come to a stop.

Drivers will be allowed to exit the car if they are requested to do so by a safety crew member or in cases of emergency such as a fire.

However, if drivers leave their cars without permission for any reason, they’ll be subject to fines and/or suspensions at the discretion of track management.

Some have wondered if the Stewart/Ward incident will be enough to compel tracks and series across the country to implement rules such as these to further protect their drivers.

It will bear watching if other organizations follow the lead of the Fulton and Brewerton Speedways. And if they do, how widespread and how quick will such a movement be?

  1. titansbro - Aug 11, 2014 at 6:10 PM

    How this wasn’t a rule already is mind boggling.

    • worknman24hours - Aug 11, 2014 at 6:33 PM

      Nobody ever expected that a young man would run at a driver passing by a sprint car so close the other driver would run him over doing a simple mud throwing move.

      Now a man has died and we all know it can happen again.

      • chad4208 - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:24 PM

        you sir…are an idiot. why cant you people realize you dont know what happened for sure. Stop passing of your opinion as fact. you may believe that but so what? you might be wrong

  2. techmeister1 - Aug 11, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Actually most forms of auto racing already have this rule. It’s not always enforced when a driver jumps out of his car after being wrecked and is highly emotional, but most tracks and sanctioning bodies specifically state the driver is to remain in the car until told to exit the car unless it is on fire.

    It’s completely unscrupulous for people to continue making accusations in this terrible tragedy when none of us know the FACTS of the situation. The inappropriate claims and speculation are a disservice to all involved in this tragedy. From what we know at this point this was purely a racing accident that was totally preventable had Kevin Ward remained in his car. That is why these tracks are making this rule mandatory not optional. Kevin’s poor decision cost him his life and has damaged the life of Tony Stewart forever.

  3. charger383 - Aug 11, 2014 at 11:31 PM

    safety rules are written in blood

  4. safaber3 - Aug 12, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    Our tracks in Texas have adopted this rule years ago. In dimly lit areas of the track and a dark firesuit, not seeing someone is very easy to do. Most tracks in the area or short tracks, with the pits outside the track rather than in the infield. You cannot get out of your car if it even rolls into the infield during a race. Kevin was not going to get Tony to stop during the caution, as the sprint cars have no clutch to stop and go. He could have the discussion in the pits after the race, or get his tire changed and rejoin the race.

    This is sad and the racing community feels for the Ward family. It was a poor decision that ended a young man’s life. May God be with the family and friends of everyone involved in the incident.

  5. Bill Belitext - Aug 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    I have a hard time getting on board with the idea that a driver absolutely must stay inside his car after a wreck, unless it is on fire. After watching Dale Jr burst into flames and almost die at Sonoma, I am of the opinion that if I were to wreck, the first thing I am doing is getting out of the car. Jr wasnt in any hurry to get out, cuz the car wasnt on fire, and there was no smell of gas (had there been, he might have sped up the process a bit), then poof, the car went up in an instant.

    I am completely in agreement with the idea that a driver must avoid the racing surface and all of that. I have been saying for years that it is only a metter of time before an angry driver (I was referring to nascar) displays his anger and gets run over. I point to the Juan Pablo jet dryer incident as my reasoning behind my concerns. Drivers get involved in a wreck, meaning the other car that is still driving around the track was involved as well. So a car that could potentially have crash damage is driving around, and at any moment could have a failure that causes them to lose control, and instead of us chuckling about hitting the jet dryer, we are mourning the loss of a driver because he wanted to go Kurt Busch style and show his backside to the competition who blows a tire and slams into him. Just saying

    I dont exactly feel comfortable saying Ward or Stewart takes the blame here. And I dont feel comfortable making a blanket statement that Stewart “obviously could have avoided him”, etc. The videos that are out there dont show me enough. Everyone says they make contact and Ward spins, I cant for sure say that contact was even made, I dont see evidence of that. Everyone says he “gunned the engine” before hitting him. I cant say that is true either. With all of the cars on the track at that moment, it is quite plausible that another car, that was closer to the cameraman but not in focus, was the engine you heard. I really want to see another angle. I want to see from behind stewart. Did the car in front of Stewart block the view of Ward and then that car swerved and Tony didnt see him? The idea that Tony “had to see him” I think is presumptious. Did tony swerve a little to the right, as he was approaching, knowing Ward was out of his car, and Stewart planned to buzz him?? I need that other angle to see anything like that. It is certainly a tragedy, I just dont see what Ward could have gained, other than trying to make a name for himself as the kid who stood up to Smoke. And I can certainly appreciate that. Wouldnt we all want to go toe to toe with the best?

    I am especially concerned by the way that he didnt just get out, give him the finger, and move on. He got out, ran down the track, and then very abrubtly ran down into the racing groove. He wasnt just walking down the track, he was running. He didnt just walk toward the groove, he ran toward the passing cars. It was a mistake that is causing a lot of pain to a lot of people. I dont want to be insensitive to either side of this situation, and that isnt my intent with this rant, I just think Tony is going to receive a lot of harsh criticism and it may not be warranted, and Ward on the other hand is going to be propped up as the kid with so much talent, and just skip past the part that he played a huge role in the incident as well. It wasnt Tony driving down the track looking for a victim Death Race style, it was an angry driver seeking out Tony and running out into traffic…

  6. chad4208 - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    i dont like this rule…its “fixing” something that is not a problem and could cause other problems. I mean are you really going to suspend a big name driver bc he gets out of his car? or wags a finger? Sure if he makes a mad rush toward a moving car and dropkicks the window (remember that viral vid?) But the rule is too broad and will put some local track some of business bc some just come for the helmet throwing. And besides…its happened how many thousands of time throughout history? Not likely to ever happen again.

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