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Keselowski questions effectiveness of rules keeping drivers in cars under caution

Aug 12, 2014, 1:17 PM EDT

Cheez-It 355 At The Glen - Practice Getty Images

As some local tracks begin to react to Saturday night’s Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident by mandating rules to keep drivers in their cars under caution until safety crews arrive, it’s easy to wonder if NASCAR will eventually do the same for its own respective series.

The 20-year-old Ward was struck by the oncoming car of Stewart after he crashed, exited from his vehicle, and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront the Sprint Cup superstar. Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Former Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski – who himself got out of his car and ran across the infield grass after crashing in last October’s Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway – said he was glad to not be in NASCAR’s position regarding a potential rule change.

He also wondered how effective a rule about keeping the drivers in their cars would be.

“Whether it’s racing or society, I’m not aware of any rule or law that works without the ability to enforce it,” he said today in a NASCAR teleconference. “I don’t know how you can enforce a rule like that unless you had a robot on the track to grab the person and put them back in the car.

“The only way you can enforce it is with a penalty system afterwards. Really, at that point it’s not effective. It’s a difficult rule to try to make work.”

But some tracks are trying to do just that.

Yesterday, two New York dirt tracks – Fulton Speedway and Brewerton Speedway – decreed that drivers can only get out of their cars under caution if told to do so by a safety worker or in other certain situations such as a fire. If a driver gets out of his/her car without permission, they now run the risk of fines or suspensions.

Since that particular announcement, other tracks including the Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway have also said they’re changing their policies.

In regards to racing at the local level, Keselowski said that he does not usually take part in such races like the one Stewart was in Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, largely because of rules from his boss, Roger Penske. He also cited the potential of losing valuable sponsors if he were to get injured.

However, he didn’t believe that NASCAR should take a hard look at the matter of its big-name stars racing in these kinds of events.

Claiming that “there’s no one-size-fits-all program that really makes sense for this,” Keselowski added that every driver has their own interests away from the NASCAR world and how important they are to them.

“Those interests vary between one guy might want to go run sprint [cars] like Tony, another might want to run late model [cars] like Kyle Busch – who knows, maybe it’s a dune buggy,” he said. “I’ve heard some guys doing that. [Former Nationwide Series driver] Travis Pastrana went base jumping one week last year.

“That’s what makes us who we are. That’s what makes us tick. The racing grind can really wear down on you. You have to do certain things that work for you in your life to make you happy to keep you going, to keep you at a very high level with your own happiness.

“It’s difficult to try and limit anyone to those things.  That’s not just a racer, that would be any employer. So, I don’t see coming in and stopping those things. I think every situation’s different.”

Keselowski also touched on Saturday’s tragedy and the level of interest around it from fans and media, stressing that now was the time to “let the dust settle for a little bit and let some cooler heads prevail.”

“Right now, I don’t even think everybody has all the facts,” he said. “I think we have to get to that level first. For me personally – have some respect to the family, get through their process, then kind of dig into the hows, whys, whats, how we can possibly prevent something like that happening in the future.”

Ward will be laid to rest on Thursday in New York. Stewart did not compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Watkins Glen, and his status for this weekend’s race at Michigan is unknown.

  1. kafantaris2 - Aug 12, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    What is unfair is that big money might be influencing the investigation.
    How else can we explain Sheriff Povero saying there was no camera in Stewart’s car and Timothy Burke saying — and he was “right near Tony Stewarts race hauler” — that “he had a GoPro camera on his car.”
    Could it be that the good Sheriff is looking the other way instead of probing the inconsistencies? And why does he continue to do so when told that “Stewart commonly used a small camera in his car.”
    But why would Stewart’s pit crew be worried about the car’s camera?
    Could it be because it might have recorded Ward visibly standing on the track; that it might have recorded the engine vibration when Stewart spiked the throttle to snap the car like a whip against Ward; and that it might have recorded the car doing just that and the rear tire slamming against Ward?
    Yes, the crew folks knew what might be on that camera and they quickly made sure it disappeared.
    Somebody should remind them, and Stewart too, that tempering with evidence is still a felony in New York.

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 12, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      …and someone should inform you about hearsay.

  2. techmeister1 - Aug 12, 2014 at 3:44 PM

    It’s appalling that some folks are so clueless as to make totally meritless statements and conclusions regarding this terrible tragedy. To post these uninformed conclusions without any firsthand information of the actual event is unscrupulous and a disservice to all involved. It illustrates ignorance and a rush to judgment mentality.

    The one thing we do know is that if Kevin had remained in his car, he’d be alive today. That is why so many tracks and sanctioning organizations require drivers to remain in the car unless it’s on fire. There is no reason for a driver to chase after another competitors race car on track. We already know what happens when they make that fatal mistake. Let’s hope some people learn from this tragedy.

  3. mckludge - Aug 12, 2014 at 4:01 PM

    “The only way you can enforce it is with a penalty system afterwards. Really, at that point it’s not effective. It’s a difficult rule to try to make work.”

    Um, Brad, that is how almost all rules (and for that matter, laws) are enforced.

    Having rules that say you get a 1 or more race suspension for exiting your car under caution (unless it’s on fire or similar circumstance) might make people think twice about doing it.

    • nderdog - Aug 12, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      I was just thinking the same thing. Does Brad somehow think that the rule regarding pit road speed makes it impossible to drive too fast through the pits? Maybe they can make a rule that being injured is not allowed, then we can get rid of all of those silly changes that have made the cars safer, since that rule will prevent any harm from coming to the drivers or fans!

  4. witchrunner - Aug 12, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    The national level is certainly different than local levels. Other than having read that “drivers do this all the time” indicating that what Ward did wasn’t unusual, it doesn’t appear that this is an issue of import when it comes to racing. It’s not much different than what libs do when there is a shooting. Their solution affects people who are innocent and would do nothing to address the real problem, as it is perceived.

  5. langor1 - Aug 12, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    You enforce a rule like that by banning NASCAR drivers that don’t abide by it. One or two lifetime bans (which could later be rescinded) is all it would take.

  6. bigdcart - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:01 PM

    Nascar reaps what they sew. All of these tin toppers get out of their cars just to shake their fists, throw their helmets and flip their birds. It’s all part of the hillbilly soap opera called Nascar. Is is a surprise at all that a 20 year old boy emulates that behavior?

    • chad4208 - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:19 PM

      NASCAR didnt start that stupid. I mean in your warped reality, do you honestly think no one ever got mad in sports before NASCAR came along? Automobiles were raced long before NASCAR was formed you know. I can pretty much guarantee you this was much more common on local levels long before NASCAR was very big. Not to mention if you called a 20 year old a boy he would kick your ass

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 13, 2014 at 9:21 AM

      So…what is it when IndyCar, Formula 1, Sports Car, etc. drivers do it?

    • fave88 - Aug 13, 2014 at 8:14 PM

      You must be a hillbilly to “know” what one is!!!!

    • chaparral2f - Aug 14, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      Umm, that would be “sow” and not “sew”. To sow is to plant while sew means to stitch. Sheesh, I can’t believe how the English language is devolving. Egads man, learn your homonyms.

  7. chad4208 - Aug 12, 2014 at 10:15 PM

    idiotic. So, a couple morons get hit by a car while wearing headphones so the government tries to pass laws making it illegal to walk on public streets and wear headgear that makes noise. You would be outraged right? How is this different? This happens all the time? SO one kid is dumb and runs too close to a moving car and the world has to suffer from stupid safety rules that over protect everybody. They are grown adults; they dont need to have crap dictated to them about that they can and cannot do with their own bodies and emotions.

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