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NASCAR announces new rules to keep drivers in cars under cautions

Aug 15, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT

Following the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy almost one week ago in New York State, NASCAR has announced immediate new rules for drivers that are involved in on-track incidents.

The new rule is listed as Section 9-16: On-Track Incident Procedure in the 2014 NASCAR rule book. It reads:

During an Event, if a race car is involved in an on-track incident and/or is stopped on or near the racing surface and unable to continue to make forward progress, unless extenuating emergency conditions exist with the race car (i.e. fire, smoke in cockpit, etc.) the driver should take the following steps:

  • Shut off electrical power and, if driver is uninjured, lower window net
  • Do not loosen, disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official
  • After being directed to exit the racecar, the driver should proceed to either the ambulance, other vehicle, or as otherwise directed by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official
  • At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron
  • At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle

All vehicles not involved in the incident or that are able to continue afterwards should slow down to a cautious speed as outlined in Section 10-4 (Yellow Flag), use extreme care as they approach an incident scene, and follow any directions given by safety personnel or NASCAR/Track Officials. Cars in line behind the safety car should not weave or otherwise stray from the line in the vicinity of the incident.

In a press conference today at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the new rules were a formalization of reminders that have been made in pre-race driver’s meetings.

He also acknowledged the role of the Stewart/Ward incident in the sanctioning body’s decision.

On Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Ward had an on-track tangle with Stewart that ended with him spinning out. The 20-year-old then exited the car and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Unfortunately, Stewart’s car ended up clipping Ward, who was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. Ward was laid to rest on Thursday, and a short time later that day, Stewart Haas Racing announced that Stewart would not compete in this weekend’s Sprint Cup event at MIS.

“Through time, you have to recognize when you get a reminder or a tap on the shoulder – something that may need to be addressed,” Pemberton said today. “And this is one of those times where we look outside our sport and we look at other things, and we feel like it was time to address this.

“…It was one of those [things] that was obviously – everybody paid attention to – and it is on the heels of that.”

As for enforcement of the new rule, Pemberton said that it would be considered a “behavioral penalty” and that NASCAR would address each instance “according to each individual situation.”

NASCAR’s decision comes after multiple local tracks across the country changed their own caution procedures in the aftermath of the Stewart/Ward incident, including: Fulton and Brewerton Speedways in New York, Tri-City Speedway in Illinois, and Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway in Tennessee.

  1. convincedofthehex - Aug 15, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    Nascar has good intentions with this rule. I just wonder about situations where there is a risk of fire that is not obvious, such as a slow oil or fuel leak. It takes time to loosen the HANS and other equipment. If a fire were to break out, we know how slow Nascar emergency response can be at times. Their refusal to have a dedicated safety crew for the series is an on-going joke.

    I’m not saying I know what the rule should be, but maybe something along the lines of if the driver leaves the car they must immediately move to the outside wall and stay there. The dedicated safety team is something that really needs to be addressed, maybe the new RTA will make it an issue.

    • astrongus - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      How about adding anger management classes……Anger management or “loss of emotional control” was reason for this tragedy……

      • florida727 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:52 PM

        Not sure why you got a thumbs-down (not that it matters). You’re absolutely right. My wife, who knows nothing about sports and will readily admit it, said something interesting to me after seeing this incident. “It’s a shame of course, but I feel for his parents because they know that he didn’t die ‘doing something he loved’. He died and his last emotion was anger.” And that’s what’s truly sad about this. Anger caused his death. Nothing else.

      • astrongus - Aug 15, 2014 at 5:43 PM

        If Tony Stewart acted like a “professional” and managed his anger there would be no tragedy to speak of….

    • testover6370 - Aug 15, 2014 at 4:44 PM

      I think the rule should be simply to move away from the track as quickly as possible when it is safe to do so, and to not approach moving cars, and leave it at that. From there it should be a case-by-case judgement call, because I’ve seen incidents where a driver started getting out too soon and their car was hit by another car that did not slow properly, but other incidents where the driver knew the car would be unsafe long before the marshals got there (as you said, the slow burning fire). The issue isn’t getting out of the car per-se, although sometimes drivers do jump the gun on that, the issue is drivers approaching the cars of drivers who offended them to try to make a point. That is needlessly unsafe and needs to stop.

  2. manik56 - Aug 15, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    Where is “don’t run into the path of other racecars”?

    • chad4208 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron

      the race cars would be on the racing surface,,,

  3. kitnamania13 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Hopefully the rules are different in the pit lane. I want to see collisions, helmet throws, and fistfights before, during, and after each race. Je-rry! Je-rry! Je-rry!

    • 3camps1776 - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:48 AM

      It’s too bad that NASCAR has turned into a motorized version of “professional wrestling” or goon hockey in order to attract a fan base today.

  4. witchrunner - Aug 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

    There’s really only one reason why they are implementing this rule. They were told by their lawyers to do it so that NASCAR can avoid liability if a driver does get out and gets killed. Otherwise, you are dealing with adults and if some driver decides they want to take on a moving vehicle, well let him. Of course, the tracks that NASCAR races on are much more predictable than the dirt tracks, so there isn’t anywhere near the chance of a car accidentally swerving. So, NASCAR has just gotten rid of some of the showmanship that fans love, and all for a protective rule that would not have prevented one injury in it’s races to date.

    • astrongus - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:14 PM

      You can thank one reckless driver for this rule………

      • indycarseries500 - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Reading your posts I know you’re talking about the one who is 99.999999999999999999999999999% blameless.

  5. chad4208 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:35 PM

    this “rule” doesnt eliminate your number ones…. and warm waving. and these procedures have been in place forever. they are just being reinforced a bit more. dont think anything will really change

  6. chad4208 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    besides…”Do not loosen, disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official”

    catch 22… sometimes they start loosening belts before cars are even slowed down and still passing. I always thought that needed to be addressed…but yea if they smell oil or gas or whatever, then its means to get outta the car so… when have we ever seen a car burst into flames multiple seconds after coming to a stop without warning?

  7. chad4208 - Aug 15, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    of course its still not needed

  8. wickerbill52 - Aug 15, 2014 at 2:56 PM

    It’s really easy to enforce…you get out of the car for any reason other than immediate danger…you’re done for the season….end of problem….

    • chad4208 - Aug 15, 2014 at 3:02 PM

      yea right…if they try something stupid like that i see lawsuits and about half the viewers shutting their tvs off.

      Again…getting out if the car is not the issue. They made a rule fixing something that wasnt broken while leaving the issue at hand to leak. and doing that would just cause a bigger problem

  9. worknman24hours - Aug 15, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    I like these new rules.

    The drivers cannot see the lone car coming around the track that might lose control.

    Who would have ever thought years ago when Juan Pablo Montoya’s car would have a part fail and smash into a safety vehicle.

    Sometimes drivers start getting out of the car because they are scared of getting slammed into sitting sideways on the track.

    Just sit in the car as long as it is not on fire and wait for the safety crew.

    I have seen drivers whose head was not clear and they started walking down into the low line on the track and a safety worker conducted them back towards the ambulance too.

    This situation has not been addressed properly until now and it can only help save drivers lives so I say ,Good Move NASCAR.

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