Brooklyn, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - NASCAR has implemented a new rule that will require drivers involved in accidents on the racetrack to remain inside their vehicles unless "extenuating emergency conditions exist with the race car."
During a press conference on Friday at Michigan International Speedway, the site of this weekend's Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series races, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton outlined the sanctioning body's on-track incident procedure for competitors. The rule, listed as Section 9-16, will be an addendum to the NASCAR rule book and will apply to all of its racing series, effectively immediately.
NASCAR announced the rule change six days after Tony Stewart stuck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.
Section 9-16 states, "During an Event, if a racecar 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 racecar (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 race car, 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."
The rule for this procedure also states, "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."
"Throughout the history of our sport, NASCAR has reviewed and analyzed situations and occurrences that take place not just in NASCAR racing but also throughout all motorsports and other sports," Pemberton said. "When we believe we can do something to make our sport safer and better for the competitors and others involved in the competition environment, we react quickly. Safety always has been priority number one at NASCAR."
If a competitor violates the procedure, then NASCAR will address it the same way it does with other behavioral infractions. The sanctioning body will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.
Since Ward's death at Canandaigua, many race tracks throughout the country have made rules changes in regards to driver safety.
"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, and this is one of those times where we look outside our sport and look at other things, and we feel like it was time to address this," Pemberton said.
Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, will not compete in Sunday's 400-mile race at Michigan. Jeff Burton is substituting for him in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet. Last Sunday, Regan Smith filled in for Stewart at Watkins Glen International.
The investigation regarding the Stewart/Ward incident is ongoing. As of now, there are no criminal charges pending against Stewart.