NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton held a press conference this morning at Michigan International Speedway to formally announce new on-track incident rules that will go in affect starting this weekend in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and Camping World Truck Series. The new procedure bars drivers from leaving their cars until told so by an official.
The new rules with a higher emphasis on safety come less than a week after Kevin Ward Jr was fatally struck by Tony Stewart during a sprint-car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park last Saturday night. Ward had exited his car after being involved in an accident and moved down the track to show his displeasure at Stewart during the caution.
"Through time you have to recognize when you get a reminder or tap on the shoulder, something that may need to be addressed," Pemberton said. "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."
Drivers used to be reminded in every driver's meeting prior to a race to stay in their vehicles but it was more of an informal rule that drivers rarely followed. Now Section 9-16: On-Track Incident Procedure of the NASCAR rule book states an official rule and if drivers do not adhere to the rule penalties will be handed down on a case-to-case basis.
The rule reads: 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 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
Also Pemberton stated an update to Section 10-4 (Yellow Flag), that drivers must 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.
The new rules will cut out a crowd favorite of a driver gesturing or throwing something at another car under caution but as was stated safety is the primary concern after what transpired with the death of Kevin Ward Jr.
"This rule is really put in place for the safety of all of our competitors," Pemberton said. "It's safety first right now."
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series are at Michigan International Speedway this weekend and the NASCAR Nationwide Series is at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Tony Stewart will not race for the second straight week after announcing Thursday that he will have Jeff Burton replace him in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
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