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NASCAR implements new rule to keep drivers in car under yellow

NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton at Michigan International Speedway
NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton at Michigan International Speedway
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

NASCAR announced a new rule Friday morning that will dictate procedure on how drivers react to an on track incident. This new rule will address on-track incidents as part of the race procedures, listing the new rule as Section 9-16, it has been added as an addendum to the NASCAR rule book and will apply to all of its racing series, effective immediately.

NASCAR’s Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said the new rule was distributed to all teams before Sprint Cup practice Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway.

Not surprising that this change comes in light of the situation with Kevin Ward Jr., who was struck and killed after exiting his vehicle and confronting Tony Stewart under caution at Canandaigua Motorsports Park on August 9.

The rule changes comes after several dirt tracks made a similar rule change earlier this week requiring drivers to stay in their cars during an on-track incident.

“It was one of those that was obviously something that everybody paid attention to,” Pemberton said of the fatal incident involving NASCAR’s 3-time champion Stewart.

Pemberton said the new rule adds to the guidelines NASCAR already uses for drivers during a crash. At every pre-race meeting, drivers are told to stay in the cars in the event of a crash. That is not always the case when the driver’s emotions and adrenaline are running high.

Pemberton didn’t list a specific punishment for a driver who disobeys the rule. But states that, ‘As with other behavioral infractions; NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.

July 2006 at New Hampshire, Robby Gordon went out in front of cars on track in order to throw his helmet at Michael Waltrip, driving the #15 car. Cars had to stop on the track for Gordon who blamed Waltrip for the incident while Waltrip claimed it was clearly his (Gordon) own doing on the team radio.

NASCAR evolves in the sport making changes for the safety of the drivers, including making mid-season changes in 2009 NASCAR implemented the double-file restarts midsummer. Following the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr., NASCAR mandated in October of 2001 that either the HANS device or the Hutchens device to be worn during the race.

Another fatal incident in 2002 taking the life of Eric Martin, who was killed at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October during an ARCA event, NASCAR mandated that spotters must be positioned above the grandstand for practices just as they were during the race. Therefore proofing NASCAR makes the safety changes when necessary.

Section 9-16 On-Track Incident Procedure

  • 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 step:
  1. Shut off electrical power and, if driver is uninjured, lower window net
  2. Do not loosen, disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official.
  3. At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron.
  4. 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 direction 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.
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