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Nascar adds new rule on exiting cars after crashes

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) -- NASCAR added a rule Friday barring its drivers from approaching the track or moving cars after accidents, less than a week after driver Kevin Ward Jr. was struck and killed during a dirt-track race in New York.

If a car is involved in an accident and can no longer keep going - and no extenuating circumstances exist such as smoke in the cockpit or fire - the driver should not loosen any personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR or track official. After being told to exit the car, the driver should proceed to an emergency vehicle or as otherwise directed.

The rule takes effect immediately and applies to all of NASCAR's series.

"Really, we're formalizing rules that have been there," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition and racing development. "It's reminders that take place during drivers meetings with drivers about on-track accidents."

Last Saturday, Stewart's car struck and killed Ward at a sprint car race in Canandaigua, New York. After Stewart appeared to clip Ward's car, sending it spinning, Ward left the car during the caution period, walked down the track and was hit by Stewart. His funeral was Thursday.

Stewart could face criminal charges. He is skipping this weekend's Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

"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."

It remains to be seen how NASCAR will enforce the provision, and how much the threat of penalties will deter drivers in the heat of the moment. Jimmie Johnson, six-time champion and one of NASCAR's most respected drivers, said he thought it was the right move.

"Will that stop a driver that's really upset?" Johnson said. "I don't know. It's hard to say."

"There's still going to be confrontations out there and that's never going to change. People will still get mad at each other," added Joey Logano. "You've got to keep the big picture of staying safe out there and somehow controlling your emotions."

The sport has thrived thanks to the personalities of some of its biggest stars and that includes an occasional feud or angry encounter at the track. Stewart once threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth's windshield. In 2003, Kevin Harvick climbed on the roof of his car to shout at Ricky Rudd, who had nudged him from behind late in a race.

The 1979 Daytona 500 is remembered for a last-lap crash between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough as they raced for the lead. The crash led to a three-man fight after Allison's brother, Bobby, pulled up to the accident scene.

An occasional shouting match or obscene gesture may seem like a harmless frivolity, but Ward's death underscored the dangers of being on foot near moving race cars.

Johnson said the risk may be higher on dirt tracks.

"A lot of those dirt drivers don't have spotters. They don't have radios in the car. And in a NASCAR event, especially if you're part of the crash and that guy is mad at you, your spotter is telling you where he is," Johnson said. "I would just say that hopefully short tracks pick up this philosophy and enforce it. But I don't know if it will change a driver's mind as they get out of the race car. But it would be nice for the rest of the field to know what has happened and if there is a hot-tempered driver on foot."

Johnson recalled a Sprint Cup race his rookie year at Bristol when Robby Gordon wrecked him on a restart.

"I got out and shot him the bird," Johnson said.

He has a slightly different perspective now.

"I'm sure I picked up a few fans and lost a few fans," he said. "Now, as a parent, if my child's hero was out there shooting the bird to another ballplayer, baseball player or football player or whatever it was, I'd probably try to steer my kids away from that. So, it depends.

"I don't think that entertainment value should come with any safety implications. Safety is the number one priority for drivers, crew members, and the officials that are out there on the race track. And if it turns a few fans off, then in my opinion, they're a fan for the wrong reason."

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gwurst62 August 15 2014 at 11:18 AM

Everyone is so quick to judge Tony Stewart but no one seems to have a problem with the fact that Kevin Ward, without regard for his safety or the threat of imminent danger, deliberately sought out Stewart's car in an effort to confront him as it was rounding the track rather than to move off of the track and deal with Stewart after the race. He put himself in harm's way, period.

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17 replies
oceansblue888 August 15 2014 at 11:23 AM

you need a "rule" for something that would be common sense???

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17 replies
a5mag12 August 15 2014 at 11:35 AM

I wish the reporting on this would just be truthful. If you watch the videos available you can clearly see Ward try and jump onto Tony's car and grab the wing. Also Tony did not spin Ward out. These cars slide the back out around the curves. If you are on the outside of someone you have to allow for that. Ward did not.

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6 replies
m0d96 August 15 2014 at 11:39 AM

Thats a big fat nothing rule. Make them stay in the car until safety arrives. If they get out, you sit out next week.

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5 replies
Mike August 15 2014 at 11:29 AM

Also, Stewart didn't "clip" Ward's car and send it spinning. Stewart went a little high with Ward on the outside, Ward lost the rear end and collided with the wall, sending it spinning. I'd say that's a significant distinction.

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3 replies
autounionbailout August 15 2014 at 12:01 PM


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11 replies
tomkota August 15 2014 at 11:22 AM

if the car is not on fire stay in it.......or just red flag the race and stop everone in place............

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2 replies
jimdavis11a tomkota August 15 2014 at 2:17 PM

Red flag will save lives in the end.

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James tomkota August 15 2014 at 5:45 PM

Your period key is stuck.

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1 reply
mark and sheri James August 16 2014 at 1:38 AM

No, he is just having a period.

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Don the Prince August 15 2014 at 11:35 AM

If they leave their car unless it's on fire or another life threating reason there should be a huge fine. The owner and his team included. They understand $$$$.

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2 replies
imaviper49 Don the Prince August 15 2014 at 12:00 PM

From what I understand it will be $$$

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guinner16 Don the Prince August 15 2014 at 12:47 PM

Fine is only a start. Take points and races. The sponsors on the hood missing camera time will hit the back pocket more than a fine.

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1 reply
ED guinner16 August 15 2014 at 1:53 PM

Come on leave Tony alone .Ifeel bad for the family but he should have not been on the track love you Tony

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msmith6791 August 15 2014 at 11:27 AM

Too little, too late, eh? Can't imagine why someone didn't think of this 20 years go. DUH! Sad!

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2 replies
bienhoa72alum msmith6791 August 15 2014 at 1:03 PM

Until now all drivers knew that it was simply stupid to do something like ward did. Apparently now NASCAR has to spell out commom sense on the track

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2 replies
Carol bienhoa72alum August 15 2014 at 2:46 PM

bienhoa - um, these are sprint cars. They're not sanctioned by nascar

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theomegaman72 bienhoa72alum August 16 2014 at 12:10 AM

Tony Stewart and many others have done it...guess they are stupid

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expicker msmith6791 August 15 2014 at 1:16 PM

Twenty years ago drivers were smart enough not to charge into an oncoming race car...

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1 reply
theomegaman72 expicker August 16 2014 at 12:11 AM

cept for the times Tony Stewart has done it, right?

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o2bncapecod August 15 2014 at 5:17 PM

The jerk jumped out of his car and ran onto a track with race cars going like hell....and he expected what exactly? Sorry he died but his actions precipated the results.

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