Two N.Y. dirt tracks mandate all drivers must stay in cars after on-track incidents

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A common question that has been asked by many in the aftermath of Saturday’s Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident is if it could have been prevented.

After Ward spun out at Canadaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park on Saturday night following a wheel-to-wheel battle with Stewart, an angry Ward exited his car and walked down the racing surface to show his displeasure with the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Sadly, Stewart’s car ended up striking Ward, who was transported to a local hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. The 20-year-old will be laid to rest on Thursday.

Now, in a likely response to the tragedy, two New York dirt tracks have adopted an immediate rule change that mandates all drivers must stay in their cars in the event of on-track incidents.

As part of the change, the 3/8-mile Fulton (N.Y.) Speedway and 1/3-mile Brewerton (N.Y.) Speedway now decree that only safety and wrecker crews are allowed on their tracks in the event of an accident.

Additionally, should a driver leave their car on the track during a caution period for any reason, the race will be immediately red-flagged and all cars will come to a stop.

Drivers will be allowed to exit the car if they are requested to do so by a safety crew member or in cases of emergency such as a fire.

However, if drivers leave their cars without permission for any reason, they’ll be subject to fines and/or suspensions at the discretion of track management.

Some have wondered if the Stewart/Ward incident will be enough to compel tracks and series across the country to implement rules such as these to further protect their drivers.

It will bear watching if other organizations follow the lead of the Fulton and Brewerton Speedways. And if they do, how widespread and how quick will such a movement be?

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”