NASCAR announces new rules to keep drivers in cars under cautions

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Following the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy almost one week ago in New York State, NASCAR has announced immediate new rules for drivers that are involved in on-track incidents.

The new rule is listed as Section 9-16: On-Track Incident Procedure in the 2014 NASCAR rule book. It reads:

During an Event, if a race car 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 race car (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

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.

In a press conference today at Michigan International Speedway, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said the new rules were a formalization of reminders that have been made in pre-race driver’s meetings.

He also acknowledged the role of the Stewart/Ward incident in the sanctioning body’s decision.

On Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Ward had an on-track tangle with Stewart that ended with him spinning out. The 20-year-old then exited the car and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

Unfortunately, Stewart’s car ended up clipping Ward, who was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead on arrival. Ward was laid to rest on Thursday, and a short time later that day, Stewart Haas Racing announced that Stewart would not compete in this weekend’s Sprint Cup event at MIS.

“Through time, you have to recognize when you get a reminder or a tap on the shoulder – something that may need to be addressed,” Pemberton said today. “And 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 was one of those [things] that was obviously – everybody paid attention to – and it is on the heels of that.”

As for enforcement of the new rule, Pemberton said that it would be considered a “behavioral penalty” and that NASCAR would address each instance “according to each individual situation.”

NASCAR’s decision comes after multiple local tracks across the country changed their own caution procedures in the aftermath of the Stewart/Ward incident, including: Fulton and Brewerton Speedways in New York, Tri-City Speedway in Illinois, and Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway in Tennessee.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”