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.

Lauda labels Verstappen USGP penalty ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’

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Mercedes Formula 1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has called the FIA stewards’ decision to penalize Max Verstappen for his last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to take third place from Raikkonen on the last lap after a stunning fight through the field, completing the fightback with a bold pass in the final sector.

However, the stewards stripped Verstappen of P3 after he appeared to put all four wheels off the circuit when riding the kerb to pass Raikkonen, causing outcry in the F1 community.

Speaking to reporters after the race in Austin, Lauda condemned the stewards’ decision, slamming them for interfering in the late fight.

“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” Lauda said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“So we complained about that and we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere – very simple.

“If the driver goes over another and upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year.

“For six months it was OK, but this decision was the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong.”

Lauda said F1 team bosses would discuss stewarding at the next Strategy Group meeting, which is due to be held in the next two weeks.

“These are racing drivers. We are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions,” Lauda said.

“At the next strategy meeting, we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that.

“They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”