Keselowski questions effectiveness of rules keeping drivers in cars under caution

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As some local tracks begin to react to Saturday night’s Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident by mandating rules to keep drivers in their cars under caution until safety crews arrive, it’s easy to wonder if NASCAR will eventually do the same for its own respective series.

The 20-year-old Ward was struck by the oncoming car of Stewart after he crashed, exited from his vehicle, and walked down the racing surface to apparently confront the Sprint Cup superstar. Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

Former Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski – who himself got out of his car and ran across the infield grass after crashing in last October’s Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway – said he was glad to not be in NASCAR’s position regarding a potential rule change.

He also wondered how effective a rule about keeping the drivers in their cars would be.

“Whether it’s racing or society, I’m not aware of any rule or law that works without the ability to enforce it,” he said today in a NASCAR teleconference. “I don’t know how you can enforce a rule like that unless you had a robot on the track to grab the person and put them back in the car.

“The only way you can enforce it is with a penalty system afterwards. Really, at that point it’s not effective. It’s a difficult rule to try to make work.”

But some tracks are trying to do just that.

Yesterday, two New York dirt tracks – Fulton Speedway and Brewerton Speedway – decreed that drivers can only get out of their cars under caution if told to do so by a safety worker or in other certain situations such as a fire. If a driver gets out of his/her car without permission, they now run the risk of fines or suspensions.

Since that particular announcement, other tracks including the Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois and Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway and Lonesome Pine Raceway have also said they’re changing their policies.

In regards to racing at the local level, Keselowski said that he does not usually take part in such races like the one Stewart was in Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, largely because of rules from his boss, Roger Penske. He also cited the potential of losing valuable sponsors if he were to get injured.

However, he didn’t believe that NASCAR should take a hard look at the matter of its big-name stars racing in these kinds of events.

Claiming that “there’s no one-size-fits-all program that really makes sense for this,” Keselowski added that every driver has their own interests away from the NASCAR world and how important they are to them.

“Those interests vary between one guy might want to go run sprint [cars] like Tony, another might want to run late model [cars] like Kyle Busch – who knows, maybe it’s a dune buggy,” he said. “I’ve heard some guys doing that. [Former Nationwide Series driver] Travis Pastrana went base jumping one week last year.

“That’s what makes us who we are. That’s what makes us tick. The racing grind can really wear down on you. You have to do certain things that work for you in your life to make you happy to keep you going, to keep you at a very high level with your own happiness.

“It’s difficult to try and limit anyone to those things.  That’s not just a racer, that would be any employer. So, I don’t see coming in and stopping those things. I think every situation’s different.”

Keselowski also touched on Saturday’s tragedy and the level of interest around it from fans and media, stressing that now was the time to “let the dust settle for a little bit and let some cooler heads prevail.”

“Right now, I don’t even think everybody has all the facts,” he said. “I think we have to get to that level first. For me personally – have some respect to the family, get through their process, then kind of dig into the hows, whys, whats, how we can possibly prevent something like that happening in the future.”

Ward will be laid to rest on Thursday in New York. Stewart did not compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Watkins Glen, and his status for this weekend’s race at Michigan is unknown.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.