Anger Management: New Rules Set By NASCAR To Keep Heated Drivers In Check On Track

Whelen All American Series LogoSTAFFORD – In the wake of the tragic accident last Saturday involving NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Tony Stewart, that led to the death of Sprint Car driver Kevin Ward Jr., NASCAR on Friday announced new rules overseeing the behavior of drivers during events.

And as drivers prepared for a night of short track racing Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway, officials emphasized to competitors strict penalties will be the standard going forward for drivers putting themselves in dangerous positions on the track during races.

The 20-year old Ward was killed at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park when he was struck by a car driven by Stewart. Stewart was making a special appearance in the event.
After being involved in a crash with Stewart, Ward exited his car and approached Stewart’s car as Stewart drove around the track under caution.

From the top levels of NASCAR down to grassroots weekly NASCAR sanctioned short tracks like Stafford, Thompson Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl, drivers exiting cars and angrily approaching other cars still moving on the track is a common sight.

On Friday NASCAR announced new rules stating that – barring emergency situations – a driver involved in a crash is not allowed to exit a car until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR official. They also mandated that after exiting their car a driver must either proceed to an ambulance or safety vehicle.

The new rules also stated that: “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. … NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.”

The new rules are in effect for all NASCAR divisions, including the regional divisions such as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour – which competes regularly at all three Connecticut short tracks – and for their NASCAR Whelen All-American Series sanctioned tracks such as Stafford, Waterford and Thompson.

“Throughout the history of our sport, NASCAR has reviewed and analyzed situations and occurrences that take place not just in NASCAR racing but also throughout all motorsports and other sports,” NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton said in a release from NASCAR. “When we believe we can do something to make our sport safer and better for the competitors and others involved in the competition environment, we react quickly. Safety always has been priority number one at NASCAR.”

During the weekly drivers meeting Friday at Stafford, Tom Fox, director of racing operations and competition at the track, enforced to drivers that penalties will be assessed for drivers getting out of cars during events. Fox, a former regular racer at all three tracks in Connecticut told drivers: “Keep your emotions in check. … We will enforce penalties.”Fox said drivers become desensitized to the dangers around them.

“These racecar drivers – myself included for years – think nothing of going onto the racing surface under yellow and walking around like you own the place,” Fox said. “That certainly is the mentality and I think if you’re enraged, I think that it’s clearly possible to put yourself in danger, there’s no doubt.

“We’ve been fortunate, I haven’t had a terribly unsafe situation where I’ve had to penalize somebody. People get mad and go up the kick the back of somebody’s racecar and stuff. We’ve been lucky, we haven’t had an unsafe situation develop in many years. But clearly we’re headed in the direction of handing out penalties and making sure it doesn’t happen at all.”

Ryan Preece of Berlin, the reigning Whelen Modified Tour champion and a weekly regular in the SK Modified divisions at Stafford and Thompson, said drivers likely need to know that strict penalties will be enforced to keep them in check.

“I think sometimes after you’ve had something happen on the track you get caught up in letting the other guy know you’re a little upset,” Preece said. “Obviously with that tragedy, it brings it forward that bad things can happen. It’s unfortunate that we even have to make it clear to drivers. I’ve been in that situation numerous times where I’ve gotten out of my car and I was pretty upset. But everybody is looking to keep everybody safe so it’s all for the best.

“We think we can just jump out in front of a racecar and stop it. If the guy chooses not to hit the brakes then we’re going to right on the hood. We don’t really think sometimes about the repercussions of what could happen.”

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  1. darealgoodfella says

    Very good.

  2. reacting for the sake of reacting…. Classic nascar….

  3. Throw the red. The driver on foot is only the first half of the danger. The other half is the still-moving car he intends to confront. As hostile intent becomes evident, go red until control is established. A few seconds oughtta do it ; then back to yellow. The “visual” of the red is a sharp check to the driver on foot, as well as to the still-moving driver who may think he needs to show that he won’t back down, and to whom seeing the other cars stop lets him “save face”. Nice if the timing works out that they’re on opposite ends of the track.

  4. I was watching the Sprint Cup race at Bristol last Saturday night and I saw Denny Hamlin walking out on the track and throwing something at the 4 car. Am I nuts or is this what NASCAR has just ruled as not legal? There were race officials and clean up crews right near him, but no one was trying to stop Denny from doing this. Why put new rules in place if the competitors are just going to ignore them? Was NASCAR watching? Will Denny get fined or something? The race announcers did not say anything about it. I saw no mention of this from Shawn. Did anybody else see this happen?

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