NEW RULE FOR DRIVERS: Nascar has told drivers to stay in their cars during caution period following a crash, following the fatal incident on August 9 when Tony Stwart struck Kevin Ward Jnr (pictured here). Image: YouTube
DETROIT, Michigan - Nascar said it would forbid drivers from getting out of their cars during caution periods following an on-track fatality on August 9 2014, when three-time champion Tony Stewart struck and killed a fellow driver.
The most widely followed motorsports organisation in the United States said the new rule would require drivers involved in crashes to remain in their car unless it was unsafe to do so due to fire or smoke.
A track safety official would then direct the driver to leave the car and walk directly to an ambulance or other vehicle.
TIME TO ADDRESS
The new rule puts into the books something that had "been informal, just an understanding," said Robin Pemberton, Nascar's vice-president of competition and racing development.
Stewart struck Kevin Ward Jnr (20) during a dirt track race on August 9 in upstate New York after Ward left his car and pointed at Stewart while standing in the middle of the track.
Pemberton told a news conference at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan: "You have to recognise when you get a reminder or tap on the shoulder, something that may need to be addressed. It was time to address this."
No charges have been filed against 43-year-old Stewart, a veteran in the sport. The investigation has not yet been completed.
Stewart did not take part in the Michigan 400 on Sunday (August 17), the second straight Nascar race he has skipped following the deadly incident in Canandaigua, New York, his team said. Jeff Burton had taken Stewart's place in the race.
Brett Frood, the executive vice-president of Stewart's race team, Stewart Haas Racing, said the decision to bow out "was Tony's."
Frood told reporters: "An emotional week for him. He's grieving. He made the decision he's not ready to get in the race car and will take it week by week. It will be up to Tony (Stewart) when he's ready to get back in the car."
Stewart and Ward bumped cars during last Saturday's dirt-track race, and the impact sent Ward's car careening into an outside retaining wall.
As the caution flag came out, Ward jumped angrily out of his car and walked to the middle of the track as Stewart, who remained in the race, came around on the next lap.
Investigators are trying to determine if Stewart hit the throttle as he approached Ward because his car appeared to fishtail before striking Ward. Authorities have said they do not have any evidence of wrongdoing by Stewart.
Frood said Stewart's sponsors, which provide millions of dollars to the race team, were unwavering in their support.
Skipping Sunday's race eliminates Stewart from the Chase, Nascar's version of the playoffs.
Frood said: "I'll be honest, the Chase is of the lowest priority as it relates to Tony right now. Right now it's about getting him in a better place than he is. When he's ready to do that, he'll get back in the car."