In the wake of Kevin Ward’s death, NASCAR changes rules to keep drivers safer after accidents


(Steve Helber/AP)

As the investigation continues into the incident that killed race car driver Kevin Ward Jr. on Saturday night, NASCAR officials announced a new rule on Friday: Drivers must remain in their cars after being sidelined by an accident. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development, told USA Today that the organization informed teams of the new rule before practice at Michigan International Speedway on Friday morning.

The new rule is very specific when it comes to walking on the racing surface or approaching another moving vehicle — don’t do it.

Pemberton didn’t say the rule change came as a direct response to what happened on Saturday between NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and Ward at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park, but the vice president did note the change was a reaction to past events. Per the rule update sent around to teams, Pemberton said:

“Throughout the history of our sport, NASCAR has reviewed and anaylzed situations and occurrences that take place not just in NASCAR racing but also throughout all motorsports and other sports. … When we believe we can do something to make our sport safer and better for the competitors and other involved in the competition environment, we react quickly.”

Stewart is at the center of the accident that resulted in Ward’s death. Eyewitnesses are split on their recollection of what happened on Saturday at the Upstate New York dirt track, with some saying Stewart sped up to “intimidate” Ward after he collided with the young driver’s car, while others remain adamant that it was a freak accident that resulted from a series of unfortunate circumstances, including a dimly lit track and Ward’s dark racing suit.

Stewart, who pulled out of this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, has not been charged in the ongoing investigation.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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