Tony Stewart Tragedy Prompts Nascar to Keep Drivers in Racecars

Nascar banned its drivers from leaving their cars during a race after three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart struck and killed a fellow competitor in a dirt-track event on Aug. 9.

Barring circumstances such as fire or cockpit smoke, drivers involved in wrecks must now shut off electrical power and wait for safety personnel. At no time are they or their crew members allowed to approach the track or another moving vehicle.

The change comes less than a week after Stewart ran over 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. at a non-Nascar event in upstate New York. Stewart bumped Ward into the wall, then Ward left his vehicle and walked out onto the dimly lit track and was gesturing at Stewart when he was hit. Ward, 20, was pronounced dead at a local hospital 45 minutes later.

“Through time, you have to recognize when you get a reminder or tap on the shoulder, something that may need to be addressed,” Nascar Vice President Robin Pemberton said today in a press conference. “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.”

Section 9-16 of the Nascar rule book, called “On-track Incident Procedure,” takes effect immediately, Pemberton said.

Investigators said yesterday that they are still seeking witnesses and gathering evidence surrounding Ward’s death. The probe could take another two weeks.

Stewart, who will skip his second straight Nascar race this weekend, is the co-owner of the Stewart-Haas team, which also fields Sprint Cup cars for Danica Patrick, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch. Stewart’s sponsors include Exxon Mobil Corp., General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet, Coca-Cola Co. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley, according to his website, and his annual earnings are estimated by Forbes at $12.5 million.

Stewart in 2012 left his car midrace, after contact with Matt Kenseth caused Stewart’s car to hit the inside wall. With the race under caution on the next lap, Stewart got out of his car and threw his helmet at Kenseth’s vehicle as it went down pit row.

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