NASCAR officials released new rules for drivers on Friday, less than a week after a driver was killed during a dirt track race in New York.
Twenty-year-old driver Kevin Ward Jr was hit and killed on a dirt track Saturday evening by a car driven by NASCAR champion Tony Stewart. This was a day before the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. Stewart did not race at Watkins Glen and said Thursday he won't race this weekend at Michigan.
The accident touched off debates as video of the crash circulated online, with fans questioning whether Stewart, known for his hot temper, tried to send his own message by buzzing Ward, or whether Ward recklessly stepped onto a dark track clad in black.
After a bump from Stewart sent Ward's car spinning into the wall, the young driver climbed out and walked onto the track in his firesuit, gesturing angrily. Stewart's No. 14 car hit him and Ward was thrown through the air as his parents and fans watched in horror.
No charges have been filed, but Ontario County Sheriff's deputies are still investigating.
NASCAR announced Friday that it will add a rule that addresses on-track incidents as part of its race procedures.
The rule, listed as Section 9-16, will be an addendum to the NASCAR rule book and will apply to all of its racing series, "effective immediately."
The new rule says if a driver is involved in an on-track incident or is stopped on or near the racing surface, the driver should shut off the car, keep on all driver personal safety equipment, head towards an ambulance or other vehicle directed by safety personnel.
The rules now say no driver or crew member should "approach any portion of the racing surface or apron" and "at no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle."
"All vehicles not involved in the incident or that are able to continue afterwards should slow down to a cautious speed," the new rule states. "Cars in line behind the safety car should not weave or otherwise stray from the line in the vicinity of the incident."
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development, says the rule is "part of the evolution of NASCAR's rules and regulations."
"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," said Pemberton.
"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."
As with other behavioral infractions, NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.
Copyright 2014 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.
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