NASCAR bars drivers from exiting cars after wrecks

BROOKLYN, Mich. (AP) — Even Jimmie Johnson has a temper — one that was on display long before he became a
six-time champion and one of NASCAR’s most respected drivers.

"I guess the one experience that comes to mind for me in Cup was maybe my rookie year at
Bristol," he said. "Robby Gordon wrecked me on a restart, and I got out and shot him the
bird."

NASCAR has thrived for years thanks to the personalities of some of its biggest stars and that includes
an occasional feud, gesture or angry encounter on the track. But less than a week after Kevin Ward Jr.
was killed during a sprint car race in New York after being struck by a car driven by Tony Stewart,
NASCAR on Friday barred its drivers from approaching the track or moving cars after an incident during
the race.

"Through time you have to recognize when you get a reminder or tap on the shoulder, something that
may need to be addressed," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing
development. "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."

Johnson said he supports NASCAR’s rule addition. The father of two also has a slightly different
perspective now on his "salute" to Gordon all those years ago.

"I’m sure I picked up a few fans and lost a few fans," he said. "Now, as a parent, if my
child’s hero was out there shooting the bird to another ballplayer, baseball player or football player
or whatever it was, I’d probably try to steer my kids away from that. So, it depends. I don’t think that
entertainment value should come with any safety implications. Safety is the No. 1 priority for drivers,
crew members, and the officials that are out there on the race track. And if it turns a few fans off,
then in my opinion, they’re a fan for the wrong reason."

The new rule takes effect immediately and applies to all NASCAR series.

"Really, we’re formalizing rules that have been there," Pemberton said. "It’s reminders
that take place during drivers meetings with drivers about on-track accidents."

IndyCar reviewed its safety guidelines after Ward’s death and the protocol is similar to what NASCAR
announced Friday, IndyCar spokesman Mike Kitchel said. Drivers are supposed to stay put until a safety
team arrives unless there is a fire or other extenuating circumstances.

It remains to be seen how NASCAR will enforce its provision, and how much the threat of penalties will
deter drivers in the heat of the moment.

"There’s still going to be confrontations out there and that’s never going to change. People will
still get mad at each other," Joey Logano said. "You’ve got to keep the big picture of staying
safe out there and somehow controlling your emotions."

Last Saturday, Stewart’s car struck Ward during a sprint car race in Canandaigua, New York. After
Stewart’s car appeared to clip Ward’s car, sending it spinning, Ward left the car during the caution
period, walked down the track and was hit by Stewart. His funeral was Thursday.

Stewart, who could face criminal charges, is skipping this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan
International Speedway. He did not race last week at Watkins Glen, a few hours after Ward was killed.

Stewart once threw his helmet at Matt Kenseth’s car. In 2003, Kevin Harvick climbed on the roof of his
car to shout at Ricky Rudd, who had nudged him from behind late in a race. The 1979 Daytona 500 is
remembered for a last-lap crash between Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough as they raced for the lead.
The crash led to a three-man fight after Allison’s brother, Bobby, pulled up to the accident scene.

An occasional shouting match or obscene gesture may seem like a harmless frivolity, but Ward’s death
underscored the dangers of being on foot near moving race cars.

Johnson said the risk may be higher on dirt tracks.

"A lot of those dirt drivers don’t have spotters. They don’t have radios in the car. And in a NASCAR
event, especially if you’re part of the crash and that guy is mad at you, your spotter is telling you
where he is," Johnson said. "I would just say that hopefully short tracks pick up this
philosophy and enforce it. But I don’t know if it will change a driver’s mind as they get out of the
race car. But it would be nice for the rest of the field to know what has happened and if there is a
hot-tempered driver on foot."

NASCAR hopes that will be less of an issue now that post-accident procedures have been spelled out in the
rule book.

"Will that stop a driver that’s really upset?" Johnson said. "I don’t know. It’s hard to
say."

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