Drivers react to on-track incident procedure
August 15, 2014, Staff report, NASCAR.com
Drivers weighed in Friday regarding formalized rules in the NASCAR rulebook, which expanded earlier in the day with a bulletin requiring that drivers remain in their cars until they come to the attention of safety crews or track or series officials.
The addition, following the death of short-track racer Kevin Ward Jr. in an incident with Tony Stewart during a sprint car race last weekend, was meant to reinforce instructions from the pre-race drivers' meeting under the formal heading of Section 9-16: On-Track Incident Procedure. It also prohibited venturing onto the track surface or apron or approaching another moving vehicle.
A sampling of drivers' reactions:
"I will say that regardless of rule changes, I think everything that went on last weekend, I believe that it's a turning point internally for all the drivers. I think people will be a little more careful."
-- Carl Edwards
"The biggest thing is it's just for our safety and beyond that, that's something that NASCAR has always looked at in the past and they've made countless changes for drivers' safety and that's all we look at. It's just looking out for us and making sure that we're okay after an incident like that or any kind of incident on the race track. You've got to take that into consideration and I think that's a good call on their part."
-- Chase Elliott
"I understand because of this situation, it forces everybody to sort of look at things a little bit more under a microscope and maybe make an adjustment here or there. For me personally, it doesn't change anything of how I'm going to go about things. I'm going to always try to keep my emotions in check, and I'm going to use common sense and that doesn't matter if it's on the track or off the track."
-- Jeff Gordon
"I'll be the first one to say that I might not handle things the best way in my life and I feel like NASCAR and probably every form of motorsports is going to be looking at ways to be able to correctly make the rules to be able to keep drivers safe as well as safety workers and things like that. There's a lot of people out there on the race track and this is something that NASCAR has always said in the drivers meeting. They've always told us 'stay with your car; put the window net down.' There's times when you know the car is going to be able to make it back to the pits and there's times when you know that it isn't. Sometimes you want to get out because you got the wind knocked out of you or you're a little bit, I don’t know what the right word is but you're a little bit worrisome about whether there can ever be a fire or things like that. I don't know. It's definitely a fine line to walk between aggression and having people feel like you're a pushover and also being invested enough to not get yourself in a bad situation."
-- Sam Hornish Jr.
"I guess the one experience that comes to mind for me in Cup was maybe my rookie year at Bristol. Robby Gordon wrecked me on a restart, and I got out and shot him the bird. So, I guess that’s my one time of letting emotion get to me and stayed on the race track to show him the one-finger salute. I know it's a hot topic. I think that NASCAR has made the right move in redefining or better explaining; even making consequences for, letting emotions getting the best of you as a race car driver. Will that stop a driver that's really upset? I don't know. It's hard to say."
-- Jimmie Johnson
"It's basically still the same rules we have had, I think, just kind of reminding us and maybe going to be stricter with it where we have to stay in the car until the safety workers get to us. Then stay in line under cautions and things like that, which is basically what we do now I just think they are just reminding us. If you are on fire or something you obviously have to get out. It's good that they are reinforcing it and like I said reminding us again."
-- Kyle Larson
"Honestly, we haven't thought about it for a long time. You just don't even think about those other cars going by and the slowest they're going by -- at a place like Pocono is 70 (mph). Anybody who has ever changed their tire along an interstate knows that's still pretty fast and things can happen. I think it's good to spell it out. Most of the time we're impatient to get out for a variety of reasons -- even if you're not mad or whatever, you're impatient to get out and see what kind of damage you have. Usually after the safety crews like to hurry up and get it hooked up and get it back and try to get back in the race -- that type of thing. I think it's good to spell it out..."
-- Matt Kenseth
"It's a good decision on NASCAR's behalf to be proactive. We are constantly reminded how our race cars can be dangerous. And if this is a step to make the driver safer after an accident or to prevent an accident from happening while getting out of the race car, this is a good move by NASCAR and I support it. I think it's a move you'll see from a lot of other series as well."
-- David Ragan
"You know, that's common sense forever. We all know that. Race car drivers know that you don't mess with moving vehicles. You don't have a good chance when you do. I mean, we all know that but it's nice that NASCAR kind of put it out there again, and we have to stick to it now unless you want to get some type of a penalty. So I don't see anything wrong with that at all."
-- Kasey Kahne
"I think that a lot of it is just what you feel comfortable with and what you don't. And sometimes there's emotion wrapped up to it, and you're not thinking. You're not even thinking at all. It's all in making sure everyone is on the safe side of everything, which is fine with me."
"It's certainly reactionary and it needs to be done. It's a legitimate thing to talk about, especially after the latest incident so I think we all know it, but knowing that it's written in black and white now makes it a little different."
"It's a hard one for me because in one aspect obviously one of the foundations of our sport is emotion, and obviously we're all competitors and we're all emotional. At the same time, I do like the rule because there's times that you're out there and you get closer than you want to somebody if they come back out on the race track, or maybe you're not even paying attention, you're focused on getting your car going and someone else shows displeasure not even at you and you don't see them until the last second. I definitely applaud NASCAR for doing this. At the end of the day, we're a resource that a lot of other series and a lot other race tracks look up to, and so hopefully this will help maybe start a trend that not just affects here but affects all the way down to our local Friday and Saturday night races. I think ultimately that would be a huge step in our sport."