Monday, August 18, 2014

New On-Track Incident Policy: Boys Don't Have at It?

Robin Pemberton discusses NASCAR's change to its on-track incident policy, Aug. 15, 2014.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images   
The Allison brothers and Cale Yarborough slugging it out in the infield at Daytona.

Tony Stewart tossing his helmet at Matt Kenseth's No. 17 car.

These infamous scenarios occurred in the heat of the moment, but after the tragic accident that claimed the life of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., we may not see any more -- at least not on the track.

NASCAR recently announced a new policy aimed at keeping drivers in their cars after crashes -- barring a fire, smoke or other safety concerns that force them out of the cockpit -- until safety personnel arrive at the scene. The rule specifies that drivers cannot even loosen their safety belts until directed to do so by a member of the safety crew.

While parts of the rule seems excessive, it's a necessary change.

The accident didn't happen at a NASCAR-sanctioned event, but officials still took action. Perhaps they felt the Ward incident could have an impact on their fiscal future, since one of their biggest stars was involved. Perhaps they felt it was time to put driver safety before ratings.

But maybe it was just time.

While I admit I love a good tangle between two drivers, there have been too many close calls. I don't agree with NASCAR dictating when a driver can loosen the belts and other safety equipment, since these are, in fact, adults. Telling them when to remove their safety belts is micromanagement at its finest. I do agree with the driver having to remain in the vehicle until safety crews arrive. There is just too much going on in those moments after an accident or a parts failure, with cars still on the track, possible fires and safety crews rushing to the scene.

Drivers are still going to be mad at one another, that's a fact. They will find other ways to express their anger. Remember Harvick leaping over Biffle's car in Victory Lane?

Tempers flare and emotions run high. Accidents happen. But hopefully a driver being hit by a fellow driver's car will never occur again. If it means fans don't see another fistfight, then so be it. We'll just have to settle for some great racing.

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