Drivers React to Rule Enforcement
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on August 15, 2014 | 1:30 P.M. EST
“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.” (Photo: Getty Images)
See Also: NASCAR Formalizes Safety Rule
BROOKLYN, Mich. - Several drivers shared their thoughts on NASCAR’s rule enforcement regarding remaining in their vehicles after an on-track incident.
The sanctioning body formalized the mandate at a press conference Friday morning and reiterated fines and penalties would be assessed should a driver leave their car or truck under a caution period.
Jeff Burton, who is filling in for Tony Stewart this weekend at Michigan, supports the decision.
“I think NASCAR is in a position to in some cases immediately respond to situations,” Burton said of last Saturday’s sprint car accident that took the life of Kevin Ward. “As we all know, NASCAR has been unbelievable in regard to safety. I believe they have led the industry as it relates to safety for the last 10 years or so. I think NASCAR does a really good job of looking at all the information and making the best decision they can make.
“I support the decision that they feel like it's what they need to do. It's pretty simple. I'm proud that they want safety to be on the forefront. That's what this rule is all about.”
While drivers embrace any movement to increase safety the jury is still out for some whether emotions can be can be kept in check with or without rules enforcement.
“I know it’s a hot topic,” said Jimmie Johnson. “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.”
Johnson doesn’t have a reputation as being a hotheaded driver by any means or letting emotions boil over on a regular basis although he does have at least one example of when things got overheated.
“Yeah, I guess the one experience that comes to mind for me in Cup, was maybe my rookie year at Bristol,” Johnson remembered. “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.”
Kyle Larson, who comes from a short track and open wheel racing background, believes the mandate will ensure drivers are more mindful about leaving their cars at any point on the track.
“It’s basically still the same rules we have had,” said Larson. “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.”
Opponents of the policy are concerned it will remove emotion from the sport and in turn an entertainment factor. For several years promotional and advertising efforts have used images of upset drivers throwing helmets and gesturing at one another.
However, Matt Kenseth isn’t concerned the new policy will extract any of that drama or conflict from the sport.
“No. I don't think there ever was an intention for -- 'boys to have at it' -- out of the car while there are still cars out on the race track,” said Kenseth. “I don't think that's ever been any intention.
“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 and leave us as close as we can in the cars as sure."