NASCAR could issue an edict as early as this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway that makes it mandatory for drivers to stay in their cars until safety personnel arrive.
Tracks around the country have changed their rules in the wake of Kevin Ward Jr.’s death in a sprint car race.
Ward was sent into the wall when his car was bumped by Tony Stewart’s in a dirt-track race on Saturday night in Canandaigua. Ward got out of the car and walked onto the track, where he was hit by Stewart.
Brewerton Speedway and Fulton Speedway, New York dirt tracks under the same management, announced new rules that drivers would be required to stay in their cars during an accident.
“If a driver, for whatever reason, exits a car on the track during a caution period, the race will automatically be placed under a red flag and all cars will come to a complete stop,” a news release on the tracks’ website says. “A driver may exit a car if requested by a safety crew member or if safety warrants in cases such as a fire. Drivers that exit a car without permission, for whatever reason, are subject to fine and/or suspension at the discretion of track management.”
Brad Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, said it could be tough for NASCAR to enforce a similar rule.
“I’m not aware of any rule or law that works without the ability to enforce it,” he said. “I don’t know how you can enforce a rule like that unless you had a robot on the track to grab the person and put them back in the car. The only way you can enforce it is with a penalty system afterwards. Really, at that point, it’s not effective. It’s a difficult rule to try to make work.”
Will Power has been here before. For the third time in five seasons, Power sits atop the IndyCar series points standings with just three races to go. But Power’s title hopes were dashed in both 2010 and 2012 as part of a three-year stretch of second-place finishes for the Australian driver.
Still, Power enters this weekend’s race at Milwaukee in position for his first series championship – though his lead is razor-thin. He sits just four points ahead of Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in the closest title chase at this point in the season since 2009.
“In a funny way, it’s still kind of early considering how many points are on the table,” Power said.
Power certainly appears to be peaking after a mid-season slump.
Power limped away from Iowa after finishing a season-worst 14th, his fourth race in a row outside the top 10. But Power bounced back with ninth, third and sixth-place finishes and overtook Castroneves – at least for now.
Power feels confident at each of three remaining tracks, Milwaukee, the road course at Sonoma and the oval at Fontana, but is more focused on the race ahead of him than the big picture.
“It’s probably time to start thinking about winning,” Power said. “At the end of the day, if you win two of the last three races – or you win all three, obviously, you’re going to win the championship.”
New sponsor for Biffle
Greg Biffle said Roush-Fenway Racing is set to announce a new sponsor for the No. 16 in the wake of 3M’s defection to Hendrick Motorsports.
3M reached a three-year deal with HMS this week and will serve as Jeff Gordon’s primary sponsor for 11 races a season starting in 2015. 3M will serve as the associate sponsor for Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet in all other races from 2015-17.
Biffle said he was appreciative of 3M’s sponsorship through the years.
“It’s been a great 10 years we’ve had together,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve got a few partners moving forward. It’s going to be a great thing for the 16 car. I appreciate the support from all the fans of the 16 team and all of the 3M employees. They’ve been behind this program forever and I’ve made a lot of friendships and those will remain without a doubt moving forward.”
Biffle said the new sponsor could be announced in a few weeks after the final contract details are set.
Biffle recently signed a three-year extension with RFR. Biffle has 19 career Sprint Cup victories, along with Truck and Nationwide Series championships, and was the 2005 Cup runner-up driving for Jack Roush. The 44-year-old Biffle has spent his entire 12-year career with Roush.
“My decision was to stay loyal to a brand – and stay loyal to Jack – that had provided me opportunities along the way,” Biffle said. “It’s been a great relationship and we were hopeful and were under the impression that 3M would return. But we understand that management changes and there are business decisions to be made.”
If anyone knows how sprint car driver Brian Brown feels after finishing second at the Knoxville Nationals, it’s Donny Schatz – the guy Brown lost to for the third year in a row.
Schatz held off a charging Brown to win last weekend’s Knoxville Nationals, the so-called “Super Bowl” of sprint car racing, for the eighth time in nine years.
But before Schatz owned Knoxville, he had to learn to deal with defeat on the famed half-mile dirt track in rural Iowa. Schatz was second four times before winning his first title in 2006.
Brown passed Schatz for the lead with seven laps left in the 50-lap event on Saturday. But Schatz overtook Brown two laps later by slipping to the bottom of the track for a line that proved more sustainable.
“That’s what racing is all about, trying to make the right decisions. I made a wrong decision and Brian went by, and he made a wrong decision and I went back by,” Schatz said.
AP sports writer Dan Gelston contributed to this reportReport Typo/Error