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NASCAR to restrict drivers exiting cars after Ward death

NEW YORK--In the wake of the death of 20-year-old racer Kevin Ward, NASCAR Friday implemented a new rule restricting drivers from exiting their cars during races except in cases of emergency.

The new rule was announced at Michigan International Speedway, venue for Sunday's elite-level Sprint Cup race, but will apply to all of the racing series that NASCAR sanctions.

It comes six days after three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart struck and killed Ward — who had left his damaged vehicle in mid-race — during a low-level dirt-track race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York.

Under the new rule, a driver in a damaged or stopped vehicle should stay in the car “unless extenuating emergency conditions exist with the racecar (i.e. fire, smoke in cockpit, etc.).”

Once safety personnel clear a driver to leave a vehicle, the driver should go where instructed and stay away from the track and moving cars.

The rule also stipulates that vehicles still running “should slow down to a cautious speed ... use extreme care as they approach an incident scene and follow any directions given by safety personnel or a NASCAR/track official.”

Drivers who don't follow the new procedure will be subject to sanctions, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said.

Ward was killed on Aug. 9 after he had left his car and was walking down the track during the caution period.

Stewart had previously bumped Ward's car, knocking him out of the race.

Stewart hasn't raced since the incident, pulling out of last Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen in New York and this weekend's race in Michigan, and also putting his participation in some lower-level races on hold.

Authorities in New York state said this week they expected their investigation into Ward's death to continue for at least two more weeks.

Police said Monday they had found “no criminal behavior” on the part of Stewart, but they were still soliciting witnesses and video to aid their investigation.

Funeral services were held Thursday for Ward in Turin, New York, where he attended high school.

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