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Auto racing: Ward’s death affects track rules

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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, who was from Port Leyden, 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’ Web site 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.”

CAN-AM TO REMEMBER WARD

Chapman’s Can-Am Motorsports Park announced that it will honor the memory of Kevin Ward Jr., who was struck and killed during a race last Saturday by a car driven by NASCAR’s Tony Stewart.

Can-Am will leave open the 13th starting position during races. Ward’s sprint car was No. 13. It also asking people attending this Friday’s race to wear orange in Ward’s memory.

“What happened last week was very tragic, and this is the least we can do to honor Kevin’s name,” said Chip Burdick, Can-Am’s general manager. “The Ward family always participated in our car shows and other events, they would be one of the first people to confirm participation. They loved racing, and they were a great supporter of Can-Am.”

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.

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