Leave the track? You can’t come back

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS -

NASCAR will not per­mit dam­aged race cars to re­turn to the track this sea­son un­less the re­pairs can be made on pit road within a tight win­dow.

The ban on wrecked race cars con­tin­u­ing to com­pete was an­nounced Wed­nes­day in a se­ries of a rule up­dates for the 2017 sea­son.

Be­gin­ning later this month at Day­tona, if a car re­ceives enough dam­age dur­ing an on­track in­ci­dent that it must go to the garage for re­pairs, the team will not be al­lowed to re­pair it in an ef­fort to get back on track. Dam­aged ve­hi­cles can be re­paired on pit road dur­ing a fiveminute cu­mu­la­tive time limit. Un­der the new process: •Body re­pairs are lim­ited to the re­moval or reat­tach­ment of orig­i­nal parts with fas­ten­ers and tape.

•Rods and sup­ports may be used to re­in­force orig­i­nal pan­els.

•New or pre­vi­ously un­used body pan­els are pro­hib­ited.

NASCAR said the new rule pre­vents se­verely dam­aged race cars from re­turn­ing to the track and cre­at­ing a safety haz­ard for other teams. Un­der NASCAR’s new for­mat of run­ning races in stages, it also means a car that wrecks in an early stage won’t be el­i­gi­ble to re­turn for the fi­nal race-win­ning stage.

Not al­low­ing teams to re­pair cars in the garage should be a sig­nif­i­cant sav­ing on costs for teams.

It also could have cost Jim­mie John­son the 2009 ti­tle. He was in­volved in an early ac­ci­dent at Texas Mo­tor Speedway, and his crew worked fever­ishly in the garage to make enough re­pairs to get John­son back on the track. That ef­fort by the Hen­drick Mo­tor­sports crew is widely con­sid­ered to have saved his ti­tle chances.

NASCAR also an­nounced that it will have a trav­el­ling safety crew start­ing this sea­son, cre­at­ing a con­sis­tent med­i­cal staff that driv­ers have been push­ing for the last sev­eral years.

The safety crew will come from Amer­i­can Med­i­cal Re­sponse and en­sure that a physi­cian and paramedics are in the safety ve­hi­cle at all Mon­ster En­ergy Cup events. AMR will also pro­vide a small group that will travel to each race, and a physi­cian who will serve as NASCAR’s pri­mary doc­tor.

NASCAR had long re­lied on lo­cal emer­gency crews to treat driv­ers while ri­val se­ries have ded­i­cated teams. IndyCar’s team is lauded as the best in the busi­ness, and is cred­ited with sav­ing James Hinch­cliffe’s life when he crashed dur­ing a 2015 prac­tice for the Indianapolis 500. That ac­ci­dent raised an­other round of calls from NASCAR driv­ers for a con­sis­tent and reg­u­lar crew.

“This part­ner­ship fur­ther strength­ens NASCAR’s med­i­cal re­sponse ca­pa­bil­ity, mak­ing our well-es­tab­lished, med­i­cal re­sponse sys­tem even bet­ter,” said Steve O’Don­nell, NASCAR ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent.

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