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New NASCAR rule bans drivers from exiting cars after crash

Jeff Burton will fill Tony Stewart’s seat on Sunday for Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart is skipping his second straight Sprint Cup race after his car struck and killed a driver at a small track last weekend. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Paul Sancya/AP

Jeff Burton will fill Tony Stewart’s seat on Sunday for Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart is skipping his second straight Sprint Cup race after his car struck and killed a driver at a small track last weekend.

Even Jimmie Johnson has a temper — one that was on display long before he became a six-time champion and one of NASCAR’s most respected drivers.

‘‘I guess the one experience that comes to mind for me in Cup was maybe my rookie year at Bristol,’’ he said. ‘‘Robby Gordon wrecked me on a restart, and I got out and shot him the bird.’’

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NASCAR has thrived for years thanks to the personalities of some of its biggest stars and that includes an occasional feud, gesture, or angry encounter on the track. But less than a week after Kevin Ward Jr. was killed during a sprint car race in New York after being struck by a car driven by Tony Stewart, NASCAR on Friday barred its drivers from approaching the track or moving cars after an incident during a race.

‘‘Through time you have to recognize when you get a reminder or tap on the shoulder, something that may need to be addressed,’’ said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition and racing development. ‘‘This is one of those times where we look outside our sport and we look at other things, and we feel like it was time to address this.’’

The new rule takes effect immediately and applies to all NASCAR series.

‘‘Really, we’re formalizing rules that have been there,’’ Pemberton said. ‘‘It’s reminders that take place during drivers meetings with drivers about on-track accidents.’’

IndyCar reviewed its safety guidelines after Ward’s death and the protocol is similar to what NASCAR announced Friday, IndyCar spokesman Mike Kitchel said. Drivers are supposed to stay put until a safety team arrives unless there is a fire or other extenuating circumstances.

It remains to be seen how NASCAR will enforce its provision, and how much the threat of penalties will deter drivers in the heat of the moment.

‘‘There’s still going to be confrontations out there and that’s never going to change. People will still get mad at each other,’’ driver Joey Logano said. ‘‘You’ve got to keep the big picture of staying safe out there and somehow controlling your emotions.’’

Last Saturday, Stewart’s car struck Ward during a sprint car race in Canandaigua, N.Y. After Stewart’s car appeared to clip Ward’s car, sending it spinning, Ward left the car during the caution period, walked down the track, and was hit by Stewart. His funeral was Thursday.

Stewart, who could face criminal charges, is skipping this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. He did not race last week at Watkins Glen, a few hours after Ward was killed.

Jeff Burton will drive the No. 14 car in Stewart’s place on Sunday.

‘‘This decision was Tony's,’’ said Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing. ‘‘An emotional week for him. He’s grieving — made the decision he’s not ready to get in the racecar and will take it week by week.’’

Burton, who made his Cup debut in 1993, has been making the transition to the broadcast booth, but he’s ready to help SHR in Stewart’s absence, at least for this race.

‘‘My role here is to hopefully provide a little stability, give that team a chance to have the most success they can have in a very difficult situation,’’ Burton said. ‘‘Hopefully me being here in some kind of way can help, I don’t know how, but hopefully I can find a way to help a healing process start. I don’t know how that is, but that would be my ultimate goal for everybody.’’

Jeff Gordon set the track qualifying record on Friday in Brooklyn, Mich., with a speed of 206.558 miles per hour, winning his 76th career pole in Sprint Cup.

Gordon broke the previous mark of 204.557 by a remarkable margin — and that record was set just two months ago by Kevin Harvick.

Gordon’s run Friday was the seventh-fastest pole-winning speed in the history of NASCAR’s top series.

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