MARNE, Mich. (WOOD) — Though NASCAR put new rules into place that would require drivers to stay in their cars after wrecks, the non-NASCAR Berlin Raceway said if it makes a change, it won’t be before the end of this season.
“We knew it was coming eventually with the tragedy that happened this past weekend,” said Mike Bursley, the president of Berlin Raceway. “And we knew something was going to end up happening. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that has come about.”
Bursley said that Berlin recommends that drivers stay in their cars until a safety team arrives, but isn’t yet ready to make that a rule until it is sure all its “bases are covered.”
“There’s going to be an issue, one of these times, where we require the drivers to stay in their car until safety gets there, [and there will be] no sign of smoke, there’s no sign of fire but all of a sudden there’s just something that the driver doesn’t see, that race control doesn’t see, and there’s going to be that freak accident deal that could potentially happen,” said Bursley.
He also explained the thought process behind why a driver wants to get out of a car on a raceway — a competitor getting caught up in the moment.
“Your adrenaline is pumping and things- You just don’t use your head all the time. So like I, said it’s in any sport, the aggression, and I don’t know if it’s our egos and our emotions and everything but everything, but we do let them get the best of us we don’t make the best decision at certain times,” said Bursley. “It’s the adrenaline. It’s the emotion. It’s the determination that we all have as athletes to go out there and win, and when we don’t win and if we feel like someone ruined our chances of winning we let our adrenaline and our emotions get the best of us.”
Last week’s tragedy in which racer Kevin Ward Jr. was killed after getting hit by Tony Stewart’s car at a dirt track in New York shined a spotlight on the issue. Bursley pointed out that is an example of a pattern in racing. Head and neck restraints became mandatory after Dale Earnhardt was killed on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001.
“That is the sad part that it takes an unfortunate tragedy to happen for us to make changes,” said Bursley. “The same thing goes for us on our daily road trips. Speed limits, seat belt laws. It takes unfortunate tragedies to happen for us to make a change.”
The season at Berlin lasts for another two weeks. Bursley said that no changes will happen before the end of the season, but that the raceway will let drivers know a rule change may happen in the off season.