Kyle Larson hesitated ever so slightly before getting out of his car after crashing into the wall.
A new NASCAR rule was announced Friday ordering drivers to stay in their cars after accidents until they’re told to get out. But there are exceptions for emergency situations, and the flames visible at the front and back of Larson’s Chevrolet certainly qualified.
“A little bit of a hesitation, but I had smoke in the cockpit,” Larson said. “Once I got out I stayed as close as I could to the car. I had to get out with all of the smoke in there.”
Larson crashed near the midway point Sunday in the Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. He was racing down the backstretch and heading a turn when his right front tire blew and sent the car into the wall.
NASCAR announced its new rule after Kevin Ward Jr. was killed during a sprint car race in New York after being struck by a car driven by Tony Stewart. Fire and smoke were specifically listed as exceptions to the regulation.
“Anytime you see flames you want to get out,” Larson said. “I’ve had fires and stuff, but that was the first time I’ve ever had fumes and smoke in the cockpit. That’s the main reason why I wanted to get out.”
It was the second incident in the race for Larson, who earlier bumped with Dale Earnhardt Jr. while leaving the pits. Larson’s car had damage to the right front while Earnhardt had damage to the left rear of his car.
“I was leaving my box, and I looked in my mirror and saw the 27 (Paul Menard) and somebody else coming on my outside so I was leaving them room,” Larson said. “Then the 88 came out and we kind of met right there. It all happened really quick and really messed up our body and tow. From then on, the day was ruined.”
Larson is winless this year but came into the race in 10th place. He was hoping to solidify his position for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Instead, he finished 43rd.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “We thought we really had a car capable of winning the race today. We had been working real hard to get back up in points.”