The controversial practice of not using all five lug nuts on a tire during a NASCAR sanctioned event ended Monday. NASCAR updated its rulebook Monday and will require teams to install all five lug nuts on a tire used on a racing vehicle in its top touring series.
In a memo sent to teams Monday afternoon, the sanctioning body told the organizations that they will be expected to have all five lug nuts installed in a safe and secure manner throughout all national series events. Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition issued an official statement as part of the announced change:
“NASCAR has been closely monitoring the aggressive strategies on pit road. Safety is an area we do not take lightly, as our record has clearly indicated. It’s important for us to have a system in place immediately for addressing lug nut installation, while we also work alongside the industry to develop the best long-term solution.”
The change comes five days after three-time champion Tony Stewart was fined for comments that criticized the practice of using less than five lug nuts during a pit stop. Putting on fewer allows for faster pit stops. Although no wheels have come off during a race, in several instances drivers have been forced to pit again with loose wheels.
During a media event last Wednesday Stewart, who has been vocal about NASCAR issues in the past, was critical of the practice of NASCAR not enforcing the practice of ensuing all five lug nuts are on the wheel this year. NASCAR announced the fine Thursday shortly after Stewart announced his return after an off season ATV accident left him with a broken back. He missed the first eight races of the season, but made his return at Richmond Sunday. Shortly after Stewart made his announcement, NASCAR fined Stewart $35,000 saying he had violated Section 12.8.1 of the rulebook; actions that could result in a $10,000-$50,000 fine include disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR’s leadership, or verbal abuse of a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.
Sunday prior to the race at Richmond, Stewart talked with FOX pre-race host Chris Myers and analysts Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip and Michael Waltrip. He was very adamant that a fine by NASCAR would not stop his comments.
“ I understand what NASCAR is trying to do, but I’m always going to speak my mind,” Stewart said. “I don’t know what the key word or key phrase was that got me fined. But when it comes to safety, I’m not going to hold back. That’s $35,000 well-invested if it makes it safer for these guys.”
“ I think they’re (NASCAR) doing something different today with rules on trying to keep everybody … making sure we get enough lug nuts on the cars,” he added. “You just don’t want to be in a position where, with 20 laps to go and you’re leading the race and you haven’t won a race and you need that to get in the Chase, to have to make a decision as a driver whether to come in or whether to ride down and hope it stays. That’s not a good position for us to be in.”
“I think some of the people at NASCAR took it the wrong way,” Stewart said. “ They’ve done an awesome job with safety and this is one thing we still need to look at. It wasn’t saying they’re not doing their job. I just felt like this is one thing they dropped the ball on. So, they’re doing a good job. They’re looking at it. They’re going to address it and make it right, and down the road, we won’t have to worry about this again, hopefully.”
The new rule states that any identification of missing lug nut(s) on a wheel will result in the following penalties for Sprint Cup Series teams:
- If found pre-race, it counts as an unapproved adjustment and the team will have to start at the tail of the field and must make a correction immediately.
- Tires intended for race use without all five lug nuts glued to the wheel results in a written warning and must be corrected immediately. If found post-race, the first offense is a minimum of $20,000 fine and crew chief suspension for one race and probation. Multiple offenses will result in escalated penalties.
Penalties for NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series teams are:
- NXS: Post-race (P3 penalty) First offense: minimum of $10,000 fine, crew chief suspension for one race and probation.
- NCWTS: Post-race (P3 penalty) First offense: minimum of $5,000 fine, crew chief suspension for one race and probation.
As for Stewart’s fine, the Sprint Cup Drivers Council released a statement Thursday night supporting Stewart and announcing it would pay his $35,000 fine. Stewart later respectfully declined their offer and will instead donate that money to a charity for Autism at Dover International Speedway next month when the Series visits.