NASCAR is changing its rule on lug nuts after fining Tony Stewart $35,000. Last Wednesday at an event for concerns he expressed while promoting his team sponsor Mobil 1’s involvement in NASCAR’s Race to Green initiative. Stewart’s comments were about drivers being allowed to pull off of pit road with loose lug nuts.
While appearing on SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody late Monday, Brian France NASCAR Chairman and CEO said the sanctioning body’s decision to require teams to once again tighten all five lug nuts on each wheel was ‘not a controversial thing,’ and the rule change was an opportunity to increase safety.
The sanctioning body issued a rules release Monday telling all teams that all five lug nuts must be fastened to each wheel effective with this upcoming weekend’s Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway.
Any NASCAR team hoping to shave off precious seconds during critical pit stops by replacing only four lug nuts on wheel will now face penalties from the sanctioning body. Failure to comply with the rules can result in penalties ranging from a written warning for pre-race violations (wheels not having five lug nuts glued in place) to a minimum $20,000 fine, one-race suspension and probation for the responsible crew chief if a post-race inspection reveals a car that does not have five lug nuts in place on each wheel.
Consequences are less severe if found during the pre-race, the infraction will be considered an unapproved adjustment, and the violator will be required to correct the issue and drop to the rear of the field before the start of the event. Just like any other infractions multiple offenses will result in escalating penalties for the team.
NASCAR stopped requiring teams to put all five lug nuts on its wheels at the start of the last season, with the debut of the Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system that utilizes cameras to regulate pit road that reduced the officiating force along pit road. With officials no longer in every pit box, NASCAR said it was up to the teams whether they should put all five lug nuts on the wheel or not.
According to the memo, updated methods in order to officiate the new rules for the lug nuts will be introduced at a later date. “That process will continue to evolve over time and we will provide further updates as that model progresses.”
“When things are altered we have to deal with that,” said France. “There’s no difference in that…Really what you’re hearing is just how close and tight competition is across the board. And that’s why the crew chiefs, and rightfully so, are worried about every millisecond; they don’t want to get one of these penalties and understandably so. They’re trying to get it right and we’re trying to get it right.”
“And by the way, we will. We have for 60 years and we will always sort it out, especially when it comes to safety. We will get to the right place as fast as we can. That’s Job 1 for us,” France assured.
Before climbing in the race car Sunday at Richmond Stewart said, “it wasn’t (the case of) 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.”
Lug nuts have been known to come off of wheel during the event. It is possible that the winning team could fasten all five lug nut securely on its final pit stop during the race and have the car show up in victory lane with less than five lug nuts on each wheel. And at least one NASCAR crew chief has noted that there have been occasions when a car would end the race with fewer than five lug nuts in place to confirm it does happen. Time will tell if this factor comes into play
Rodney Childers – who is crew chief for Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet, part of the Stewart-Haas Racing stable – tweeted ‘All the years of hitting 5, and hardly ever was all 20 on post race.. I will sit at home for a week at some point..’
As for Stewart, his fine has not been rescinded; he will still need to pay the $35,000. France addressed it when he said Stewart is ‘very aware of how we approach criticism…and how we look at that. We allow them to criticize and give their point of view way more than any other sport. It’s when you go into the area of denigrating the racing product. That’s all we have in NASCAR, the highest, quality of competition. When you start working against that in any way, we’re going to have to deal with that. And everybody understands that.’