A week after Tony Stewart was handed down a $35,000 fine from NASCAR; he defended his comments at Talladega Superspeedway Friday. Within a day after fining Stewart, Scott Miller NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition said the sanctioning body was re-evaluating the issue.
Five days after Stewart, a three-time champion, spoke out against NASCAR’s lack of a lug nut policy and accused the sanctioning body of being lenient on safety issues, NASCAR sent a memo to crew chiefs late Monday afternoon and changed the lug nut rule.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how many more $35,000 rules changes I want to make,” Stewart joked today. “I’m glad that something has been done.”
Teams are now required to have all five lug nuts ‘installed in a safe and secure manner’ or have the driver risk being called back into the pits during the race. If the infraction is found after the completion of the race, a crew chief will receive a minimum $20,000 fine along with a one-race suspension and probation. Tires must have all five lug nuts glued on before the race. If they are not glued on, the team must immediately correct the issue.
“You hate to have to pay $35,000 to get someone’s attention,” Stewart said. ‘But apparently that’s what it took.”
After reflecting Stewart added, “I’ve got questions, too, that I’d like to have answers to. I’m still wondering why I’m paying a $35,000 fine for something that got changed.”
Later Friday evening NASCAR Chairman Brian France met privately with Tony Stewart, following which he attended his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Council meeting in the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage at Talladega with the nine-member drivers council and went past when the garage was closed for the night. The meeting went on for nearly two hours more after France departed for another commitment.
This was the second NASCAR Drivers Council meeting with executives this year along with France in attendance Steve O’Donnell (Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer), Steve Phelps (Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer), and Brett Dewar (Chief Operating Officer).
Stewart praised the work done by his fellow drivers. “I think they made a huge statement about what the Driver Council’s about the fact of, they didn’t believe what I did deserved the fine.”
The council membership changes each year, with the top-finishing driver from each manufacturer getting a spot the following year. The other six drivers get voted in by categories based on performance as well as length of time each driver has been driving at the Cup level.
Denny Hamlin, who urged the drivers to develop the driver council, is the spokesman of the group. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Dare Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski are the other drivers who make up the council along with Stewart.
“This was the first time that something had happened where somebody in the Council got a penalty for speaking an opinion,” said Stewart. “For them to show that kind of support and show we’re all one unit—that’s something you don’t normally see and haven’t seen in this sport.”
With the council making the decision to pay the fine handed down to Stewart by NASCAR last week after it was announced, Stewart said he was not comfortable taking the money, so together he and the other drivers have decided to donate the $35,000 to Autism Delaware.
Artie Kempner, coordinating director, NASCAR on FOX, and his wife, Marcy, founded Autism Delaware in 1998. It has raised more than $5 million and served more than 1,000 children and adults living with autism. Hamlin will present the check to Kempner at his Drive for Autism golf tournament May 12 in Wilmington, Delaware.
“We did it collectively as a group and that’s something I’m really proud of with this Driver Council, how the drivers are united about everything we’re doing,” said Stewart.