NASCAR to "reevaluate position" on lug nut policy as drivers speak out

NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition Scott Miller says the sanctioning body will address the concerns of drivers regarding the current rules surrounding the tire changing — specifically securing lug nuts on wheels during competition.

NASCAR to "reevaluate position" on lug nut policy as drivers speak out
Pit stop action
NASCAR official
Spare lug nuts tossed aside
Monitors convey information from pit road to NASCAR officials
Re-start, Carl Edwards, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Start: Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet leads
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing
Wheel gun detail
Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid wheel detail

Recently, Sprint Cup veterans Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart have voiced their displeasure of the lack of enforcing whether pit crews tighten five lug nuts — or one — as teams continue to push the limits on pit road.

“Obviously, NASCAR has worked very, very hard in the areas of safety,” Miller said. “It’s certainly a topic we take very seriously … We’ve had the same rules on lug nuts for the past two seasons — and the rules have been pretty clear. Until this point, we’ve never really had too much trouble.

“There have been strong rules in place with pretty severe penalties associated with the rules that are in place, but now since the drivers are questioning it, it’s time for us to reevaluate our position and work with the community at looking at possible ways to enforce pit road rules.

"The teams are obviously pushing harder than they ever have in this area and it’s time for us to take a look at it. We’ll do that as an industry. The open dialogue is very good right now between NASCAR and the teams, we’ll work internally and with the teams to move forward here.”

Harsh penalties for losing a wheel on track

According to the NASCAR rulebook (12.5.3.4.1) should a wheel come off of the car on the track under competition due to improper installation, the subsequent penalty (P3) would result in a mandatory minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier of the lost wheel.

The penalty could also include the loss of 15 Championship Owner and Driver points, a fine from between $20,000 and $50,000, as well as probation.

Last year, NASCAR decreased its pit road workforce which allowed for one official per pit to monitor the stops. While the sanctioning body uses high-powered video cameras to monitor stops, the teams have been allowed to police themselves on pit road when it comes to tightening lug nuts.

“Technology will ultimately be our way home on this,” Miller said. “Throughout the history of the sport, there’s been loose wheels. We’ve seen it in this sport for over 20 years.

"It hadn’t risen to the point where we thought loose wheels were becoming an unsafe thing out there on the race track — but obviously, others have. We'll do our best to satisfy the industry on this one.”

Stewart's comments earn him a $35,000 fine

But it was Stewart’s comments at a media availability for Mobil 1 earlier this week that forced NASCAR to react. The following quotes appeared in a story published by MRN.com.

"We shouldn’t be playing games with safety to win races," Stewart said. ”It should be out-performing the other teams, not jeopardizing drivers’ lives by teams putting two lug nuts on to try to get two more spots off pit road.

"I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt. You will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them.

"With all the crap we’re going through with all the safety stuff, and for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one - this is not a game you play with safety and that’s exactly the way I feel like NASCAR is treating this. This is not the way to do this."

Another solution?

When Motorsport.com asked whether NASCAR would consider going to a single hub nut and bolt assembly similar to open wheel series, Miller said, “That’s definitely something that has been in other forms of motorsports for a long time and something that we would potentially consider in the future. But it is a big redesign of the rear suspension and the front suspension.

“That, if it ever did come into play,would be a little bit longer term solution.”

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