By AMANDA VINCENT
NASCAR is returning to reinforcement of race teams tightening five lug nuts on each wheel of their race cars after criticism from several drivers, with the most vocal of those being three-time champion driver and car owner Tony Stewart. Stewart’s criticism from less than a week ago resulted in a fine for the owner/driver.
Prior to the start of the 2015 race season, NASCAR stopped enforcement of an old rule that required all five lug nuts be tight on each wheel, citing the inability to see the right side of the car with its new PRO (pit road officiating) system. Teams intentionally going with four or fewer lug nuts per wheel didn’t seem to be much of an issue in 2015, but the practice has caught steam this season as teams search for ways to gain time on pit road.
NASCAR teams received memos Monday, detailing the change.
“Our job is, whenever there’s a safety improvement to make or a policy to enhance things, we will just do that,” NASCAR CEO Brian France said Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s as simple as that. There’s not a controversial thing. Our whole system is based on safe and competitive racing. If we can make an adjustment to make things safer, we just simply will.”
NASCAR did have a rule in place that a wheel falling off because of a missing or loose lug nut would result in a $50,000 fine and four-race suspension for the crew chief and other pit crew members. Monday’s member detailed an additional penalty of at least $20,000 fine and one-race suspension of the crew chief for teams that have at least one lug nut missing after the race.
Fines will be less for competitors in the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck series than those handed down at the Sprint Cup level, as Xfinity and Truck series teams race with smaller budgets. Fines, though, are expected to be proportionate.
NASCAR acknowledged that the rule tweak was a short-term fix, and a “long-term solution” is being discussed. With the in-race officiating system as it is now, it’s impossible to closely police lug-nut application on all wheels during races.
In the meantime, NASCAR will require teams to have all five lug nuts glued to wheels before the race. If a team is seen with wheels with fewer than five lug nuts glued to them, that team will be immediately required to fix the issue. Also, NASCAR reserves the right to call a car to pit road during a race if there is reason to believe not all lug nuts are tight.
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