After Stewart criticism NASCAR revises rules, requires all lug nuts be installed.
As it turns out, Tony Stewart’s $35,000 fine was money well spent.
Five days after Stewart railed against NASCAR’s lack of a lug nut policy and accused the sanctioning body of being lax on safety, NASCAR sent a memo to crew chiefs Monday afternoon and changed the rule.
Teams will now be 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 race, a crew chief will receive a minimum $20,000 fine and a one-race suspension.
“NASCAR has been closely monitoring the aggressive strategies on pit road,” NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller said. “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.”
But Stewart said taking the situation lightly was exactly what NASCAR was doing by letting cars race at 200 mph without all the lug nuts attached to the wheels. There have been many instances of loose wheels, especially in recent races, and one of Stewart’s concerns was that a wheel could fly off a car and injure a driver or fan.
NASCAR’s policy since it moved to a video enforcement system of pit road last year and laid off many of its officials, who had previously monitored whether lug nuts were on the wheel, was to allow individual teams to make the call on number of lug nuts attached.
“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.”
NASCAR was angered by Stewart’s comments, however, and promptly issued a $35,000 fine for criticizing the sanctioning body. That, in turn, outraged drivers, who released a solidarity statement through the one-year-old Drivers Council and promised to pay Stewart’s fine.
NASCAR confirmed that Stewart’s penalty remains in place.
Now, with Stewart seemingly a catalyst for the change, NASCAR has revised its policy.
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..’
And Joey Meier, spotter for Brad Keselowski’s No. 2, tweeted: ‘On MORE than 1 occasion, back when teams used 5 lugs, there have been cars in Victory Lane with missing lugs. It will happen again.’