Following CGR crew chief suspension, Ganassi calls lug nut policy "silly"

Crew chief Chad Johnston will be missing in action from this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan Speedway.

Following CGR crew chief suspension, Ganassi calls lug nut policy "silly"
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Kyle Larson, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet
Kurt Busch, Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet takes the checkered flag
Champion's breakfast: team owner Chip Ganassi
Spare lug nuts tossed aside
Chip Ganassi, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

Johnston was the latest victim of NASCAR’s crackdown on improperly installed lug nuts, thereby depriving the No. 42 Chevrolet driven by Kyle Larson of its team leader. 

So what does that mean for Johnston? The crew chief is barred from any area of the track where he would generally need his hard card for entry. Sprint Cup garage? Off limits. Team Hauler? No go. Pit box on Sunday? Forget about it. 

But with modern technology — FaceTime, Skype, digital radios and cell phones — Johnston is just a text message away. If Johnston sets up shop in his motor coach, the team could debrief as usual. Should he stay at the team’s hotel, the crew can continue going over the weekend’s game plans at night. And like any other fan, Johnston can buy a ticket, sit in the seats and take in a bird’s eye view of the action. 

Everybody in the garage is sort of — I don’t want to say ‘up in arms’ — but confused about the whole thing

Chip Ganassi

Last weekend, crew chief Tony Gibson served his suspension for a similar lug nut violation. Gibson’s No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing crew went on to win with Kurt Busch behind the wheel and team engineer Johnny Klausmeier, who is usually responsible for calculating fuel mileage among other tasks, calling the shots from the pit box. 

Perhaps in Johnston’s absence, his sub Phil Surgen, the team engineer for the No. 42 Ganassi Racing crew, will lead Kyle Larson to the win this weekend. 

Chip Ganassi speaks out against lug nut policy

It’s not surprising that, when team owner Chip Ganassi discussed the ruling on SiriusXM Radio on Wednesday night, he described the situation as a farce.

“I think it’s kind of silly in a way,” Ganassi said. “They come up with a rule and then they change it. No one really knows where we’re at on the whole lug nut thing. Our lug nuts were on there, they just weren’t tight. I think that’s just one level of the penalty and it’s another penalty if you don’t have a lug nut on there at all.

“Everybody in the garage is sort of — I don’t want to say ‘up in arms’ — but confused about the whole thing. I just think it’s kind of silly. There’s lots of smart people that have great answers for these kind of things…I just want the playing field to be level among all teams. As long as that happens, I’m ok.” 

Four crew chiefs already suspended since policy was put in place

Since NASCAR changed the lug nut penalty last month, four crew chiefs have been suspended. With the depth of the modern day Sprint Cup teams, the crews hardly miss a beat. Even Ganassi says with today’s team war rooms, a suspension “isn’t the death blow it once was.”

“That’s the other thing is these suspensions, you can have the guy on the phone, you can have him on the computer, but he can’t be at the track,” Ganassi said. “It’s kind of confusing to me. What’s the point of being suspended? You really could probably suspend everybody on the team except the pit crew. It’s silliness. It’s complete silliness.

“We’re in a major sport that on any given weekend they have over 100,000 people that show up and watch and it’s the most-watched sport on television sometimes on the weekend and we’re sitting here talking about lug nuts. Are you kidding me? Please. (Laughs).

“They need to move the conversation…I’m saying NASCAR needs to move the conversation to something a little more relevant than lug nuts.”

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