Is NASCAR's lug nut debate over? Not quite...
After complaints from drivers over loose wheels this season, last month NASCAR initiated a rule (10.11.3.4) that teams must now have all five lug nuts “installed in a safe and secure manner throughout all national series events.”
The new rules went into effect two weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway. Immediately following that race, NASCAR secured the cars coming off the track onto pit road and checked the security of the lug nuts.
A similar procedure was in place at Kansas Speedway last weekend, and NASCAR cleared all cars during post-race inspection.
If anyone is (using unthreaded lug nuts), at least in my humble opinion, they have some real large kahunas
Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew coach Joe Piette Jr
But that didn’t stop conspiracy theorists from debating whether Saturday night’s winning driver, Kyle Busch, had five lug nuts tight on all four wheels of his No. 18 Toyota at Kansas Speedway. Photos — though inconclusive — appeared on social media showing Busch’s wheels, and there was plenty of comment on the internet claiming the photos show all the lugs on Busch’s car weren’t tight.
"I guess it's how you interpret the rules"
The discussion continued on Tuesday when Joe Piette Jr., pit crew coach for Stewart-Haas Racing, was a guest on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Piette indicated his belief that certain lugs indeed weren’t tight.
“I guess it’s how you interpret the rules,” Piette said Tuesday. “That’s what makes us racers — finding the gray areas in the rules. Forever, we’ve always tried to interpret the rules and use the gray areas of the rules to our advantage.
“Again, kudos the to the JGR guys. Obviously, they took it a step further than having to have five lug nuts tight, if you will. But they had five installed. So no harm, no foul.
“It definitely opened our eyes of ourselves here at Stewart-Haas Racing — and I’m sure other pit coaches and other pit crew members as well. I’m kind of going to be excited about what’s going to happen at Dover this week.”
Under the new rules, officials have not experienced any issues with lug nuts, according to NASCAR vice president of competition Scott Miller, who was a guest on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday. Miller acknowledged that implementation of the procedures have gone off without a hitch.
“It’s a little bit more work on us, but our guys are handling it really well,” Miller said. “Things have been good so far. We know what the ramifications are if they aren’t and we haven’t had any suspended crew chiefs are penalties. We’re doing pretty good there.”
Teams attempting to beat the system
Still, rumors abound of teams attempting to game the system.
When Piette was asked whether teams had considered using an unthreaded lug nut and simply gluing it to the hub, the veteran coach replied, “That’s a loaded question.”
However, he added, “It’s absolutely possible. If you haven’t, I don’t think you’re a true racer.”
Piette went on to clarify that while teams might pondered incorporating unthreaded lug nuts into the stops, the P3 penalty consequences NASCAR assigned to the rule — which if discovered in post-race includes suspension for the crew chief tire carrier and tire changer along with a $20,000 fine on the first offense — should be enough to shy away from the practice.
“If anyone is (using unthreaded lug nuts), at least in my humble opinion, they have some real large kahunas, if you will, because I would not want to be on the receiving end of getting caught with a lug nut that doesn’t have any threads in it, especially after the last few weeks, what we’ve gone through with the new rules,” Piette said.
NASCAR hoping they have a sufficient deterrent
Miller agrees. He feels the repercussions NASCAR has established should provide a sufficient deterrent.
“We know what the ramifications are if they aren’t and we haven’t had any suspended crew chiefs or penalties so we’re doing pretty good there. Obviously, no one wants to have fines or crew chiefs on vacations, so it’s been enough, so far, to keep everything in check.”
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