Advantadge: NASCAR - Teams Warned, 5 Lug Nuts Or Else

Story and Video Courtesy of NASCAR.COM

By Kenny Bruce | | April 25, 2016 at 05.30 PM

NASCAR teams hoping to shave time off pit stops by replacing only four lug nuts on wheels will now face penalties from the sanctioning body, according to a memo sent to organizations Monday.

The memo states that all tires, wheels and all five lug nuts "must be installed in a safe and secure manner at all times during the event."

Failure to comply can result in penalties ranging from a written warning for pre-race violations (wheels not having five lug nuts glued in place) to a minimum $20,000 fine, one-race suspension and probation for the responsible crew chief if a post-race inspection turns up a car that does not have five lug nuts in place on each wheel.

If found during pre-race, the infraction is considered an unapproved adjustment, and the violator will be required to correct the issue and drop to the rear of the field before the start of the event.

Multiple offenses for infractions will result in escalating penalties.

NASCAR stopped policing how many lug nuts teams were installing during pit stops after the 2014 season. In 2015, the sanctioning body debuted its Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system that utilizes cameras to regulate pit road.

According to Monday's memo, updated methods for officiating the new rules will be introduced at a later date. "That process will continue to evolve over time and we will provide further updates as that model progresses."

By tightening, or in some cases installing, only four lug nuts on each wheel, teams have often gained an advantage during pit stops. But the practice has led to a rise in the number of loose wheels this season, often sending a driver back to pit road to correct the problem.

While at least one NASCAR crew chief has noted that there have been occasions when a car would end the race with fewer than five lug nuts in place, NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Monday that the inspection process would be no different than it has been for other areas of the vehicles that are examined each week.

"When things are altered we have to deal with that," France said during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "There's no difference in that. ... Really what you're hearing is just how close and tight competition is across the board. And that's why the crew chiefs, and rightfully so, are worried about every millisecond; they don't want to get one of these ... penalties and understandably so. They're trying to get it right and we're trying to get it right.

"And by the way, we will. We have for 60 years and we will always sort it out, especially when it comes to safety. We will get to the right place as fast as we can. That's Job 1 for us."

Last week, three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart expressed concerns that the safety of competitors was being overlooked by not mandating all five lug nuts be properly installed on wheels. A day later, when Stewart announced he would return to competition after missing the season's first eight races, NASCAR announced it had fined the co-owner/driver $35,000.

"It wasn't (a case of) saying they're not doing their job," Stewart told FOX Sports during Sunday's pre-race show. "I just felt like this is one thing they dropped the ball on. So, they're doing a good job. They're looking at it. They're going to address it and make it right, and down the road we won't have to worry about this again, hopefully."

France said Stewart is "very aware of how we approach criticism ... of the sport and the product of the racing itself, and safety is paramount of that. Tony is very aware of how we look at that. We allow them to criticize and give their point of view way more than any other sport. ... We're thick-skinned; we get it.

"It's when you go into the area of denigrating the racing product. That's all we have in NASCAR, the highest quality of competition. When you start working against that in any way, we're going to have to deal with that. And everybody understands that."