NASCAR has moved quickly to update and clarify a lug nut rule that has dominated the news recently, although it appears enforcing the rule will continue to be hit-and-miss for at least the immediate future.
In a memo sent on Tuesday by Sprint Cup managing director Richard Buck, crew chiefs were told of “rulebook updates [that]will be made to reinforce the expectations that all five lug nuts must be installed in a safe and secure manner throughout all national series events.”
Penalties will include starting from the rear of the field if the problem is detected pre-race, or a fine of $20,000 and one-race suspension for the crew chief if discovered after the race. Under existing rules, a crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier can be suspended for four races if a tire comes off because of improper installation.
NASCAR has not been checking whether all five lug nuts are on the wheel during pit stops. The change was made for the 2015 season, when new pit-road technology meant there was no longer an official at each pit stall to monitor changes.
Some teams haven’t been using all five lug nuts, and sometimes the ones that are used haven’t been tightened sufficiently. A pit stop can be quicker if a team chooses not to use all five lug nuts.
Owner-driver Tony Stewart called attention to the situation last week, criticizing NASCAR and saying it had become a safety issue. NASCAR fined him $35,000 for his comments.
In his memo on Tuesday, Buck said: “We will be introducing updated methods for officiating these rules. That process will continue to evolve over time and we will provide further updates as that model progresses.”