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Opinion: Did NASCAR Really Drop The Ball With The Lugnuts?
- Updated: April 23, 2016
Another week has passed and once again NASCAR in embroiled in debate and controversy. This time, it involves Lugnuts.
For those who need a quick refresher or are new to the sport, Here’s how lugnuts work when securing a Stock Car tire: When the new tire is placed onto the car, the lugnuts are already attached to the wheel by an adhesive. The studs are long and have no threads for the first three-quarters of an inch. This ensures that the lug nuts do not get cross-threaded, making it easier for the tire to be positioned.
However, prior to this season, NASCAR mandated 5 lugnuts on each wheel. In a quiet off season change, NASCAR no longer required 5 and teams have since gone on to placing as few as 3 nuts on the wheels during pit stops. This has caused many drivers to complain about vibrations and lose wheels to the point of costing them track position and perhaps races as they have to make unscheduled pit stops to change tires.
Earlier this week, NASCAR fined Tony Stewart (The same day he returned to NASCAR competition after an off season injury) $35,000 after he made comments regarding how less than 5 lugnuts was a safety danger. The sanctioning bodies “Driver Council” later defended Stewart and pledged to pay his fine on their behalf.
The big question is, is NASCAR or the teams at fault for making this situation out of hand on such was a “quiet” off season rule change? This may be a shock to you the reader, but both parties do in fact share the blame to an extent.
NASCAR of course is responsible for reversing a rule that not only made wheels secure, but penalized teams in the past who didn’t have all lugnuts secured. Thus, leting teams self police an no longer safe rule. NASCAR let the teams cut corners to increase track position, while quickening pit times. The teams then utilized the “rule change” as NASCAR allowed, but put their drivers in a bad spot as wheels weren’t secured and cost drivers green flag positioning by coming in unscheduled if it wasn’t done right. The fact that also that having every lugnut on is a safety issue, as not having all on could result in this and both NASCAR/Teams would be burdened by it providing if it resulted in spectator injuries. See the footage alone for an Non-graphic example of the last point.
The bottom line is this, both are at fault at some extent. NASCAR allowed the rule change, while the teams exploited it to nearly unsafe boundaries.