“Lug-Nut Gate" Needs Positive Closure
Recent events, sardonic as they be, has confirmed to this writer why you never hear about Brian France fans. If this series of activities were chronicled in a movie, we all would berate the film as being unrealistic and absurd.
First We Have A NASCAR Lug Nut Rule:
NASCAR has been working diligently to make their sport safer for both drivers and fans. We now have safety enhancements made to the car itself, as well as additions such as SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers at the tracks and NRM's favorite, the mandated use of head-and-neck restraint systems.
Of course you do not have to be a mechanic to understand that a tire with just three lug nuts is going to be less secure than a tire with three prescribed five.
Then The Lug Nut Issue Is To Be
Self-Policed By The Drivers / Teams:
Nevertheless, NASCAR stated basically that starting with the 2015 season, it would not penalize or even monitor missed lug nuts or lug nuts that get knocked off during a stop. The new rule...or lack thereof, could offer a huge gain for teams willing to gamble. Everyone knows that it doesn't take all five nuts tight to keep a tire on. The tricky part is how many nuts does it take?
NASCAR Race Mom has always been of the opinion that such a gamble would have great consequences to drivers and the fans in the stand. One only has to remember the horrific 2013 crash in the Xfinity Series when Kyle Larson's car sailed into the fence, sending debris, including a flying tire, into the stands, injuring twenty-eight fans.
In a series where such a premium placed on the win, the risk to save a few precious seconds looms great.
Three-Time Series Champion, Tony Stewart Disagrees
With The Lug Nut Rule, Deeming It Unsafe.
“I’m beyond mad, I’m P.O.’d at NASCAR about it, to be honest,” Stewart stated during an event to promote sponsor Mobil 1’s green initiatives. “For all the work and everything, all the bulletins and all the new stuff we have to do to superspeedway cars and all these other things they want us to do for safety, we can’t even make sure we put five lug nuts on the wheel.
“It’s not even mandatory anymore. I mean, you don’t have to have but one on there if you don’t want. It’s however many you think you can get away with. So we’re putting the drivers in jeopardy to get track position. It’s not bit anybody yet, but I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt. You will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them. With all the crap we’re going through with all the safety stuff, and for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one … ”
Smoke added, “Last year it started; this year you see the problem getting worse. Well if you see a problem getting worse like that, where’s the bottom of that trend going to happen? It’s going to happen when somebody gets hurt, and that’s going to be one of the largest black eyes I can see NASCAR getting when they’ve worked so hard and done such a good job to make it safe. In this one particular area, they are totally dropping the ball on and I feel like really made a grossly bad decision on.”
NASCAR Fines Tony For Disparaging Remarks
NASCAR quickly fined the Stewart-Haas Racing driver and co-owner $35,000 for violations of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rule Book - Section 12 of the rule book, specifically member conduct guidelines.
According to Section 12.8.1, actions that could result in a $10,000-$50,000 fine include disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR's leadership, or verbal abuse of a NASCAR Official, media members, fans, etc.
France clarified, 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.
However, NASCAR never really specified what exactly Stewart was fined for. The fine marred his comeback to the series after eight weeks lost due to injury.
Almost Immediately After The Stewart Fine,
The Driver’s Council Rally Around The Punished Driver.
Denny Hamlin explained the NASCAR Drivers Council's quick show of solidarity for fellow driver, by expressing that he hoped the sport's competitors would have better freedom to express themselves in the future.
"When Tony informed us of the fine, we didn't agree with it. No one agreed with it and we thought there's something we should do about it," Hamlin stated at the Richmond International Raceway. "I think it was a way for us to send a message back to NASCAR -- not that we were trying to send any specific message, but that, hey, we just believe we should have the right to speak our opinion."
The Driver’s Council (Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.) backed up that support by offering to pay the $35,000 fine. Always classy, Tony, while appreciating the Council’s backing, felt the responsibility to pay the fine rested with him.
Therefore, and impressively, the Council
donated their $35,000 to Autism Delaware.
It should be noted that Hamlin insisted the council's actions were less about lug nuts and more about drivers' ability to speak openly. NASCAR Race Mom says, "yeah for the good guys!"
Now, NASCAR Has Reinstated The Rule????
This week, NASCAR re-amended its policy on securing lug nuts during pit stops, issuing a memo to teams that stated all five lug nuts should be properly secured beginning this coming weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Going forward, if any lug nuts are found to be loose in post-race inspection, the offending crew chief will be fined and suspended for one race. The new policy applies to all three of NASCAR’s national series: Sprint Cup, X-FINITY and Camping World Trucks.
Okay NASCAR Race Mom is confused. If Tony Stewart’s comments regarding the importance of five lug nuts on tires was merely ‘disparaging’ why follow his suggestions. Even for hard-core NASCAR fans, “Lug-Nut Gate” has been very difficult to follow.
My opinion: if you make a mistake – admit it and move on . . . . and NASCAR racing should not be so complicated that you need to re-write the rule-book every weekend.
"We're trying to get it right, and by the way, we will. We have for 60 years and we will always sort out --” especially when it comes to safety. You can mark that down that we will get to the right place as fast as we can. That's job one for us." Brian France commented.
Everyone could go home the Hero!!!
If you cannot publicly admit that you governed in haste or error, here is a solution. NASCAR Race Mom thinks that going into the Talladega weekend, NASCAR should cough up $35,000 of their own and donate it to a favorite charity, like Victory Junction, whose big Charity Ride fundraiser is kicking off on Saturday.
That simple gesture would put a sweet topping on this very sour lug-nut topic.
photos: Gregg Forwerck