Driver-owner Tony Stewart warned Wednesday that NASCAR’s recent lug-nut policy could have dire safety consequences.
“I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt,” Stewart said. “And you will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what comes out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them.”
NASCAR no longer monitors 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.
Since it is no longer a violation, some teams don’t use 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.
“With all the crap we’re going through with the safety stuff, and for (NASCAR) to sit there and sit on their hands on this one, it’s not a game you play with safety,” said Stewart, who was making an appearance to promote NASCAR’s Race To Green program. “That’s exactly the way I feel NASCAR is treating this. This is not the way to do this.”
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said this week that teams should be able to figure out the right thing to do.
“We’ve got our competition meeting monthly where we meet with the teams and raise any issues that they see as something we’ve got to address,” O’Donnell said on Sirius XM radio. “In our minds, we put that back on the teams. We’re seeing it correct itself in the race. It’s certainly not an advantage when you have to come in and pit the car. But we’ll bring it up in the next competition meeting and see if there’s anything we can do to fix it.”
Stewart, who hasn’t driven this season as he recovers from a broken back suffered in January in a dune buggy accident, isn’t the alone as one of NASCAR’s big names who is uncomfortable with the policy.
“It freaks me out,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said last week at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. “I was blown away that NASCAR quit officiating that aspect. I could not believe that was the choice that they made. But that is the world we live in.
“There are not enough officials today to revert, so it’s a knot that can’t be retied. We will just have to try to do the best we can as drivers not to end up in the fence.
“I wish I could not care when the wheels are shaking, but you do. I’ve had a few come off and it never ends well. It just really delays the ability to run well and can hinder the results of the races.
“There is no real way to understand exactly what you are dealing with when it happens. You don’t know whether they tried to put five (lug nuts) on and only got four or they tried to put four on and only got three or if they only got one. You don’t know.”