RICHMOND, Va. — NASCAR’s Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller took questions from the media on Friday at Richmond International Raceway regarding the sport’s regulation of tire lug nuts.
With the opening day of activity at the track called off early because of rain, Miller came to the media center to discuss what’s becoming a hot topic in the garage. Miller said NASCAR was open to exploring new pit rules as to how the teams are using — or not using — the correct number of lug nuts on tires, a downsizing all done with the goal of turning faster pit stops to gain a competitive advantage on the track.
“The rules have been pretty clear (the past two seasons) and we’ve really never had, until this point. too much trouble,” Miller said. “Obviously there are strong rules in place and pretty severe penalties associated with the rules in place but since the drivers are now questioning it, it’s time for us to kind of re-evaluate our position and work with the community in looking at possible different ways to enforce the pit road rules.
“The teams are obviously pushing harder than they ever have in this area. It’s time for us to take a look at it. We’ll do that as an industry. The open dialogue is very good right now between NASCAR and the teams. We’ll work with them and work internally to move forward.”
In order to speed up pit stops, teams are increasingly using fewer lug nuts to secure tires — creating a dangerous potential problem according to many in NASCAR. Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart was fined $35,000 on Thursday under 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.
Miller said he understood the recent concerns and that the series was looking for ways to revisit reinforcement of the rule. He reminded that there is a serious penalty in place for purposely mishandling the installation of tires.
“It says a loss of wheels due to improper installation is a mandatory minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief, the tire changer and tire carrier of the lost wheel,” Miller said. “So that’s the penalty that would be imposed should a wheel actually come off.
“We do have the rules and they have served us well. But obviously moving forward, the teams have become very aggressive with it. It’s been brought up as a concern and when any of our competitors raise a concern it’s time for us to take a little bit harder look at it.”
While speaking to an Associated Press meeting this week, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France defended the sport’s regulation of the situation and reminded of its extreme emphasis on safety.
“Nobody has led, done more and achieved more in safety than we have,” France said. “It is a never-ending assignment and we accept that.
“We do take offense that anything we do is somehow leading toward an unsafe environment. Safety … that’s the most important thing we have to achieve.”