Nuts About Lugnuts: NASCAR’s Latest in decision making follows inconsistently consistent trend

Photo by Jeremy Thompson/
A view of Kyle Busch's racecar post-race at Kansas Speedway last Saturday.

By Zachary Lange
Staff Reporter
May 13, 2016

DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

Oh boy.

Just when you thought maybe the controversy about teams manipulating the rules (or lack of, then addition to) was over, Kyle Busch was found in violation after his victory at Kansas Speedway of the recently amended section of the NASCAR Rulebook that deals with the affixture and numerical count of lugnuts on each wheel.  

Crew chief Adam Stevens was suspended for one race and fined $20,000, and front tire changer Josh Leslie was only suspended for this weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway with no fine, both were placed on NASCAR probation through the end of the year.

The exact rules that Adam Stevens and crew failed to follow wasn’t how many lugnuts were on each wheel, but how all five were “installed in a safe and secure manner”. In addition, a second rule section cited dealt with “parts that are designed to fail their intended use," Which could mean one of several things. Were the lugnuts simply glued on without being properly tightened? Or was an unapproved lugnut the cause? Or both?

Regardless, this season continues a trend of NASCAR continuing to make new rules, change said new rules, and ultimately contradict the initial message they were sending.

Photo by Jeremy Thompson/
Tony Stewart

Starting at the beginning of this season NASCAR stopped monitoring lug nuts during pit stops, allowing teams to only attach three or four instead of the full five to shave precious tenths of a second off pit road and ultimately gain track position.

At the time, NASCAR stated that this would give teams more flexibility and choice to decide what they wanted to do come time to pit. It was often a talking point on FOX television broadcasts as they talked about how NASCAR was allowing them to play with fire at their own risk.

Then Tony Stewart decided that this risk taking was unsafe saying the following at a promotional event late last month.

“We shouldn’t be playing games with safety to win races, It should be out-performing the other teams, not jeopardizing drivers’ lives by teams putting two lug nuts on to try to get two more spots off pit road.”

Stewart was the only driver to publicly come out and grill NASCAR on this ruling, and he did it months after the rule change was sent to teams. Stewart most likely said this on all drivers behalf too, as after NASCAR sent down a $35,000 fine for detrimental comments towards the sanctioning body the newly formed NASCAR drivers union offered to pay the fine on his behalf.

Those comments were the driver side of Stewart, the owner side of Stewart let teams he controls put less than five lugnuts like everyone else too. Even his own employee and crew chief of the number 4 team Rodney Childers said on Twitter, "I will sit at home for a week at some point." Meaning he’ll be suspended for the same mistake. Childers noted that rarely does his car end a race with all 20 lug nuts still attached.

I guess if you can’t beat them, join them.

While the way Stewart projected his message was too crass for NASCAR’s liking, they ultimately agreed with him and rescinded the three month old ruling of not looking for lugnut count to now all five must be on, secured, and the sanctioning body is watching it like hawks.

Yet another rule changed when the initial ruling was the complete opposite.

Remember the “Boys Have At It” campaign? Any time tempers flare someone is getting a fine or suspended.

The green-white-checkered now becomes get to the restart line for a “clean restart” and instead of getting it right by having three attempts drivers now have one.

Or a caution countdown clock in the truck series to create synthetic results when the racing is somehow branded as authentic. Long green flag runs that are a stable of racing are suddenly stifled.

Only a certain amount of drivers can qualify for the Chase for the Cup, or you can just add an extra one if the shoe fits.

A driver must compete in all races in the season and be top-30 in points to be eligible for the Chase, but if you get injured on your own time in the off-season than you get a special medical waiver too.

Honestly, how can a fan not be annoyed at this point? And has anyone ever seen a professional sporting league make it up as they go quite like this?

Whatever feelings fans may have on each of these subjects aforementioned, the easily findable middle ground is for the sanctioning body of NASCAR to just stay consistent.

But if there is one thing fans can expect from NASCAR it is inconsistency. This recent rule reversal and application is another feather in the cap of a league that is always changing, and always alienating a loyal fan base.
Did NASCAR make the right call by suspending Adam Stevens?