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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR has added mandatory fines and other penalties for teams caught without five lug nuts on each wheel.
The move announced Monday comes less than a week after three-time series champion Tony Stewart urged NASCAR to take action. The series had stopped monitoring lug nuts during pit stops, and some teams were using fewer than five, allowing them to send cars out faster in hopes of getting better position and a better finish.
NASCAR can only check for every lug nut before and after a race, but may call a car back to pit road during a race.
The series said a tire falling off in a Sprint Cup race due to “improper installation” would mean a minimum four-race suspension of the crew chief and other pit crew members involved. If lug nuts are found missing after a race, Cup teams face at least a $20,000 fine and a one-race suspension for the crew chief.
Veteran crew chief Rodney Childers, who works with 2014 NASCAR champion Kevin Harvick, reacted to the change on Twitter by saying “I will sit at home for a week at some point.” Childers noted that rarely does his car end a race with all 20 lug nuts still attached.
The penalties are less for the Xfinity and Truck series, but still substantial for the lower-funded teams.
“Our job is whenever there’s a safety improvement to make or a policy to enhance things, we will just do that,” NASCAR CEO Brian France said Monday during an interview with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “It’s as simple as that. There’s not a controversial thing. Our whole system is based on safe and competitive racing. If we can make an adjustment to make things safer, we just simply will.”
Stewart was fined $35,000 for his criticism, and that fine stands.
NASCAR said a “long-term solution” was in the works.
“They’re just trying to get it right and we’re trying to get it right,” France said. “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 to the right place as fast as we can. That’s Job 1 for us.”
Tony Stewart takes on gas and gets new tires during a pit stop during the Sprint Cup auto race at Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., Sunday, April 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Chet Strange)