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Car owner Chip Ganassi calls ‘whole lug nut thing a silly thing’

Phoenix Grand Prix

AVONDALE, AZ - APRIL 02: Tteam owner Chip Ganassi following the Phoenix Grand Prix at Phoenix International Raceway on April 2, 2016 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

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Car owner Chip Ganassi called crew chief suspensions in NASCAR “complete silliness’’ and said the “whole lug nut thing is a silly thing’’ during an interview Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Ganassi’s comments on “Dialed In” came on the same day NASCAR suspended one of his crew chiefs, Chad Johnston, for not having all the lug nuts properly secured on Kyle Larson’s car Monday at Pocono Raceway. Johnston will miss this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway.

Johnston is the fourth crew chief to be suspended a race since the policy was enacted six weeks ago. NASCAR issued the new mandate shortly after Tony Stewart blasted series officials for their lack of policing pit stops for missing lug nuts.

Ganassi told host Claire B. Lang on Wednesday that the new policy has steered the conversation of the sport in a direction he doesn’t think it needs to go.

“I just think the whole lug nut thing is a silly thing,’’ Ganassi said. “We’re in a major sport that on any given weekend we have over 100,000 people that show up and watch and it’s the most-watched sport on television sometimes on the weekend and we’re sitting here talking about lug nuts. Are you kidding me? Please.

“They need to move the conversation. I’m saying NASCAR needs to move the conversation to something a little more relevant than lug nuts.’’

Ganassi was then asked about replacing Johnston for the weekend.

“We have qualified people that will be there,’’ he said. “That’s the other thing is these suspensions, you can have the guy on the phone, you can have him on the computer, but he can’t be at the track. What’s the point of being suspended? You really could probably suspend everybody on the team except the pit crew. It’s silliness. It’s complete silliness.’’

Kurt Busch won last weekend at Pocono Raceway without crew chief Tony Gibson, who had been suspended one race for a lug nut violation.

So if not lug nuts, what should be the topic of conversation be in NASCAR, Lang asked Ganassi.

“I think all sports are challenged with how to grow their sport,’’ he said. “We’re on the backend of the baby-boom generation. All these sports were built on the baby-boom generation and there just aren’t the fans following any sport as much as they used to. There just aren’t the people behind the baby-boom generation that are watching television or watching sports. There seems to be this trend toward participation sports, not viewing sports.

“We need to do a good job of telling young people that cars are still fun. I think sometimes between the government and Detroit … we teach young people that cars are really just a transportation things from Point A to Point B and pretty soon you’ll be able to do it with a driverless car. I think we’re missing the point here. There are a hell of a lot of people out there that need to realize that cars can still be fun to drive. That driving of a car can be appreciated and can be respected and can be applauded. That’s what racing is all about.’’

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