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NASCAR to ‘re-evaluate’ policy on lug nuts after drivers raise questions

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500

BRISTOL, TN - APRIL 17: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway on April 17, 2016 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

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RICHMOND, Va. — After criticism from a three-time series champion and concern from other drivers, NASCAR said Friday it would “re-evaluate” its policy on lug nuts but offered no change for this weekend’s Sprint Cup and Xfinity races at Richmond International Raceway.

The announcement comes a day after NASCAR fined Tony Stewart $35,000 for questioning why series officials don’t require teams to tighten all five lug nuts on each wheel during a pit stop. At least seven Sprint Cup teams have had loose wheels in the last two races.

Teams are tightening fewer lug nuts for quicker pit stops to gain track position. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle and former champion Kurt Busch have expressed concerns about the matter, along with Stewart.

“Since the drivers are now questioning (the rule), it’s time for us to kind of re-evaluate our position and work with the community on looking at possibly different ways to enforce the pit road rules,’’ said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition.

“The teams are obviously pushing harder than they ever have in this area. It’s time for us to take a look at it. The open dialogue is very good right now between NASCAR and the teams. We’ll work internally and with them to move forward here.’’

NASCAR’s Rule Book states that any team that has a wheel come off after exiting pit road faces a P3 penalty that includes a minimum four-race suspension for the crew chief, tire changer and tire carrier. No one has received this penalty in Cup or Xfinity since the rule was instituted.

Although the rule has been in place since the start of last year, the issue of how many lug nuts teams tighten has intensified the past two weeks with the teams of Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott each experiencing a loose wheel in a race.

“Throughout the history of the sport there have been loose wheels,’’ Miller said. “It hadn’t risen, in our opinion, to the point where we thought loose wheels currently were becoming an unsafe thing out there. Obviously others have. We’ll do our best to make sure that we satisfy the industry on this one.’’

Miller said that officials could “potentially consider” a single lug nut for the wheel — as used in open-wheel — in the future but said that a lot of work would have to be done for that.

Miller hinted that there could be a more efficient way to monitor the lug nuts in the future.

“I think technology ultimately will be our way home on this,’’ he said without providing detail.

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