The sport of auto racing is built on the idea of men pushing machines to the extreme in order to achieve victory. In the world of NASCAR it is no different that teams will do everything in their power to become faster in all aspects, including pit stops by not tightening all five lug nuts on a tire.
New for 2016 was NASCAR no longer mandating that a team needs five lug nuts before a car exits the pits. The justification was with new equipment to monitor pit road, there was no need for the extra officials to be there counting lug nuts. This was also coupled with the idea that if not all were tight, the driver would either have to come back in or would crash, thus the incentive would not be there for teams to push the envelope. It would be self-policing, should you pit or crash, any gains by making the move would be wiped out and then some.
Apparently, the risk of additional pit stops or bodily harm to drivers is not enough for some teams not to try and short their pit stops. That was the focus of Tony Stewart’s complaints this past week, where he urged NASCAR to step in and go back to the old rule because “someone will get hurt or worse.”
This is a very valid point by Stewart, but the blame should not be on NASCAR failure to enforce the rule anymore, the blame should be on the crew chiefs and tire changers. Stewart’s lecture should have been saved for his crew, not for NASCAR, they are the ones making the decision during pit stops.
To me, it is baffling the idea that teams need NASCAR save them from themselves. We see rules like that all the time, minimum roll bar thickness and minimum tire pressures come to mind. If left in the hands of some crews, drivers would be strapped inside nothing more than tin cans with seat belts and engine because it would go fast.
In this instance, it should be the teams stepping up and doing the right thing. If you cheat on a tire change and it works, suddenly you’re the hero. If it bites you, then you’re the goat, but that is your choice as a tire changer or crew chief to roll the dice. This isn’t on NASCAR to be the angel on your shoulder saying “you shouldn’t do that.”
That is out of the driver’s hand during a pit stop, but they should have dialogue to be on the same page. Should a driver not feel comfortable about rolling the dice in this fashion, as Kurt Busch told media members earlier today when he suggested that media members wouldn’t like having their passenger car with only a few lug nuts on it, he should voice that and let it be known. Same for it they are willing to risk it all for some spots on pit road, they should explain that and own that they are will to do that.
I understand that someone could get hurt or worse, as Stewart suggested, but that is part of the game when it’s pushing a stock car to the limit. If all parties are alright pushing it that far in pursuit of glory, then that is on them to reap what they sow.