NASCAR will discuss lug nuts and loose wheels in monthly meeting with teams

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NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said Monday that a recent rash of loose wheels would be a topic in the Sprint Cup Series’ monthly competition meeting with teams.

Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson were among several who needed extra pit stops because of loose wheels during Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway

There also were multiple loose wheels in the previous race at Texas Motor Speedway, prompting much debate last week over the risks and rewards of the practice of tightening fewer than five lug nuts during a pit stop.

A loose wheel is a safety hazard for drivers, who can be left with little warning of losing control at a high rate of speed.

“We’ll continue to look at it,” O’Donnell said during his weekly appearance on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel. “We’ve got our competition meeting monthly where we meet with the teams and certainly raise any issues that they see as something we’ve got to address, probably more so immediately.”

NASCAR once monitored and punished teams for hitting fewer than five lug nuts on a stop. But it hasn’t been policed since an overhaul of pit road officiating before last season. Two days before his runner-up finish at Bristol, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said knowing he could be on track with fewer lug nuts “freaks me out” and expressed surprise that NASCAR stopped enforcement.

O’Donnell said it became a matter of self-policing, as any small gains made by picking up positions in the pits can be sacrificed with the much greater punishment of an unscheduled pit stop. Elliott and Johnson fell off the lead lap at Bristol because of their stops under green.

“In our minds, we put that back on the teams,” O’Donnell said. “We’re seeing it correct itself in the race. It’s certainly not an advantage when you have to come in and pit the car, but we’ll continue to monitor that and we’ll bring it up in our next competition meeting to see if there’s anything we can do to fix it.”

Other topics addressed by NASCAR’s chief racing development officer:

— In the wake of a woman being struck by Kyle Busch’s Toyota midway through Sunday’s race, NASCAR will re-examine its garage policy. The woman, who apparently didn’t sustain a serious injury, was the second person to be hit in the NASCAR garage since August when Jimmie Johnson clipped someone at Pocono Raceway.

“Thankfully, everyone was OK (Sunday),” O’Donnell said. “We will not look at it in terms of Kyle Busch, but we will look at it to see if there’s anything we can do from a security perspective. We always reiterate to anyone who’s in the garage to be alert, this is a live race that’s going on.

“(The area) was roped off. Thankfully she was OK. But as with any incident we’ll take a look and see what we can improve upon.”

— NASCAR would consider eventually bringing heat races to Sprint Cup after the format made its debut in the Xfinity Series at Bristol last weekend. O’Donnell said feedback would be sought from race promoters about the reception of heat races, which will be used again Saturday at Richmond International Raceway and two more times this season.

“I think it’s something we’ll continue to look at,” he said. “We certainly want to talk to promoters and race fans. If we see positive momentum and fans really like it, it’s something we’d take a look at (for Sprint Cup).

“We know with any change there is always some risk. We’ve got to make sure we hang on to our hard-core fans, because always with change comes some challenges. Our goal is to grow the sport. If we can make it more exciting and have everyone even more up on the wheel, we’ll take a look at it. But right now, (we’re) really happy with the decision to go with those four events in Xfinity.”

— O’Donnell said Aric Almirola and No. 43 team members were called to the NASCAR hauler after Sunday’s race just as a reminder that drivers should lower their window net after a crash to signal to safety workers that they are OK. Almirola declined to do so while trying to get a push to the pits. “It just really comes down to a safety issue,” O’Donnell said. “(Sprint Cup race director) David (Hoots) just wanted to bring folks in to remind them of that policy.”