NASCAR’s side of lug nut penalty: ‘We believe the message is absolutely clear’ to teams

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Sprint Cup director Richard Buck told NBC Sports that NASCAR has no plan to address teams after a controversial lug nut rule revision yielded its first major penalty Wednesday.

“I think it’s very clear to the industry that everyone pushes for every competitive advantage they can get, but we’re crystal clear when it comes to safety,” he said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon. “This issue, that’s why we spelled it out so clearly. I don’t know we’ll have a special crew chief meeting for it because we believe, as a company, the message is absolutely clear.”

Adam Stevens, crew chief for Kyle Busch’s winning car Saturday night at Kansas Speedway, was suspended for the upcoming race weekend at Dover International Speedway along with front tire-changer Josh Leslie after NASCAR said the team didn’t meet requirements that all five lug nuts must be installed in a “safe and secure manner at all times during the event.”

The penalty doesn’t affect Busch’s win or the three bonus points the defending series champion earned for the first round of the playoffs.

Buck said the violation was found in postrace but wouldn’t clarify whether it was at the track or at its R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, where Busch’s winning car and Kevin Harvick’s runner-up were taken after the race.

NASCAR updated its policy before the May 1 race at Talladega Superspeedway, where no teams were found to have run afoul of the rule.

Busch won for the first time at Kansas by electing to keep the No. 18 Toyota on track and in the lead during a final caution on Lap 235. His last pit stop was on Lap 211, meaning he ran 56 laps on a wheel that NASCAR didn’t believe to be “safe and secure” (Buck wouldn’t clarify which wheel).

“I can tell you it absolutely didn’t meet our expectations or our criteria laid out in the rulebook,” Buck said of the infraction.

Buck declined to provide many specific details of the penalty because of a possible appeal by Joe Gibbs Racing. As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, an appeal hadn’t been filed.

“I know there’s been a lot of talk and stuff, but just to be clear: We’re crystal clear on this,” Buck told NBC Sports. “We have not wavered from that at all. From anything I said or (vice president of competition) Scott (Miller) said or our expectations from the teams.

“We expect all wheels and tires to be on and all five lug nuts to be installed in a safe and secure manner. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”