NASCAR alters penalty for lug nut and Laser Inspection violations

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NASCAR announced Wednesday increased penalties, including not allowing a win to count toward advancement in the Chase, for teams that fail the Laser Inspection Station by a significant amount or do not have enough lug nuts secure at the end of the race.

The changes are effective immediately. Teams are scheduled to receive the bulletin on this at 4 p.m. ET. Only the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series use the Laser Inspection Station after the race. The lug nut policy would be for all three national series.

If a winning team fails the Laser Inspection Station by a significant amount or has more than three of 20 lug nuts not secure after the race, it will still keep the win but be penalized so severely that it could hurt their chances of advancing in the Chase or making the Chase.

In such cases, NASCAR would declare an encumbered race finish.

An encumbered race finish has the following effects, as applicable:

  • If a win, that finish would not count when determining Chase eligibility, eligibility for advancement in the Chase, eligibility for non-championship events such as the Unlimited and All-Star Race.
  • Regardless of the finishing position, that finish does not count when determining the champion and three runners-up in the final race of the Chase; tie-breakers in Section 17 and as those tie-breakers may be applied relative to finishing positions elsewhere
  • An encumbered race finish is not a disqualification. 
  • The finishing position is still shown on the Official Results

A team would face such penalties if more than three of the 20 lug nuts on its car were not secure at the end of the race. In such a case, a team also would face a $65,000 fine, loss of 35 driver and owner points and the crew chief will be suspended three races.

With the Laser Inspection Station, if the rear toe is equal to or greater than 0.86 on one side and equal to and greater than 0.56 on the opposite side, it would be a P4 penalty and the team would face a $65,000 fine, loss of 35 driver and owner points and the crew chief would be suspended three races.

“We want to ensure that everything was in check with the LIS and the lug nuts, which are both new rules for this year,’’ said Scott Miller, senior vice president of competition for NASCAR, on the increased penalties. “We wanted to make sure that the door wasn’t open for a team to really take advantage of the rules. The level of infraction that it takes to end up with an encumbered finish, we haven’t seen that. It would certainly be egregious from everything we’ve seen before. We want to get these things in place to ensure we have a level playing field and nobody tries to take advantage of the current rules.’’

One change NASCAR announced was a lessening of a penalty. Previously, a team’s crew chief was suspended for one race if the team had one lug nut not secure after the race. Now, a crew chief won’t be suspended unless there are two of the 20 lug nuts on the car not secure.

“That was kind of a one-tier approach to assure that the garage area complied with a pretty serious penalty for a crew chief suspension,’’ Miller said of the previous penalty. “As we looked at a more global approach and deeper, what we proposed here and what we enacted here is a lot more the penalty fitting the crime.’’