One missing lug nut no longer results in crew chief suspension

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Included in NASCAR’s new “encumbered” finish rules that go into effect this weekend was news that crew chiefs will no longer be suspended for one race if one lug nut is missing on a wheel in post-race inspection.

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said in a teleconference that it had determined that one missing lug nut did not give a team a “serious competitive advantage.”

In the Sprint Cup Series, the first offense for one missing lug nut would be a P2 penalty with a $10,000 fine. The second offense would be a $20,000 fine.

“Anything beyond that would obviously be deliberate and provide a serious competitive advantage,” Miller said.

Now it will take two or more missing lug nuts for a crew chief to be suspended one race. There are 20 total lug nuts on a car, with five on each wheel.

If there are only 18 properly secured lug nuts, the P3 penalty will result in a one race crew chief suspension, the loss of 15 championship owner and driver points and a $20,000 fine.

Only having 17 secured lug nuts would result in a P4 penalty and an “encumbered” finish.

An encumbered finish would result in the following:

  • 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 P4 level lug nut violation would also include a three-race suspension for the crew chief, a $65,000 fine and the loss of 35 championship driver and owner points.

The rule mandating all five lug nuts be secured was introduced on April 25, three months and nine races into the Sprint Cup season and after a rant by Tony Stewart on lug nut safety.

“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. “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.’’

Since the rule was implemented, five Sprint Cup crew chiefs were suspended one race after their cars were found to have a missing lug nut.