By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
One of the big topics heading into this weekend’s event at Richmond International Raceway is NASCAR’s lenient stance on lugnuts tightened during a pitstop, and Kurt Busch believes the time to change that stance is sooner rather than later.
NASCAR has taken a ‘less policed’ approach recently, believing that the teams should have the freedom to decide on whether or not to tighten all five lugnuts during a pitstop, a decision far different than in years past when anything less than five would lead to a penalty.
Typically, fewer tightened lugnuts equals a faster pitstop, which means a tremendous gain in track position. The problem is recently the risk versus reward strategy has seen numerous teams send their drivers out on the track with three or less lugnuts tightened – which has many drivers speaking up in the name of safety.
The subject has become a sensitive subject for many, including Busch, who isn’t a part of the Driver Council but is comfortable with the drivers having a voice on safety issues that affect the sport.
Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup Series Champion, compared the safety issue facing the drivers to that of the everyday driver.
“I think it’s a safety issue that we should look to address before there is a negative outcome with it,” said Busch. “To me it makes sense to have five lugnuts. You want five of them tight. You go to your Goodyear Tire store and get your tires rotated they put on three lugnuts you are not going to feel so comfortable about that.”
The 37-year-old shed some light on a possible alternative plan to the five lugnut system, comparing it to the single lugnut used by the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“This is such a juicy topic that any word can be placed in the wrong position and it ends up with a negative side effect,” said Busch. “I ran the Indy 500 a few years ago and it was really neat to see them take one lugnut off and then put the same lugnut right back on.
“There is a hub that I’m sure we could design in the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage area even for Xfinity or even for the Truck Series. But I was told that is not part of the show. The show is to watch those guys, the athletes, jump over the wall, hit their air guns and have them blazing and hit five lugnuts and put five back on. Just have that energy and the show part of it.
“I agree, it’s a unique aspect that our athletes who jump over the wall can perform and the fans can get into it. But when it’s starting to cross the threshold of safety on speed versus the ability just to have that wheel hang on and try to get a win that is what has happened here. We are all out there trying to get that one win and try to get locked into the Chase. I would say that now most of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys have their win and they are probably going to go back into a conservative mode for their pit stops to make sure they are getting them all tight.
“So, we shouldn’t have qualifying type pit stops to try to win the end of the race.”
Image: Robert Laberge/Getty Images