Heavy Penalties for Busch and Briscoe spark up another lug nut debate

The weekend at Dover was crammed full of epic racing at jaw dropping speeds. However, errors happen and safety violations occur. This is the case for the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch when a problem on pit road from Sunday’s race has resulted in a heavy penalty.

Kyle Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens, tyre changer Jacob Seminara and tyre carrier Kenneth Barber, have all been suspended for four races after the left rear tyre came off the Joe Gibbs Racing Driver’s car during the AAA 400 Drive for Autism.

After starting on the pole, Busch led for 18 laps until a caution came out. Drivers took the chance to head down pit road, including Busch. During this stop, Busch’s jack man appeared to lower the car before the rear tyre changer could properly secure the lug nuts. It was suspected that the machine used to undo and loosen lug nuts, was still set on “loosen” mode. Busch left pit road and the tyre came off on his approach to turn 2. Joe Gibbs Racing have no plans to appeal the penalty, and engineer Ben Beshore will serve as the crew chief for the suspended races.

Also in the firing line for penalties this week is driver for Brad Keselowski Racing, Chase Briscoe, whose truck team had a very similar issue during the truck race at Dover. Briscoe had also started on the pole and his wheel came off after a pit stop. Crew chief Mile Hillman Jr, tyre changer Wesley McPherson and tyre carrier Eric Pinkiert have all been suspended for four Camping World Truck Series point races.

Chase Briscoe driving the Monster Mile. Source: Twitter

BKR had this to say in a statement:

“We are disappointed in the penalty that Mike Hillman Jr. and the members of our pit crew received followed the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in Dover. We are currently considering our options under the appeal process outlined in the NASCAR rulebook. Buddy Sisco will serve as Chase Briscoe’s crew chief in the interim.”

These incidents have brought up a lot of scrutiny towards the wording of rules. Of course, both teams ought to be penalised because a loose tyre is a huge risk to drivers and fans. However, the extent to which these teams ought to be penalised is questionable. The rule by which teams have been punished is as follows: “Sections 10.9.10.4.c: Tires and Wheels; 12.5.2.6.3.c Minimum Safety Penalty Options. NASCAR implemented these rules for safety reasons, in order to prevent teams from leaving lug nuts loose on a tire in order to gain track position.”

Clearly the important part of that rule states that there’s intent to use it to an advantage for drivers and teams. In the case of Kyle Busch’s team especially, there was evidently no intent to use it as an advantage and it was down to human error. Having no tyre on a car is no advantage after all – so there was nothing to gain by not securing the lug nuts. Has this sparked up another lug nut debate? Indubitably. The solution? Perhaps NASCAR ought to consider sharpening the rule with a pencil.