There’re a whole bunch of people who have never changed tires or pitted race cars making statements about how bad this new lug nut rule could be. Before everyone gets in a tiffy, it’s probably best that we get some facts out there about the reality of this rule. Tire Changers have one cardinal rule and that is don’t leave tires loose! Its the worst feeling in the world for a changer to hear his driver come over the radio and say “I got a vibration”. So if anyone thinks changers are going to throw caution to the wind and send a tire out they feel is not tight….you’re crazy.
In my opinion, this rule is long over due. First off, its almost impossible to police accurately. Most officials are more worried about getting hit or being in the way of a pit stop rather than watching for nuts. I’m guessing it was less than 50% accurate on trying to call those penalties in the past few years. Secondly, how many tires have you seen in the last 10 years fall off a Cup car due to loose wheels. The only one I remember was at Charlotte on the Redbull car and there was more to that story than a loose wheel! So this fear of having tires falling off in the middle of the race is not much of a concern or reality. Drivers can feel loose wheels and they will be the first ones to come down pit road when they feel something wrong with the car.
The reason I stated earlier that this rule is long over due is because it penalizes itself. If you gamble on only hitting a few nuts and it doesn’t work out, then your team and driver have to pit to fix it and you’re out of the race anyways. Having officials tell teams they have a loose wheel was a moot point. If the tire was loose then the team was going to know it and have to pit for it. One area this rule will help crews and not hurt the safety of the drivers and fans will be simple situation stuff. Example: A changer knocks one nut off during a stop but gets all four tight before it. In the past, a changer would have to gamble that the official didn’t see it and either pick it up and put it on, or go on with business as usual and hope you didn’t get caught. Now, that isn’t an issue. You can knock a nut off and still be fine. Same goes for a tire carrier who has a sloppy hang and a nut falls off. A changer can see that and make sure the other four nuts are tight and there’s no harm no foul. In the past, there was an official there to making sure you put those nuts back on.
The exciting thing about this rule is the risk teams are willing to take. Its kind of an uncertain “GREY” area of how many nuts and at what torque you need to keep a wheel on. If it was fact that two nuts can hold a tire on at 200 MPH in the turns, then teams would all be practicing that. The tricky part is determining what is tight and what is not. Once teams get a better grip on what they feel is tight vs. not, then I think you can expect more teams to start getting after it. Either way you look at it, the first few races should be fun to watch in the pits.