By: Joe Piette

Not only did we see some really good racing from the three major series in our sport at the Monster Mile in Dover DE this past weekend, but we also saw some crazy pit road happenings that we have not seen in a long time. Two times in 3 races we saw a wheel come off immediately after a pit stop and completely leave the vehicle! Now this is not a common occurrence (thank goodness) but what is really crazy is that in both cases, it was the Pole winner for each race and they were both in the first pit stall leaving pit road! The #29 Truck and the #18 Cup Car each found themselves singing the ole tune “you picked a fine time to leave me loose wheel” no wait, that’s not right, its Lucille! How does this happen, well there are a couple ways.

The #29 Truck lost the Left Front wheel. Watching it take place it looked to be a failed Left Front index meaning the Left Front wheel did not get put on as efficiently as needed. The rear guys had finished up and the Jackman keyed off of them and dropped the jack.
The #18 car lost the Left Rear wheel. In this situation, the wheel was indexed efficiently but for some reason the Tire Changer wasn’t able to tighten the lug nuts. Possibly the pit gun was going in the wrong direction (spinning in the Off position) and spun the new lug nuts off instead of tightening them. The front guys finished up and the Jackman keyed off of them and dropped the jack.

Even though it was a front wheel from the Truck and a rear wheel from the Cup Car, the one guy that really gets the heat is the Jackman. He is the one that controls when the stop is over. When the jack drops on the left side, the driver hauls A$$ and before anyone can tell him to stop, it’s too late! A Jackman’s job is to get the vehicle up efficiently and also to drop it at just the right time, meaning don’t wait to drop it and loose time! Jackmen are always being told to drop the jack within two tenths of a second from the work being done. When you cut time this close, mistakes are going to happen, it’s just part of the huge pressure on pit road!

One more thing to mention regarding these wheels…NASCAR has a rule in place that states “Loss of wheel(s) due to improper installation will result in a mandatory minimum four Race suspension of the Crew Chief, Tire Changer and Tire Carrier of the lost wheel(s).” This rule was made to prevent teams from intentionally only tightening two or three lug nuts in an effort to make the pit stop faster. Obviously that was not the intent in either of these situations. These were two unintentional mistakes made at the same track on the same weekend. NASCAR has yet to make a final ruling on these situations but no doubt there are two Crew Chiefs and four crew members on pins and needles!

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