If you bet on NASCAR just to see the crashes, then NASCAR no longer requiring teams to tighten all five lug nuts on each wheel during pit stops is good news for you. But it’s bad news for driver and team owner Tony Stewart, who was fined $35,000 for speaking out against the lug nut issues. Sure, the nine-member NASCAR Sprint Cup Drivers Council will all pitch in equally to pay the fine, but it’s not really about the money.
“I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt,” Stewart told USA Today’s Jeff Gluck. “You will not have heard a rant that’s going to be as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel that hurts one of them.”
He added that “with all the crap we’re going through with all the safety stuff, and for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one … this is not a game you play with safety and that’s exactly the way I feel like NASCAR is treating this. This is not the way to do this.” Following Stewart’s penalization, Drivers Council Denny Hamlin issued a statement to the effect that “we as drivers believe Tony has the right to speak his opinion on topics that pertain to a sport that he has spent nearly two decades helping build as both a driver and an owner. While we do not condone drivers lashing out freely at NASCAR, we do feel Tony was in his rights to state his opinion. We as a Council support him and do not agree with the fine.”
Since 2001 when Dale Earnhardt switched his regular car for Elijah’s Chariot, Nascar has introduced several safety improvements, such as mandatory use of head and neck restraints, SAFER barriers at race tracks, and others. Additionally, Nascar CEO and chairman Brian France, has made attempts to approach drivers, teams, sponsors, fans, manufacturers, teams, and other stake holders, so that auto racing is more of a democracy than a dictatorship. According to FoxSports’ Tom Jensen, Nascar’s stance more often than not has been “you need us, more than we need you.” But there can be no races without racers, and if enough of the sport’s stars are concerned about their safety, maybe it’s time for NASCAR to make teams run five tight lug nuts on all four wheels at every pit stop.
Which begs the question, is Nascar saying “you may choose not to tighten all five lug nuts,” or is it saying “you must not tighten all five lug nuts”? Because if it’s the former, the whole controversy can be summed up in one word: timshel. The Hebrew word ‘thou mayest;’ man’s choice between right and wrong. For example, Tony Stewart. You’re a team owner. You own the team. Can’t you just have your team tighten all five lug nuts on all of your four wheels every single time? I mean, righty-tighty lefty-loosy. It’s not rocket science.