|Stewart is told 'Son, you want to race here, you better to learn to keep your mouth shut. You understand son?'|
Hours after announcing his return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Richmond Int’l Raceway, Tony Stewart was fined $35,000 by NASCAR after Stewart made critical comments regarding NASCAR’s commitment to safety.
Stewart’s fine falls under Section 12 of the NASCAR Rule Book.
According to Section 12.8.1, actions that could result in a $10,000-$50,000 fine include disparaging the sport and/or NASCAR’s leadership, or verbal abuse of a NASCAR official, media members, fans, etc.
Stewart said in an interview earlier this week that NASCAR should return to ordering teams to tighten all five lug nuts on a car before leaving pit road. NASCAR stopped forcing teams to put all five lug nuts on their cars at the start of last season, instead leaving it in the hands of race teams to decide how many lug nuts each wheel should have.
Stewart’s comments came after several teams were seen using as few as three lug nuts in recent NASCAR events.
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet SS for the first time this season on Sunday at Richmond Int’l Raceway.
|Tony Stewart says NASCAR is overlooking missed lug nuts|
04/21/16 Tony Stewart is "beyond mad" with NASCAR over the sanctioning body's lack of lug nut enforcement on pit road, the driver/team owner said Wednesday.
NASCAR stopped requiring teams to put all five lug nuts on its wheels at the start of last season, part of a new pit road technology initiative that also saw a reduction of its officiating force. With officials no longer in every pit box, NASCAR said it was up to the teams whether they should put all five lug nuts on the wheel or not.
But teams have been pushing the limit by only securing as few as three lug nuts, creating an epidemic of loose wheels in the sport. And Stewart said it's only a matter of time before that ends badly.
"I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt," Stewart said. "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.
"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."
Stewart, speaking at a quick lube and tire shop to promote sponsor Mobil 1's involvement in NASCAR's Race to Green initiative, said NASCAR should "absolutely" step in and return to enforcing the five lug nut rule. He said it would be OK if NASCAR mandated a new hub that only had one center lug nut (like open wheel cars run) or even three.
But to let cars race down the straightaway at 200 mph without the wheels fully secure, he said, is unacceptable.
"We shouldn’t be playing games with safety to win races," he said. "It should be out-performing the other teams, not jeopardizing drivers’ lives by teams putting two lug nuts on to try to get two more spots off pit road."
Asked how Stewart would fix the problem now that NASCAR has laid off many of its officials, the three-time Cup champion said it wasn't his problem.
"We didn’t make the change to begin with," he said. "It’s not our responsibility. That’s their responsibility. We did it for how many years in the sport – 50-plus years? Sixty-plus years? And now in the last two years now we don’t have to do that.
"Last year it started; this year you see the problem getting worse. Well if you see a problem getting worse like that, where’s the bottom of that trend going to happen? It’s going to happen when somebody gets hurt, and that’s going to be one of the largest black eyes I can see NASCAR getting when they’ve worked so hard and done such a good job to make it safe."
Stewart said NASCAR overall has done a fine job on safety — such as mandating safety changes to superspeedway cars in technical bulletins — but said "in this one particular area, they are totally dropping the ball and I feel like really made a grossly bad decision on." Jeff Gluck/USA Today