Nobody puts Tony Stewart in a corner.
The Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner and driver sounded off last week about NASCAR’s rule about lug nuts on wheels during the race. Stewart said the rule would affect safety, stating “I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt.”
You know what? He was right, and NASCAR decided to change the rule on Monday – four days after fining him $35,000 for disparaging remarks.
NASCAR sent out a memo to crew chiefs noting that all five lug nuts must be “installed in a safe and secure manner.” Any lug nuts not fastened during post-race inspection will result in a P3 penalty with a minimum of a $20,000 fine and crew chief suspension for one race. A second offense will garner “escalated penalties” for teams.
It’s an interesting scenario for NASCAR, which has changed its rules multiple times over the last several years. With safety of the utmost importance, allowing pit crews to not apply all five lug nuts seemed ludicrous in the first place.
“It wasn’t (a case of) saying they’re not doing their job,” Stewart told FOX Sports on Sunday. “I just felt like this is one thing they dropped the ball on. So, they’re doing a good job. They’re looking at it. They’re going to address it and make it right, and down the road we won’t have to worry about this again, hopefully.”
NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France still wasn’t backing down from his stance on Stewart’s remarks.
“He’s very aware of how we approach criticism. … Tony is very aware of how we look at that. We allow them to criticize and give their point of view way more than any other sport. … We’re thick-skinned. We get it.
“It’s when you go into the area of denigrating the racing product. That’s all we have in NASCAR, the highest quality of competition. When you start working against that in any way, we’re going to have to deal with that. And everybody understands that.”
Smoke got his way. The fans got their way. Safety prevailed and all is right in the world, right? Wrong. Stewart still has to pay a hefty fine for what? Being correct? The next step in this situation is NASCAR simply admitting it was wrong all along.