2015 should be an interesting year for many reasons. One of the main reasons will be rule changes coming to pit road. The one rule that stands out as a game changer will be the fact that NASCAR is letting teams regulate lug nuts during their stops. Basically, NASCAR won’t penalize or monitor missed lug nuts or lug nuts that get knocked off during a stop.
The new rule…or lack of rule, could be a huge gain for teams that want to gamble. Everyone knows that it doesn’t take all 5 nuts tight to keep a tire on. The tricky part is how many nuts does it take? There are stories floating around pit road of teams that have come into victory lane with 1,2 and 3 nuts on a wheel, and everyone is amazed. I think every situation is different and every situation could have a different outcome, but hitting only 3 or 4 nuts per side could speed up a stop and if teams are willing to gamble on that then it could pay off. In the past, teams had to make sure all 5 nuts were on the studs and if an official were to see a nut get knocked off they would hold the car until the nut was put back on. Changers were very aware of the rules and hit nuts with a speed they could control. Jack men were also aware of the rule and MOST would wait on the left side for all 5 to get hit. Now, all that changes.
The risk: there is always risk with reward and there is plenty of risks associated with taking this rule out. The first and most obvious risk is a loose wheel. Most changers are very concerned with the repercussions of a loose wheel and won’t risk it for a standard stop. I think this rule comes into play when your at a place that eats tires up and you get a caution with 10 laps to go and the whole field comes down to pit. This is when teams will gamble and may only hit 3-4 nuts and let it ride. With only a few laps left in the race, why not! That’s when this rule will become interesting. It should be mentioned that NASCAR will still penalize a team if a tire comes off the car during a run due to a loose wheel. You don’t see that very often but it has and does happen.