NASCAR isn’t taking intent into consideration when it comes to penalizing Kyle Busch’s team for a wheel falling off at Dover on Sunday.
The sanctioning body announced Wednesday that Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens, tire carrier Kenneth Barber and tire changer Jacob Seminara had been suspended four races.
Busch’s left-rear wheel came off after his first pit stop when he left the pits after the jack had been dropped. But the jack was dropped before Seminara had gotten the lug nuts tight on the left-rear wheel. So the wheel went careening off Busch’s car after he exited pit road.
The same penalty was applied to the crew chief and tire changer and tire carrier for Chase Briscoe’s Camping World Truck Series team. The same situation happened to Briscoe’s truck in Friday’s truck race. He left pit road when the jack was dropped but the left-rear wheel hadn’t been tightened to his car.
The rule in the NASCAR rule book that states team members are suspended four races after a wheel comes off is designed to prevent teams from tightening less than five lug nuts in an attempt to have a faster pit stop. It was clear in both Busch and Briscoe’s incidents that expediency was not the intent. It was a simple miscommunication on behalf of the guy manning the jack and the tire changers.
It’s noble to suggest that NASCAR shouldn’t have judged intent in this case. Rules should be, in most cases, enforced as written. But when you dive deeper into the two Dover incidents, it’s tough to argue with the punishments being appropriate.
After all, if the jack man doesn’t drop the jack so early, the wheels get fastened to the vehicles correctly. A tire changer can’t do his job if the car is driving away. But the rule doesn’t suspend the person operating the jack even though he was the catalyst for both situations.
It also doesn’t make sense that a truck team gets the same four-race penalty that a Cup Series team does. A Cup Series season is 36 races while the Truck schedule is 23. A four-race penalty is far harsher in a schedule with fewer races.
Brad Keselowski, owner of Briscoe’s truck, said after his driver’s penalty that strict enforcement of the rule against his team would change the way he operates his pit crews.
“It was a mistake,” Keselowski said Saturday before Busch’s penalty happened Sunday. “And we discussed those scenarios. It’s the difference between murder and manslaughter. Intent matters. Certainly, we’re glad that nobody got hurt or there wasn’t any of those types of issues. It doesn’t excuse that kind of stuff. It’s tough scenario for me personally because as an owner over there, we somewhat pride ourselves in not using Cup driver and Cup pit crews and all those things. What I’m looking for out of that endeavor and that series is to develop people and give back to the sport. It’s not really giving back to the sport if I put a Cup driver in or hire a Cup pit crew. That’s really not giving back to the sport at all.
“But on the flip side when you have issues like we had, which is a pit crew that is still developing and inexperienced –they made a mistake. When you have an issue like that which endorses a penalty, that is as costly as that one is according to the current rule, you have to step back and ask yourself, ‘If I had a Cup pit crew, would that have happened?’ And the answer is probably ‘No’. So I think the penalties in those series have to be reflective of what they are, they’re developmental series. That was a developmental issue. A guy who really learned a tough lesson. If the penalty is very severe, very harsh, that’s the end of developmental pit crews for my team. We can’t take that. We can’t afford that and that will have serious ramifications for the series and the ability to develop people.”
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