Race Weekend Central

Friday Faceoff: Is NASCAR Letting Cheaters Prosper?

AJ Allmendinger was hit hard with penalties from having three loose lug nuts in Atlanta, with a loss of 35 points, fines, and a three-race suspension for crew chief Randall Burnett.  Too much or in line?

Frank Velat, Staff Writer: It’s spelled out very clearly what will happen when lug nut violations are discovered. Whether it’s too harsh or not, the punishment, unlike many penalties in NASCAR, is well known in advance. Knowing the outcome, tempting fate in this manner is foolish. The 47 team certainly faces an uphill climb from where they are in the standings as a result. But I’d be willing to bet there will be a lot of practice at JTG over the next few weeks to make sure that such a mistake doesn’t happen again. The penalty is strict to keep teams from making the same error over and over.

Michael Finley, Staff Writer: The penalty itself is a little ridiculous, but the enforcement of it was fine. It’s really nice to have a sanctioning body running the place that is very consistent with their rulings and has rules outlining penalties- we already knew what Allmendinger was getting earlier in the week. That’s great to see.

Bryan Gable, Staff Writer: The penalty is excessive, considering that NASCAR was willing to let the teams police the lugnut issue themselves last year.  However, it is too late for the competitors to start complaining about lugnut penalties now.  The drivers, led by Tony Stewart, and the teams asked NASCAR to step in because loose wheels were becoming a safety issue.  It is very unfortunate for the No. 47 team, but the competitors do not have a lot of leverage right now to lobby NASCAR for a change in policy, especially with the penalty clearly spelled out in the rule book.

Michael Massie, Staff Writer: I have never understood why NASCAR is so hard on teams regarding the lug nut rule. It is more of a safety concern, as it hardly gives a competitive advantage except shaving a little time off of pit stops. I liked the way it was a few years ago when it was basically a self-enforcing rule. If teams want to be stupid and drive on tires with loose lug nuts or four lug nuts then let them have at it. A three-race suspension is way too far. And a 35-point penalty is basically disqualifying a whole race from the team. As a result of the penalty, the team lost more points than gained at Atlanta. The penalty is so harsh that a team will come out better in points by staying home as opposed to having three loose lug nuts. That penalty needs to take it down a notch. It should be a monetary fine and that’s it. If there are repeated offenders throughout the season, then maybe points and crew chief suspensions should come.

All eyes turned to pit road quick at Atlanta. (Photo: NASCAR via Getty Images)

Amy Henderson, Senior Editor: You know what’s awesome? When a rule and its consequences are made crystal clear to everybody before the season, and when a violation happens, NASCAR does exactly what they said they were going to do.  I’m all for coming down hard on safety issues, and while I think the suspension is a bit much, you can’t play with the safety of your driver, and NASCAR showed that the rules have teeth.  That I like a lot.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway announced that it will add a second race date in the playoffs, taking the date from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  Was adding a second Vegas date the right move, and was Loudon the right track to take it from?

Gable: What frustrates me about this change is that it was not done with racing or competition in mind.  In the past few days, the folks in favor of a second date for Las Vegas have only talked about external factors for why the switch should be made.  Yet those kinds of arguments are not going to win over a lot of people.  The average fan does not care about marketing opportunities for SMI.  The average fan does not care about how much Las Vegas community leaders and businesspeople support the race.  What average fans do care about is the quality of racing that they get to see, and Las Vegas rarely puts on memorable races.

Henderson: I’m fine with NASCAR allowing track owners to poach dates from their own tracks, but they should not allow them to take from different types of tracks.  In other words, a 1.5 and 2-mile tracks should only be able to take from other 1.5 or 2-mile tracks.  There are already too many of these races on the schedule, and NASCAR should not have allowed there to be one more at the expense of a more unique track. It’s a real shame to see NASCAR allow another cookie-cutter race on the schedule.  They need to find ways to get rid of those, not add them.  The Vegas date should have had to come from Atlanta, Kentucky, Texas, or Charlotte.

Dustin Albino, Assistant Editor: Admittedly so, I’m a bit biased being a northeastern guy, so of course I’m sad to see New Hampshire loose a date. That particular market relies on income from the two NASCAR weekends, because there isn’t much else happening in central New Hampshire. I’m happy that Las Vegas is getting another date, but why not take out another 1.5-mile track, there are already too many of them. Adding another one to the Chase is going to even further hurt teams that can’t perform on intermediate tracks. However, I don’t believe this is the last change in regards to scheduling.

Velat: The outrage from the fans is completely unwarranted. First off, if you live close enough to attend the races at NHMS but don’t, you literally caused this to happen. Good racing has never been a staple at NHMS. I recall plenty of races where it was 300 laps of guys just trying to stay in the inside line. As for Vegas, there are few tracks with anywhere near the number of extracurricular activities nearby as LVMS. NASCAR wants to draw people to the track and there’s plenty of potential new fans wandering the strip. So I certainly understand the decision.

Atlanta Motor Speedway may reconsider plans to repave the track this year, citing driver feedback as the reason.  Should AMS reconsider, or is the surface beyond repair? And how big a role should feedback from drivers play in this type of decision?

The 20-year-old surface kept drivers honest through 500 miles. (Photo: Matthew T Thacker NKP)

Massie: Keep Atlanta the way it is. They have already ruined Kentucky Speedway with a repave. Prior to that, Kentucky was one of the most exciting tracks on the circuit.  The racing at Atlanta was nowhere near exciting this past weekend, but that had little to do with the track surface. The problem is the racing package where clean air makes the car tremendously faster than the draft does. To make NASCAR races truly exciting, the aero package needs to be closer to the product IndyCar has where the second place car is always faster than the leader. What I liked about Atlanta’s old racing surface is it reminded me of the tales of the World 600 in the 1960s, where the track was the biggest enemy, taking out most of the cars. Part of racing should be the driver vs. the track. Quit making it easy on them with these repaves.

Phil Allaway, Newsletter Editor: The track has already admitted that the current pavement is three years past its use-by date.  At this point, they’re lucky that something bad hasn’t happened to the surface during one of their races.  Whoever did the paving work back in 1997 did an excellent job.  Even if they reconsider, the decision will only result in one more year at best before the machines have to come out to play.  It is probably cheaper to do it now.  Driver feedback can play a role in both keeping the current surface and making whatever new surface comes along as racy as possible.

Albino: Atlanta, do NOT repave the track yet. Although short tracks are often favorable in terms of best pure racing on the circuit, I disagree. The best racing is when tires wear, and teams must pit well before they need gas. It ups the ante with strategy, and we saw tons of strategy on Sunday. Brad Keselowski pitted twice in a segment, once unscheduled, but Paul Wolfe called him in a second time because of how beneficial four tires are. Aged asphalt leads to tire wear and the best racing. The drivers should have all the say in the world when it comes to whether or not a track is reconfigured. At the end of the day, they are the ones putting on the show.

Finley: It’s better at this point to just pave it instead of delaying the inevitable. The drivers are one of the most important voices to take into consideration when making a change like this, but they shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all.

Gable: I like that the folks at Atlanta are taking the drivers’ thoughts into account, and I really like that they are reconsidering the scheduled repave.  Old, worn-out surfaces make for great racing.  Atlanta should hold off on repaving the track until it is absolutely necessary to be able to run any races there.

Kyle Busch won the XFINITY Series race at Atlanta but promptly failed postrace tech.  His win will be an encumbered victory and also resulted in a loss of 10 owner points for the No. 18 team (which is eligible for the owner’s title), as well as fines and a one-race suspension for the Scott Graves, but Busch can’t be docked points in that series.  Should NASCAR consider taking wins from non-points-earning drivers in any series?

The trophy will stay in Kyle Busch’s house. (Photo: Matthew T Thacker NKP)

Henderson: I heard this idea batted around a lot this week, and I say no; NASCAR should not take wins from non-points-earning drivers. NASCAR should take wins (or any finishing position) from ANY driver who can’t pass post-race inspection unless the team can prove the violation came from damage or a part failure.  Pre-race inspection is all well and good, but cars can be changed pretty dramatically during a race, including things that give a competitive advantage, so just because a car was legal before a race doesn’t mean it can’t be made otherwise.  At the end of the day, a legal car should win every single race.  I’d love to see NASCAR adopt a policy like the notorious “Room of Doom” at the Snowball Derby—tear the winning car down and if something’s not right, bring in the new winner to see if that one makes the grade.  A legal car should win every race, no exceptions.

Gable: I don’t want to see NASCAR take wins away for minor rule violations. A race win is something that takes the skill and cooperation of a multitude of people every week. I do not think that NASCAR should erase that accomplishment over something as trivial as a car being a fraction of an inch too low or skewed out of alignment slightly too far. Things happen on the race track. NASCAR should still have post-race inspections and penalties if a car is outside the tolerances. Yet fans are way too quick to deem a car “illegal” or a driver a “cheater” when they have no idea why the rule violation occurred in the first place. Remember that all of these cars have to pass a pre-race inspection. In Busch’s case, does anyone really believe that the car being too low was what made the difference between him winning and losing that race?

Velat: NASCAR has always hesitated to take away wins because they want fans leaving the track knowing who won and believing that the finish would never be “adjusted” unnecessarily. I believe that this practice needs to remain in place. Removing all point/monetary benefit from winning is a good deterrent for series regulars. As far as moonlighting drivers, like Cup guys in the XFINITY Series, stripping them of the win doesn’t take away their biggest gain from the race (seat time for drivers/ experience for their team). Therefore, I really see no positive outcome from taking away victories.

Allaway: First off, I don’t really understand how it was only a deduction of only ten owner’s points for the No. 18.  This was an L1 penalty.  Shouldn’t have that been 35 big ones like what the No. 47 team in Cup got?  At this point, I wouldn’t be against taking wins away in the three National series for flunking tech to that point.  Doesn’t matter if drivers can or cannot earn points in that series.  It’s never happened in the Truck Series (that I can honestly think of), while the last win taken away in the XFINITY Series occurred in 1992 at then-Pulaski County Speedway (now-MotorMile Speedway) in Virginia.  If you can lose a win in the K&N Pro Series (either the East or West Division) for these shenanigans, you should be able to lose one in Cup, XFINITY or the Trucks as well.

About the author

Amy is an 20-year veteran NASCAR writer and a six-time National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) writing award winner, including first place awards for both columns and race coverage. As well as serving as Photo Editor, Amy writes The Big 6 (Mondays) after every NASCAR Cup Series race. She can also be found working on her bi-weekly columns Holding A Pretty Wheel (Tuesdays) and Only Yesterday (Wednesdays). A New Hampshire native whose heart is in North Carolina, Amy’s work credits have extended everywhere from driver Kenny Wallace’s website to Athlon Sports. She can also be heard weekly as a panelist on the Hard Left Turn podcast that can be found on AccessWDUN.com's Around the Track page.

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The difference between the penalty for loose lugnuts, which basically only affects the team with the wheel problem, and a win accomplished with an illegal car…ridiculous. Guess it’s better to have an illegal car than loose lugs. With social media the way it is, you can’t tell me that fans couldn’t be notified within minutes if s car is found to be illegal. If you cheat, you shouldn’t win. It’s sorta like calling every Cup champion a Monster Energy champ, when they haven’t even sponsored 5 races yet.


So Brian is adding another cookie cutter 1.5 mile race to the chase. I’m sure Johnson’s record at the tracks has nothing to do with the decision.

Phil H


if the idea of if you lived close to a speedway and didn’t attend then you literally caused this to happen is a valid point…………..

That being the case, then lookout fans because with the empty seats at most facilities it would only be a matter of time before Las Vegas got them all !!


Bryan Gable is right. NASCAR fans are too quick to label anybody a “cheater” for minor rules infractions, especially when the driver or team is already controversial. To strip a win, NASCAR should have to adhere to the criminal court standard – prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the inspection issue was done intentionally and with full knowledge of the driver and crew.

Chase Elliott’s truck also failed post-race inspection at Atlanta, but I have heard absolutely no one calling Chase a cheater. But Chase is a sweet kid and no one would ever accuse an HMS driver moonlighting in the lower series of anything nefarious.

Beauty and cheating seem to be in the eye of the beholder, especially when the beholder is Amy Henderson.


Think Amy was correct on both issues which pertain to the rules. Its good to see nascar have a rule with clearly spelled out consequences and stick to it. Although it is a bit silly that the penalty for having 3 lug nuts loose is greater than for a illegal car.
And she is also correct, no illegal car should be classified, whether it is for 10 or 1st. In a spec series there is no such thing as a minor rules violation.


Trading one snoozer track for another snoozer track. However, Vegas has more to offer gambling, people watching, pick pockets, rattle snakes etc. Here’s an idea, during commercials pan to action in the casinos which is sure to match the action on the track. Finally the big burr under my saddle, if a car doesn’t pass tech. that car and driver drops to the bottom of the running order no exceptions and no further penalty. Bring in the next car.


If the quality of racing was the main criteria for how many races a track hosts, we’d be down to about 6-8 tracks on the schedule.


Maybe then we’d have tracks with races worth watching instead of tracks that put the most money in Brian’s pocket.


VALET….I went LOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I no longer live anywhere near NHMS! So shadddup!

And I am all for taking away a win, this crap will stop real quick! As it should! JGR and Toyota will keep their consistent streak up NASCAR puts their foot down. Opps won’t happen..carry on cheaters!

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