The action and on-track drama at Atlanta Motor Speedway caused some teams to face post-race penalties across all three major NASCAR touring series.
In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the race-winning team of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driven by veteran Kevin Harvick had one unsecured lug nut in post-race inspection. Crew chief Rodney Childers was fined $10,000 for the safety violation. No further fines or suspensions were placed on the team.
Childers stated on Twitter his focus was on the win. While he knew his pit crew missed one lug nut, he understood what was on the line with that final pit stop.
Bummer.. But I saw him accidentally knock it off on the last stop and we were confident only 1 was missing. At that point it’s all about trying to win! ???? https://t.co/NOx1fWbCLX
— Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) February 28, 2018
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, two teams faced penalties for the same actions as Harvick’s team. The No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and the No. 52 Means Motorsports Chevrolet were caught with one unsecured lug nut during post-race inspection on Saturday. Crew chiefs for both teams, Mike Shiplett and Tim Brown respectively, were each fined $5,000 with no further penalties. John Hunter Nemechek made his Xfinity series debut in the No. 42, finishing in the fourth position, while David Starr drove the No. 52 car to a 28th place result.
However, it seems Kyle Busch received the most attention from the weekend. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, his No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota received the biggest penalty across all three series.
With six laps to go in the Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta, Josh Reaume hit the wall, bringing out the yellow flag and sending the leaders to pit road in preparation for a two-lap overtime. Busch’s pit crew had trouble on the right-front tire, causing a delay with the pit stop. The rear tire changer came around to the left side and loosened the lug nuts already, as the team had already prepared to change all four tires. However, once the issue was corrected on the right front and the jack dropped, Busch and his crew chief called an audible for just right-side tires, leaving his pit box to keep his lead. He pulled away before the crew could place lug nuts back on the left rear tire. Ultimately, the tire came off while Busch was on the apron of turns 1 and 2, and had to back up onto pit row with sparks flying from underneath the truck. Busch ended the race in the 21st position, one lap down.
Busch’s misfortune resulted in Brett Moffitt’s improbable win Saturday.
According to the NASCAR Camping World Truck series, the rulebook states: “Any loss or separation of an improperly installed tire(s)/wheel(s) from the vehicle after exiting the team’s assigned pit box will result in a three-race suspension of the crew chief, tire changer of the lost wheel(s), and the jack man.”
While Busch’s crew chief, Marcus Richmond, is an employee of Kyle Busch Motorsports, the jackman and rear tire changer were both from Stewart-Haas Racing. Coleman Dollarhide is a rear tire changer on Cole Custer’s Xfinity team and Kurt Busch’s Cup team. Jackman Ernie Pierce services Clint Bowyer’s Cup car at SHR. The main concern was how the penalty would affect Dollarhide and Pierce for their responsibilities to the other teams in the other NASCAR series.
To Dollarhide’s and Pierce’s relief, NASCAR announced Wednesday morning that they both would still be eligible to perform their duties in both the Xfinity and Cup series and that their penalty would only affect the Truck series.
When asked about the penalties issued to the various crew members, Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, shared in an interview on Monday the process they took to reach this conclusion.
“I think that’s really the discussion, not so much will they be penalized; it’s should it just apply to the Camping World Truck Series. I think that’s where we’re leaning but (series officials) wanted to take the time to get through the weekend and have that dialogue internally.
“We want to be as fair as we can. We want the penalty obviously to have some teeth into it. We think it does in terms of the suspension. We want to make sure it possibly just applies to that series and who is working on that race.’’
Marcus Richmond, who was also suspended and faced fines, shared his disappointment in himself in a tweet on Wednesday morning.
I definitely made a mistake last week at Atlanta. I called for RS tires while focusing on the RF. I am glad that the pit crew did not get suspended from cup races! With the support of @KBMteam and all the guys on this 4 team will pull through and not miss a beat!
— marcus richmond (@MarcusRichmond_) February 28, 2018
All three major touring series return to racing action this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Tickets are still available and can be purchased through the speedway’s website at http://www.lvms.com/tickets/pennzoil_400/.