Editor’s Note: An attempt to obtain a response from Kluhsman Racing Components, on the comments from Sam Hunt, Collin Fern, Brad Perez and Carl Long, regarding their lug nuts, has gone unanswered at the time of this story’s publishing, but will be added in if a response is received.
Following the initial publishing of this story, an attempt for a comment from Front Row Motorsports on the situation was declined.
After receiving damage early in last Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Zane Smith made an incredible rally to finish runner-up.
However, despite the impressive comeback, the elation of two consecutive top-two finishes to start the season was short lived as Smith and the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports team were disqualified for utilizing lug nuts that did not conform to the NASCAR rule book.
On Wednesday, Front Row Motorsports’ attempt at an appeal was denied by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel. Later that day, Smith shared a photo of the illegal lug nut taken from his No. 38 truck (left) at Las Vegas and a lug nut that conforms to NASCAR Rules (right).
Tough pill to swallow for my team. From a supply issue of legal lug nuts that will get you a DQ after coming from the back twice to finish 2nd and not getting any credit for it sucks. Nothing will feel better than getting a win @amsupdates next week. Focusing forward 👊🏼 pic.twitter.com/roTzcdgnwU
— Zane Smith (@zanesmith77) March 9, 2022
As evidenced in the photo above, the lug nut on the left has a sleeve at the top, where there is no threading. The reasoning for a team altering a lug nut in this fashion would be to reduce the time needed to get the lug nut tight on the wheel, which would theoretically shorten time on pit road.
While it’s easy to see the lug nut in question and chalk this up to the No. 38 team intending to cheat on pit road, the No. 38 team insisted in their appeal that they did not alter the lug nut.
When you look at the full context of the lug nut being on the truck, it does seem that there is a more complex story to the lug nut that was discovered in post-race tech last Friday.
Smith’s final pit stop of the night was a lengthy one, as the team worked on damage on the front end of his truck from an incident earlier in the race. The pit stop, where the illegal lug nut was added to the truck, actually dropped Smith outside the top-25 in the running order.
This begs the question: Why would a team knowingly use cheated up lug nuts on a pit stop, where they knew they were going to lose positions?
Perhaps the team wasn’t aware that the lug nut in question was actually illegal?
After speaking with several team owners and employees of teams in the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series garages, it seems an issue has been brewing for weeks. Teams are alleging that they have been dealt illegal lug nuts unsolicited from their lug nut supplier, Kluhsman Racing Components (KRC).
Sam Hunt, team owner of Sam Hunt Racing, which fields the No. 24 and No. 26 cars in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, explains to TobyChristie.com that he has been stressed out about illegal lug nuts from supplier KRC this season, as the bad lug nuts have been peppered in with boxes of legal lug nuts in their purchases so far in 2022.
“The problem is, there’s really one vendor and for some reason this year, you don’t really know what you’re getting when you buy a box,” Hunt said. “Like for us, the past couple of years, you just buy a box, glue them up and you didn’t think twice about it. Now, you’ve got to take the time and sort through each lug nut to make sure the lip isn’t shaved off to make it illegal.
“NASCAR has made us aware, and I even talked to NASCAR about it at the track in Las Vegas, because we bought a brand new box of lug nuts and they were all shaved down. It’s still the same part numbers as the non shaved down version. It’s just one of those things that is an easy oversight for teams because we are so used to just buying them, gluing them up and putting them on that it’s kind of created a headache where you’re spending so much time sorting through everything. So, it’s just kind of scary for the teams.”
The additional frustrations for Hunt and other teams are that boxes aren’t all 100% filled with good or bad lug nuts. Some boxes are filled with totally illegal lug nuts, others are fully legal lug nuts, while most boxes have a mixture of legal and illegal lug nuts. This is forcing the teams to devote a lot of time and resources into making sure each lug nut is what they actually ordered before heading to the race track.
If KRC is indeed sending out illegal lug nuts, why now? Teams say they have not had this issue with KRC in the past, so, what is different?
Hunt suspects it’s due to the NASCAR Cup Series teams ordering the lug nuts to be shaved down over the years to save time on pit road.
“I know we’ve never requested for anything to be shaved or altered. I know the Cup guys in the past have. So, I don’t know if they’ve continually been made like that or if it’s leftover inventory, I’m not sure of that,” Hunt explained. “But I know it’s stemming from prior Cup Series use.”
Collin Fern, the Technical Director for the No. 68 Brandonbilt Motorsports team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, echoed Hunt’s thoughts on the lug nuts stemming from past orders from NASCAR Cup Series teams.
“That’s what it looks like to me,” Fern stated. “It’s not NASCAR’s fault for making the rule, it’s the supplier’s fault for not coming up with a solution. I get it, they’re not doing the Cup five lugs anymore, so they’re losing out on the business and they have this huge surplus of shaved down lug nuts, but they’re just throwing them in the boxes that we can’t utilize.”
Like Hunt, Fern says he has seen boxes where 90-percent of the box is filled with illegal lug nuts, while he’s had other boxes where only two lug nuts were illegal.
Fern even says Brandonbilt Motorsports attempted to pick out all of the illegal lug nuts in North Carolina before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend, but missed one. Fortunately, the team’s front tire changer Greg Donlin caught the illegal lug nut while gluing up lug nuts on pit road before the race.
For Fern, who works for a year-in and year-out fringe Playoff contending team, he says a disqualification or fine due to illegal lug nuts would be catastrophic for the No. 68 team.
“Our pit crew is great. They are phenomenal, top-10 in our series pit crew. But we can’t afford a DQ or a fine, because nine times out of 10, we have to point our way into the Playoffs,” Fern said.
On Friday, Fern shared photos to Twitter of a batch of lug nuts that his team sifted through at Phoenix Raceway. Of the 250 lug nuts checked, only 57 of them were legal.
Brand new box of lug nuts.
Left – Illegal
Right – Legal
57 of 250 were legal btw. pic.twitter.com/tOCFo4zxGP
— Collin Fern (@CollinMFern) March 11, 2022
Brad Perez, the tire technician for the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, agreed with Hunt and Fern that KRC’s illegal lug nuts have to be coming due to Cup Series clients ordering the lugs like that in the past. Perez also agrees with Fern’s assessment that purposely cheating up lug nuts just doesn’t make sense for Xfinity and Truck Series teams.
“For us it doesn’t make sense to cheat up lugs. It’s such a small advantage that it’s like what is the point?” Perez said. “If you have a couple of less threads on your lugs, it will definitely will speed up a pit stop, but by so little. And we don’t have like top teams pitting our trucks, we have the developmental crews. So, there’s no reason for us to cheat out on something like that when it could be fixed by good old fashioned traditional fast stuff.”
While Fern says the No. 68 team will continue to sort their lug nuts out until the supplier comes up with a solution for race teams, he says there is still a financial impact of something like altered lug nuts for race teams that catch them before they get to the race track.
“It just sucks when you’re spending $600 on a new box of lug nuts, and you can’t use 10-percent of them because they’re illegal,” Fern lamented.
Hunt, Fern and Perez all agreed that the disqualification was a rough deal for Front Row Motorsports, but Hunt and Fern state that they stand by NASCAR’s ruling as the lug nut at the end of the day was illegal per NASCAR rules.
Perez was simply surprised that the disqualification was upheld by the appeals panel as the scrutiny of lug nuts didn’t begin in Xfinity until Daytona, and the Truck teams weren’t aware of the lug nut rules until Las Vegas.
“I’m genuinely surprised that they didn’t win their appeal,” Perez explained. “From what I understand, NASCAR really started cracking down on this at the Xfinity tech at Daytona. They didn’t crack down on us, they didn’t even check our truck at Daytona, but I heard in Xfinity half the field got busted on the first try. Then they had to scrounge around to find lugs that were legal, which for some teams was like only two or three sets of lugs out of all they bought were legal.”
Perez says he is just glad his No. 25 truck didn’t get a lug nut check at the end of the race on Friday, or they could have been busted as well.
“With us at trucks, half the field failed at Vegas first try because of it. And we didn’t even have — we only had like two [legal] sets,” Perez said. “I’m glad we kind of didn’t get checked at the end of the race, we would have probably gotten in trouble too. Because we didn’t even know. Our pit crew glues lugs and they don’t really look.”
Carl Long, team owner of MBM Motorsports, who says he has had issues with KRC’s lug nuts as well, is more frustrated with NASCAR than KRC. For Long, he’s personally had a disconnect with NASCAR on what is a legal lug nut and what is an illegal lug nut.
“We bought a box of them that were the wrong ones, and then the box that had the right ones in there, [NASCAR] doesn’t have a gauge to tell us what works and what doesn’t work,” Long explained. “They’re looking at it by visual.
“I had some they threw out going through tech, they called them borderline. There’s no gauge, there’s no nothing. But there are some that are obviously cheated that we didn’t even know they were cheated. Some company or somebody had them manufactured like that last year.”
For Long, who drives the team’s hauler, works on the team’s cars and does everything he can on the team’s shoestring budget, he isn’t a fan of NASCAR’s digital rulebook, as it complicates the situation for smaller budget organizations like MBM.
Long wishes NASCAR could get back to handling issues pertaining to the rulebook like they used to back in the day.
“The whole thing is, this damn computer world is a pain in my ass and everybody else’s,” Long emphasized. “I’m a guy driving a truck, working on the stuff. I’m not sitting in front of a damn desk all the time and watching for every damn update and all of this stuff. It’s horrible. NASCAR sends out an email, and they expect that in 30 seconds, you’ve spread it to your entire shop.
“They need to come to the race track the next week, give us a damn piece of paper put it in our hands and say, ‘this is wrong, fix it before next week.’ That’s what they used to do. Some of the old school people like myself, and people that don’t have 100 people on their staff [would benefit from that].”
Long compared the current way rulebook infractions are handled these days to the self checkout area of your local big box grocery store.
“Look at NASCAR, the reason they’re doing it now is they don’t have anybody on their staff anymore,” Long said. “They cut down all of their people, so they don’t have enough people to do the job so they expect us to do it. It’s like the self checkout at Walmart. They expect you to do the job you pay someone else to do.”
While Long is frustrated with NASCAR’s current processes when it comes to the rulebook, it appears a large majority of the folks in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series garages are simply frustrated with lug nut supplier KRC.
As the NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series seasons roll on, it will be interesting to see if issues with lug nuts become a recurring theme in post-race inspection. But if KRC doesn’t address the issues at hand, teams will continue adjusting their day-to-day operations in order to mitigate the issues.