On lug nuts

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I am uncharacteristically perturbed by the recent announcement by NASCAR that the “NextGen” car in development will do away with the familiar five bolt wheels in favor of a single lug nut. I tell you, take your eye of these guys for a minute and they think we’re in France, or something.

Here’s what happened…

Good old American steel stock car wheel (left) and the hoity-toity aluminum wagon wheel with the spinner hub.

NASCAR is moving from the time-honored 15″ wheels to enormous 18″ ones, I guess because the ride of a NASCAR race car wasn’t harsh enough, they decided to shorten the sidewalls. It’s bad enough our road-going cars have 18, 19, 20-inch wagon wheels that make them jittery, bend in every pothole, and get scraped up on every curb. Now, NASCAR has to follow suit. Well, at least they’re doing something to emulate true stock cars, which they’ve really seem to have abandoned over the past decade or so.

That’s not all, though. This new 18″ wheel isn’t made out of good old steel –which I shouldn’t have to mention was plenty good enough for Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt– but rather a fancy, exotic metal: aluminum. ALUMINUM! I’ll bet they pronounce it “al-yoo-MI-ni-um”, like the English. Aluminum wheels –like the people who design them, no doubt– react badly if the lug nuts aren’t all torqued down to the correct specification, so they’re prone to failure if the tire changer doesn’t fully tighten all of the lug nuts.

You got that right… you won’t have any problems unless the mechanic failed to make sure that the nuts were put on just right. On an American car. Why are we even worried about that? When was the last time an American car had a quality control problem?

The solution to the problem, apparently, is to have one giant lug nut, just like on this car:

When you think of NASCAR, do you picture an Aston Martin with euro-style roundels and wire wheels? Maybe you should, ’cause it feels like that’s where we’re headed.

Come on now, guys! I’m fine with the six speed transmission you have planned. After all, I can’t remember the last non-vintage four speed I’ve seen. Ditto with the independent rear suspension. And I’m not going to grumble about your carbon fiber tub and moving the driver more to the center of the car because you pretty much have to do what you have to do for safety. But eliminating 75% of your lug nuts is just going too far. This isn’t Formula One or any of those fancy-pants European series. This is ‘Murica. Not only has the humble lug nut been THE fan souvenir for decades, but having them spat out and flung around, hither and yon, by the spinning wheels of cars racing out of their boxes always gave Pit Road a dynamic, war-zone feeling.

Save the lug nuts, NASCAR. It was bad enough when you got rid of the Catch Can Man. I can’t believe that was ten years ago already. Next thing you’re going to tell me is that you’re going to lose the whole gas can idea and run gas hoses out to the cars during pit stops, just like they do it over in Europe.

Mon Dieu!


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