CONCORD, N.C. – Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr., isn’t a fan of NASCAR’s uncontrolled tire rule and that’s not a surprise.
“I completely agree with Cole’s tweet from last week,” the Furniture Row Racing driver said Friday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “How’s that?”
Cole Pearn is crew chief of the No. 78 Toyota. After another uncontrolled tire penalty bit the team at Richmond Raceway Saturday night, Pearn posted “Saving the sport one uncontrolled tire at a time. #moodyblue was rolling tonight happy to be moving on” on social media.
Truex won the first two stages of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond. But during his pit stop following the end of the second stage, his team was hit with an uncontrolled tire violation. Because the infraction occurred under yellow, Truex was required to start at the rear of the field instead of re-starting the race up front.
Had it occurred under green, the penalty would have been a return trip down pit road.
Fortunately for Truex, he was able to battle back through the field and finish third, clinching a spot in the next round of the Cup Series playoffs. But it was another case of what might have been for the team.
The No. 78 team has been penalized six times this season for uncontrolled tire violations. That’s two more than one other team, the No. 24 of William Byron, and double or more of every other team that has been penalized. Thirty-three teams have been dinged for the violation a total of 69 times this season.
Last year there were 35 uncontrolled tire violations. For the entire year.
According to the NASCAR rulebook, a crewmember must remain within arm’s reach and moving in the same direction as the tire/wheel when removing the tire/wheel from the outside half of the pit box. The tire/wheel must not cross the center of pit road or be permitted to roll free into an adjacent competitor’s pit box.
“I feel like if they (tires) stay in the box, you know what’s the big deal,” Truex said.
In the Daytona 500, his pit crew allowed a right-rear tire to roll out onto pit road.
At Charlotte, Daytona in July, Michigan in August, Darlington in September and Richmond last week, the team was penalized when the left-front tires were left momentarily unattended – even though pit crew members were still on the left side of the car completing their tasks and near the tires in question.
At Darlington, Erik Jones was second off pit road after pitting at the end of the first stage; an uncontrolled tire penalty dropped the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to 15th for the restart.
Byron, William Bowman and Kasey Kahne are also among those running in the top 10 only to have the penalty put them deep in the field on subsequent restarts.
NASCAR has rescinded the penalty on at least one occasion – doing so after initially calling it on the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing team at Talladega.
Officials have also missed the call at least once – a left-side tire that got away from the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing entry at Texas didn’t result in a penalty although NASCAR’s Scott Miller later admitted officials erred in not making the call.
“I think our fans want to see hard racing and they want to see the guys that are up front battling, not going to the rear once every two or three weeks for a tire sitting there with a guy that’s a foot too far away from it,” Truex said.
“I don’t agree with it; I think we should look at it. But I don’t make the rules.”