Ultimately, Dale Earnhardt Jr. just wants great racing and cars that work.
NASCAR on Monday announced that its Next Gen car, which debuts in 2021, will feature a single, center-locking lug nut for its wheels. The news prompted a simple reaction from the ever-interesting and opinionated Earnhardt.
Take a look:
As long as it holds the tire on.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) March 2, 2020
NASCAR’s decision was made to accommodate the move from a 15-inch steel wheel to an 18-inch aluminum wheel. The wheel change is an attempt to strengthen the correlation between NASCAR’s cars and today’s production cars, while the move away from the traditional five-lug pattern is intended to provide optimum support for the new wheel.
“For us we felt like from a standpoint of the wheel is that we wanted to get to an 18-inch wheel, an aluminum wheel,” John Probst, NASCAR’s senior vice president of innovation and racing development, said Monday. “Once you get to an 18-inch aluminum wheel, the next step for us is to make sure that from a durability standpoint under racing conditions is that it will accept the durability that we need to finish races and then also finish multiple races. To do that, the single nut was our only option.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) March 2, 2020
Of course, the incredibly quick, incredibly precise replacing of lug nuts during pit stops is unique to NASCAR, and something even non-NASCAR fans try to imitate. In some respects, it’s the sport’s version of people yelling “Kobe!” before tossing crumpled-up paper at a trash bin.
Probst doesn’t foresee a significant change to the optics of pit changes, however.
“I think from a fan standpoint, the choreography of the pit stop will look unchanged,” he said. “I think that a lot of times when we say single lug nut, people fear that it’s an open-wheel style pit stop where people will be on their knees waiting for the car to come in. We don’t intend to change anything with respect to how the pit-stop flow is executed.
“There will still be guys coming off the wall, there will still be a premium for that athlete to come off the wall, get to the right side of the car, make that tire change, get over to the left side of the car and make the tire change. From the look and feel of the pit stop, we don’t see any significant changes.”
The single-nut setup made its debut Monday at Auto Club Speedway in the Next Gen prototype’s fourth on-track test. Another test is scheduled for Tuesday.
Thumbnail photo via Denny Medley/USA TODAY Sports Images