Elliott Sadler's No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet had 18 of 20 lug nuts safe and secure following Saturday night's NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, a development that will have implications for next week's championship race.
Because it is the team's second lug nut infraction, crew chief Kevin Meendering will be suspended for the championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller told NBCSN after the race.
"We bring all the cars down pit road, do our inspection of our wheels and lug nuts and we observed that the No. 1 car had two lug nuts not secure to the wheel," XFINITY Series Managing Director Wayne Auton said in explaining the infraction. " … We advised the (No. 1) team they're probably going to be looking for a crew chief next week and a monetary fine of $10,000."
Last week at Texas, Sadler's No. 1 checked out with 19 of 20 lug nuts safe and secure following the event. Meendering was fined $5,000 as it was the team's first-time offense.
Sadler finished 13th on Saturday at Phoenix, his result good enough to advance to the Championship 4 next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier complete the remainder of the four-driver championship field.
"We're going to have to pull together as a team," Sadler told NBCSN after learning of the decision. "It's not a secret. Kevin Meendering has made me a hero this year. We have a lot of depth at JR Motorsports. Those guys will probably rally around us, I'm sure."
Later in a post-race interview, Sadler confirmed his Homestead car has been built and is ready to roll. That talk came after an agonizing wait while NASCAR officials discussed the fate of Sadler and his team.
The veteran driver joked that team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. could be his replacement crew chief, then added it would probably be Meendering's decision. Ryan Pemberton, the team's competition director, is a likely candidate.
As for an appeal? That will be JR Motorsports officials' call, but Sadler does not expect that to happen given that NASCAR officials showed the team proof in photos and in person.
"I'm probably speaking out of turn here, but I doubt we will appeal it," Sadler said. "They showed Kevin the wheels and the pictures. I don't think there's any kind of appeal. Look, I'm not a lawyer and I don't understand how all that works, so I don't want to speak out of turn."