NASCAR officials penalized the No. 2 Team Penske Ford team Wednesday for a lost wheel during last weekend’s Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
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Austin Cindric had brought the No. 2 Ford to pit road for service during the Stage 2 intermission of Sunday’s Ambetter 301. Shortly after leaving his pit stall, the left-front wheel detached from his car and rolled down pit road.
The infraction fell under the NASCAR Rule Book Sections 22.214.171.124 and 10.5.2.6 (loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle). As a result, competition officials issued four-race suspensions to crew chief Jeremy Bullins, plus crew members Curtis Thompson (front tire changer) and Patrick Gray (jack).
In a similar situation nearly a week and a half ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, competition officials opted against penalizing the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for a wheel that became dislodged on pit road. Elton Sawyer — NASCAR’s vice president of officiating and technical inspection — said in a Tuesday appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the No. 2 team’s infraction came under different circumstances.
“The amount of speed that the tire is carrying down pit road, did it impede another competitor — all of those things go into the decision-making and obviously the distance that one tire traveled on pit road, the 20 car versus what the 2 car was significantly different,” Sawyer told SiriusXM. “So although the optics are a loss of wheel on pit road, the two scenarios are quite a bit different. We’ll continue to dissect that and look at it. Again, we don’t want to over-officiate, but tires coming off is a huge safety concern and we just have to make sure that we’re handling that correctly. So we’ll continue to have dialogue internally … but they are two different situations for sure.”