You know sometimes you read something and think "What?"
Well, would you be happy to drive a 900 BHP car in a competition with lug nuts missing? Apparently NASCAR has introduced a rule change so that teams no longer have to fit all of the lug nuts after a tyre change. This may see some cars on the track with just three of five lug nuts fitted.
Furthermore, one of the drivers for next season, Tony Stewart, has just been handed down a $35,000 fine for expressing that opinion that this may be dangerous.
The apparent reason for the rule change is that they hope to reduce the number of mechanics in the box during a pit stop.
I have my own opinion on why this is the wrong thing to do. In the early 1980's, Lancia engineers, working as service crew on the Lancia 037 Group B car, devised a wrench which was essentially multiple equal length extension bars with magnetic sockets on the end. The "drive" wrench would run in the opposite direction to what was required and turn a central cog to drive each socket at the same time. This meant all lug nuts could be removed and refitted by a single mechanic.
The obvious alternative to this is an F1 style single centre nut on a large spindle.
NASCAR appear to have ignored this technical solution and have simply changed the rules to allow what I would personally call incorrectly fitted wheels.
Now, I've personally used a car with one nut removed from each wheel after someone tried to steal my wheels, removed all but the locking nut from one wheel and obviously took the nuts with them. This was only done to get the car home where the missing nuts were replaced.
I've also seen the damage that can be done to a wheel with an incorrectly fitted retaining nut as the Viper did one complete lap of Silverstone with an incorrectly fitted front wheel. When it returned to the pits, the wheel was full of swarf and significantly damaged.
So, my question is this; would you consider it safe to use a car with missing wheel nuts / lug nuts?
(Anyone involved in NASCAR professionally probably shouldn't answer this question for fear they receive a fine too).
As suggested, to clarify what I mean by "is it safe?"
I wondered if there are any engineering calculations that can be applied to different nut configurations? Is there likely to be increased failures running in the reduced lug nut configuration? Have there been any case studies into this?
I don't just want an opinion of "Oh, I think it'll be fine." or "Oh, I don't think it's a good idea."