The No. 17 team of Chris Buescher will be without three crew members for a crucial stretch of the Cup Series regular season. The RFK Racing entry lost a wheel during the trip to Nashville Superspeedway, which brings about an automatic suspension.
The incident occurred in the middle of green-flag pit stops on June 26. The No. 17 Ford Mustang slid into the wall with 46 laps remaining. Once Buescher moved away from the wall, his wheel continued rolling along. It continued to move around the track while Buescher limped his way to pit road.
Buescher will have to move forward for the next four races without crew chief Scott Graves atop the pit box. He will also be without a jackman and a tire changer. Though NASCAR will not reveal their identities until June 29 with the release of the weekly penalty report.
The lost wheel is a violation of Sections 10.5.2.6 in the NASCAR Rule Book: “Loss or separation of an improperly installed tire/wheel from the vehicle.” This infraction automatically results in a four-race suspension for the team’s crew chief and two crew members. The reason for the harsh penalty is that NASCAR has concerns about another stock car hitting the loose wheel at a high rate of speed and launching it.
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NBC Provided an Important Explanation
This penalty for a loose wheel will likely be the 12th of the season. Buescher joins a list that also includes some big teams, as well as part-time operations. The No. 31 entry of Kaulig Racing, in particular, has lost a wheel twice during the 2022 season.
Why has there been an increase in lost wheels? NBC’s broadcast crew provided an important explanation. They revealed that there is a locking mechanism on the spindle, which pops up and locks into place once the nut is tight enough.
As Steve Letarte explained, there are occasions when the tire changer stops pulling the trigger on the air gun before the locking mechanism pops into place. He rewatched Buescher’s pit stop at Nashville Superspeedway, and he determined that this is exactly what happened prior to the wheel coming off.
This Penalty is Another Setback for the No. 17 Team
The lost wheel disrupted what had been a strong run for Buescher and the No. 17 team. The Texas native had spent much of the final stage running in the ninth position while keeping himself in contention for what would have been his fifth top-10 finish of the year. Instead, he dropped several laps behind the leaders and finished 30th overall.
The lost wheel was the latest issue that Buescher and RFK Racing dealt with in recent weeks. The one-time Cup Series winner also missed the trip to World Wide Technology Raceway after testing positive for COVID-19. The team had to turn to Camping World Truck Series driver Zane Smith, who made his Cup Series debut.
Buescher will now have to battle for a spot in the playoffs without some key members of his team. He will first head to Road America before taking on Atlanta Motor Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and Pocono Raceway.
Achieving this goal will not be a simple task, but Buescher has some strong performances behind him. He finished seventh during the first trip to Atlanta, and he finished second in the most recent road course race. Pocono is also the site of his lone Cup Series win, which he captured in 2016 in what was a fog-shortened race.
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