NASCAR has been testing an 18-inch alloy wheel combination on the Next Gen prototype for a few months now, and Monday series officials announced that the 2021 Cup Series cars would officially be running a center-locking single lug setup. This marks the end of an era in which NASCAR has been defined by 15" steel wheels with five individual lugs. The new setup made its on-track debut in the Next Gen car’s fourth on-track test Monday.
NASCAR Senior VP of Innovation and Racing Development, John Probst, said that the move away from 15" wheels was an effort to provide more relevance and correlation to today’s production cars. That, however, is total bullshit, as none of the Fords, Toyotas, or Chevrolets NASCAR racers are allegedly based upon use center lock wheels, and many of them come standard with larger than 18" wheels these days.
“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,” Probst said. “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.”
In any case, fans are clearly concerned that the sport is changing from what they know, and that’s scary. If it’s any consolation, the single center-locking lug nut is capable of swapping out in just 0.5 seconds per corner, while the current 5-lug pattern takes around 0.8 seconds per corner. Additionally, the center locking lug makes the wheel about 30% more durable than the same alloy wheel with five holes in it.
According to NASCAR, a wide majority of teams are in favor of the change. It could make for some quite interesting pit stops, particularly in the first few races of next year, as teams get used to the change. NASCAR does not anticipate reducing the number of crew members over the wall with this change, and expects pit stops to drop to regularly under ten seconds.