AJ Allmendinger faces discipline over loose lug nuts in Cup race

HAMPTON, Ga. -- JTG Daugherty Racing driver AJ Allmendinger faces a 35-point penalty and his crew chief Randall Burnett faces a three-race suspension and a $65,000 fine because three lug nuts were not secure on Allmendinger's car at the end of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Atlanta.

Allmendinger, who finished third last week in the Daytona 500, was 26th Sunday. He is 11th in the standings thanks to the Daytona finish, but a 35-point penalty would drop him from to 35th in the standings two races into the season.

NASCAR changed its penalty structure on lug nuts for the final 10 races last year, and kept the same structure for the start of this season.

While NASCAR had instituted a rule where a crew chief would get suspended for one race for any loose lug nuts found postrace, it softened the stance in September. Since then, one loose lug nut doesn't result in a suspension; two loose lug nuts result in a one-race suspension; and three loose lug nuts result in a three-race suspension.

Allmendinger would be the first driver penalized for having three lug nuts not secure, which NASCAR views as an egregious error or an attempt to skirt the rules, creating a safety issue where a wheel could come loose on the track.

NASCAR will make an official decision on the penalty Tuesday or Wednesday.