There was the obsessive crew chief who would stop at nothing to win a third straight championship.
There was the new kid who was being hyped as the greatest thing since sliced bread. The Lug Nut would certainly help him live up to that hype.
There was the four time champion whose team had yet to find its groove. If he could get the Lug Nut, it might just be the catalyst to turn his season around and help him win that elusive fifth championship.
And there was the most popular driver living in the shadow of a legend. Surely the Lug Nut could help him break free of his father's legacy.
One thing was for sure- NASCAR Chief Inspector Helton had his work cut out for him.
Jack Roush had possessed the Maltese Lug Nut snce the end of the 2007 season. He was certain it would give his teams the advantage and bring a championship back to his organization. Roush was positive that the evil Toyota Empire was behind the theft.
After all, Toyota's golden boy, Kyle Busch, was having the kind of season that drivers dream of.
Roush was also certain that the "magnet" found in the Gibbs #20 Nationwide car was in fact the Maltese Lug Nut. For Roush, that was absolute proof that JGR was behind the theft.
Helton wasn't so sure. The pits had been plagued by a rash of lug nut thefts over the past few races. He had spoken to a number of people concerning the thefts, and everything seemed to point to Penske Racing.Helton spent considerable time around the Penske garage looking for clues and talking to various crew members. Driver Ryan Newman told Helton that there was a new person hanging out with the crew of his teammate, Kurt Busch.
Helton looked more closely at this new person Newman had identified. She was Kristen Valus, a psychologist from San Francisco who attended various races and wrote articles for the Miller Racing website and FOXSports.com. She seemed innocent enough, but Helton decided to talk to Kurt Busch about the newest addition to his team.
Busch assured Helton that Kristen was not behind the theft of the Maltese Lug Nut. As proof, he pointed out that his team had also been the victim of a lug nut theft.
Helton did even more digging, and by the time NASCAR returned to California, he was ready to identify the culprit. He called a press conference to announce his findings."I have asked you here today to expose the thief who stole the Maltese Lug Nut,” Helton told the assembled reporters. A hush fell over the room as Helton unveiled a photo of the culprit.
“She may look like mild-mannered psychologist Kristen Valus,” Helton told the stunned media, “but in reality, she is the notorious lug nut bandit, Millie Leit.” Kristen yelled “You’ll never find the Lug Nut,” as NASCAR security surrounded her and carried her off to the NASCAR hauler. With the culprit in custody, things returned to normal in the NASCAR garage, although Kristen was right about one thing.
They never did find the Maltese Lug Nut.
You will find references to the Maltese Lug Nut in blogs by other writers and comments. Now you know the story.