Thursday, November 12, 2009

NASCAR's Biggest Mystery Has Been Solved!

(Right) Rear Tire

the final chapter in the saga of the Maltese Lug Nut

It was a dark and stormy night. The petite brunette walked into the Subway restaurant wearing a Tony Stewart t-shirt. She was there to see Roush/Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards who was making an appearance at the restaurant as part of his contract. She walked up to the counter where she was greeted by the driver.

"What can I get for you?" Edwards asked. He seemed totally unfazed by the fact that she was wearing a rival driver's t-shirt. She placed her order, and the driver immediately began making her request. He handed her the sack; she paid for the sandwich and returned to her car. She opened the bag and removed a small plastic container that the driver had slipped into the sack just before handing it to her. She removed a data card from the container, placed it in her laptop, and opened the file.

"Hello, Melissa," the man on the screen began. It was Jack Roush. "I see Carl had no trouble spotting you. I've arranged for you to go undercover at the race this weekend as a reporter. Your assignment is to follow Tony Stewart for the entire weekend- team meetings, media events, everything. When he moves, I want you there with him. If you see or hear anything out of the ordinary, I want to know about it immediately. Helton may be on to something, and I want to make sure that I beat him to it. See you at the track."

Melissa bristled at the thought of having to spend the entire weekend with Tony Stewart, but she knew that it would be useless to argue. Once Jack Roush made up his mind, there was no changing it.


When Melissa showed up at the track, Stewart was already in a foul mood. Chief Inspector Helton had the owner/driver under constant surveillance. While Stewart's meteoric rise to the top of the NASCAR points standings had cooled, Helton still had doubts as to whether Stewart's success was based on talent and hard work or possession of the Lug Nut. Having a "reporter" shadow him all weekend would do nothing to alleviate Stewart's surliness. Up and down the garages, teams were placing bets on how long it would be before Stewart let his legendary temper get the better of him. During a break between practices, drivers Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman talked about the Lug Nut and Stewart's bad mood.

"I just don't understand all this fuss over a lug nut," Newman commented to his former teammate. "You were at Roush. What's so special about this particular lug?"

"Don't ask me," Busch replied. "I never heard anything about it while I was there. Jack must have gotten hold of it after I left." Tony Stewart was walking by and overheard the two drivers discussing the Lug Nut.

"I'm sick and tired of this Lug Nut b.s.," Stewart complained as his "shadow" listened intently. "If I had the blasted thing, I'd give it to Helton just to get him off my back. He thinks I have it. Darian says Chad has it. Chad says Ray never took it off the T-Rex. If you ask me, I'm beginning to think that it's all a NASCAR plot to keep us off our game so that Jimmie can win a 4th straight championship." Busch and Newman nodded as Stewart and the girl walked off.


Meanwhile, in a secluded area of the track, Jack Roush was meeting with Helton and NASCAR chairman Brian France. The look on Roush's face clearly indicated that the conversation was not going his way. Roush vigorously argued his case, but Helton and France were adamant. Roush left the meeting with a disgruntled look on his face. That look was still apparent when he walked up behind the young woman assigned to follow Stewart.

"Hello, Melissa." The young woman turned to see her employer standing behind her. "You've done an admirable job putting up with Tony this weekend, but then I knew if anyone could, it would be you. Your duties here are over; I've decided to stop the search for the Lug Nut. You can spend the rest of the weekend hanging out with David and his crew if you'd like." The young woman thanked the owner and quickly made her way to the garage of her favorite driver.


By the time NASCAR returned to Phoenix for the fall race, things had returned to normal- at least by NASCAR standards. Teams were complaining about phantom debris cautions and trying to find a way to keep the #48 team from claiming the championship. Talk in the garages centered less and less on the Maltese Lug Nut and more on plans for the off-season and getting ready for 2010. As Helton sat in the stands surveying the track, he felt confident that the Maltese Lug Nut would quickly return to the realm of myth and legend where it belonged.


But what of the Maltese Lug Nut? The truth of the matter is that the lug nut that Kristen picked up in Michigan was a fake. The REAL Maltese Lug Nut was tucked away inside a safe deposit box at a Charlotte area bank. It was occasionally removed from its secure location and taken to the track where it was placed on the right rear tire of...

...the #2 Miller Lite Dodge of Kurt Busch.

You see, Pat Tryson- then crew chief for RFR driver Mark Martin- had come into posession of the Lug Nut in November 2005 when he noticed the hallowed piece of metal fall from the right rear tire of Jimmie Johnson's badly damaged race car at the season's final race at Homestead. Tryson was able to retrieve the Lug Nut before anyone on the #48 team discovered that it was missing.

When Tryson left RFR in 2007, the Lug Nut was stashed in his pocket ,and a masterfully crafted forgery was left in its place. And like that day when he left Roush, Tryson would leave Penske Racing taking the Maltese Lug Nut with him to his new position at Michael Waltrip Racing.


  1. If you missed any of the previous installments:

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:

    Part 4:

  2. Beautiful writing, SB.

    So, you're saying that the lugnut was right under Kristen's nose the whole time? LOL

    I'm looking forward to Truex improving his fortunes with the lugnut next year.

  3. LMAO that is a great pic of Kurt and Ryan...

    That Tryson is a wily one!! He lead me to believe I had the real deal just to make me feel special and part of the team. What a great guy...

    Now if he can introduce me to cutie patootie Martin Truex I will forgive him!

    Great stuff SB...the only thing I cant believe for a minute is Melissa in a Smoke shirt! What will we do next year for entertainment!!??!

  4. in the words of F1 legendary commentator, Murray Walker; faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic


  5. Hanny(Gene)-

    It certainly looks that way, doesn't it?

    Thanks for reading.

  6. Kristen-

    I thought you'd like it. I just hope the crew feels the same. I'd hate to be the cause of "an unfortunate garage area incident." :o)

    As for RA6AN in the Smoke shirt, it's punishment for trash talking Tony- and besides how else was Carl going to spot her in a restaurant full of people wearing Carl Edwards gear? I thought about having her order something really strange like peanut butter and jalapenos, but that would have been a little too messy.

    We'll figure out somethng for next year. I'm already working on the Jimmie Johnson virtual voodoo doll :o).

  7. Tez-

    Thanks for the comment. It's been fun trying to figure out how this would all end.

  8. Great stuff SB,, I guess Pat pulled it out of hidding last week for Kurt one more

    Now we oly need to see MWR doing something next year and you got your self a book, I want copy #2 please signed of course.


  9. Ah the mysteries of NASCAR. Will we ever knoe for sure?

  10. Hi there Speedbeagle - I enjopyed reading the final installment of the Maltese Lug Nut saga. Charlotte is a logical place for the lug nut to hide in between events.

    Thanks for posting the links to the other segments of the story. I think I missed one of them along the way.

  11. Hi Speedy! Forgive me for not keeping up. It only took me a week to find this.

    I don't know how exactly I became part of the scheme. I'm still trying to decide whether it's a good thing or not.

    Thanks for nixing the PB&J order. That combined with the wardrobe would've made me hurl fer sure!

  12. Speed it seems that lug nut vanishes from time to time like I do!

  13. RA6AN-

    Nice to see you finally got all the Tony germs washed off :o).

    You got involved with this because I remember reading in your blog about Jack getting you RFR driver stand-ups autographed for you. You were returning the favor(and besides, it was you who helped organize the "Valus Gang" get together at Sonoma).

  14. F2-

    That's what I'm thinking. Unfortunately, I think he tried to split it between Kurt and Truex at Phoenix.

    Thanks for the read.

  15. photo-

    Are you hinting at something????????

  16. go9car-

    Nice to see you again. I seriously doubt we'll ever hear the last of the Lug Nut.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Well, I am behind but I finally got around to reading your final installment. Will be interesting to see if that lug nut will help out MWR or not. Ambrose would have loved to had it Sunday. Maybe his day would have been alot better.

    Helton, better not keep snooping around the 14 team, Smoke might have to pull do the old Smoke and Mirrors routine.

  18. oops should have been: have to do the old Smoke and Mirrors routine.

    Guess that four hours of sleep last night is getting to me. lol