MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Jack Roush said Friday a Toyota team committed “theft” in taking a front sway bar from his team and said he may take legal action to stop that team from using anything that’s based on information gleaned from having the part.
Roush, owner of five NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series teams, would not name the team that he said took the part at a race at Dover last fall. But Michael Waltrip told scenedaily.com Friday that his team took the part by mistake, then called Roush’s team and arranged to return it.
That differed with Roush’s details of allegations that first surfaced earlier this week and took over as the news of the day at Martinsville Speedway, where Jeff Gordon won the pole for Sunday’s Goody’s 500 with a lap at 96.288 mph.
“This teamwent behind my toolbox and took my bar out of my inventory and put it with their inventory and took it home with them,” Roush said. “That’s a fact. It has not been refuted and it has been discussed with the team involved.”
Roush said the sway bar had a serial number and carried special paint that identified it as belonging to Roush Fenway Racing. His team had developed it to help address issues presented by NASCAR’s new car. It was longer that front sway bars used by most teams. It also was heat-treated to make it stronger but was lighter because of the metal used.
Its design, Roush said, was proprietary to his team. “They wouldn’t fit somebody else’s car unless they copied it,” he said.
During the off-season, Roush said, a vendor informed Roush Fenway Racing it had been contacted and asked if it would make ends for “Roush sway bars” for that team to use. That led Roush’s team to check its inventory, and that’s when the team discovered that the sway bar, one of about 100 in the inventory, was missing.
“We had hired somebody who had worked for that team ... who became aware of the discussion about the missing bar,” Roush said, “He said, ‘Yeah, I saw the bar. I know where it is. It’s in some storage area that is in this other team’s place.’”
Upon that discovery, Roush said, “I wanted to go supersonic.”
Roush said he wanted to get a search warrant. “I said, ‘It’s intellectual espionage that’s going on here.’ ”
But a manager at Roush Fenway Racing called the Toyota team and asked about the sway bar. “I said, ‘That was stupid, that thing will wind up in the river some place,’” Roush said. “‘It’ll be gone.”
The Toyota team found it had the part, Roush said, and brought it back to the manager at Roush who’d made the call. Roush said the part had the paint sandblasted off but the serial number had not been changed.
Roush said he decided to go to NASCAR to see if they would handle it. He said he’s had three conversations with NASCAR, but nothing has come of those discussions.
“There are people ready to sweep dirt under a rug,” Roush said. “I don’t want to embarrass the sponsor. I really don’t want to embarrass the team, but I also don’t want to be made to look stupid.”
NASCAR does not seem inclined to get involved. “What I would say is the teams need to work it out,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president for competition.
Lee White, senior vice president and general manager of Toyota Racing Development, had much the same response.
“From our perspective this is an issue that appears to be between to race teams and doesn’t involve a manufacturer,” White said.
Gordon, who earned his seventh career pole at Martinsville, basically laughed at the whole issue.
“Call in the FBI!” he joked. “I think the whole thing is just hilarious. I really hope Jack isn’t taking it that serious. If he’s really that’s upset about it, I want to know what’s going on with that sway bar. Maybe they figured out something.”
Gordon said this “happens all the time.” Pemberton indicated a similar feeling.
“You’re still responsible for what you do with your parts and pieces at the end of the day.” Pemberton said.
“If you misplace one or you lose one or somebody borrows one, any of that stuff. I am almost at a loss for words.”
But Roush said the “theft” of a part is not business as usual in the garage.
“I’ve been racing for 22 years and I have never stolen anything from somebody else to gain an advantage or to figure out what they were doing and I’m not aware that something has been taken from me of this nature,” he said.
“I don’t care what his excuse was or if he was put up to it or whatever,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “If anybody steals anything from my pit stall he has no business being in the garage. No second chances.”
Denny Hamlin ran 95.757 mph and will start outside of Gordon on Sunday’s front row. Aric Almirola, splitting time in the No. 8 Chevrolet with Mark Martin this year, earned a career-best No. 3 starting spot with David Ragan fourth.
Jamie McMurray, who fell out of the top 35 in owner points and therefore had to qualify based on speed, came through with a lap at 95.492 mph and will start fifth. Ken Schrader, also a go-or-go-home car, was seventh fastest.
Kyle Petty and Dario Franchitti had the same speed at 94.078 mph for the final spot available on speed, but Franchitti got the spot because he’s just ahead of Petty in the current standings.