NASCAR: Roush claims intellectual espionage
By Hank Kurz Jr.
MARTINSVILLE, Va. ó Jack Roush’s feud with Toyota is escalating over allegations of “intellectual espionage” ó a case many say is much ado about nothing.
Roush has accused an unidentified Toyota team of stealing a swaybar created specifically for Roush Fenway Racing from one of RFR’s teams at last fall’s race at Dover, Del. And he wants NASCAR to make sure the team won’t use information gained “by their ill-gotten means.”
“What’s he doing with stuff just laying around the garage area?” four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon joked Friday. “If that was a proprietary piece, I’d think that you’d have some tighter grips on it. I think the whole thing is hilarious.”
But Roush isn’t laughing, calling the “theft” of the swaybar “intellectual espionage.” He even said he was tempted to get a search warrant to claim the part and a restraining order to prevent the team from using any information gleaned from it.
Perhaps he and Michael Waltrip should talk.
Waltrip admitted to Scene Daily that it was his team that took the swaybar.
“It was a mistake,” Waltrip told Scene Daily. “Look at the back of these toolboxes. There are sway bars, there’s jack handles, and it wound up in our possession. We called them and said, ‘We want to give this back.”‘
A person familiar with the incident who requested anonymity because he’s not authorized to discuss it also told The Associated Press it was Waltrip’s team.
Former Roush employee Lee White, now a senior vice president and general manager for Toyota Racing Development, said Friday it’s not an issue for the manufacturer, but rather one between Roush’s team and the unidentified Toyota team.
Roush said the team sandblasted the custom paint off the swaybar and tried to have the vendor that created it for RFR duplicate the ends that make it fit.
Roush enlisted the help of NASCAR, and that hasn’t been satisfying, either.
“It’s not the first time that somebody’s gone home with a mistaken part,” John Darby, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup director, said during practice at Martinsville Speedway.
“It’s not a PIN number to somebody’s bank account. It’s a swaybar, a very simple, very non-smart kind of a part, and I don’t know why it’s amplified to where it has.”
The problem, according to Roush, is the team acquired the part last fall and didn’t admit to having it or agree to return it until confronted in January.
The theft allegation only became public this week, but Roush initially levied it three weeks ago in response to White’s claim that Carl Edwards’ team intentionally removed the cover from its oil tank to gain an aerodynamic advantage in the Roush car’s win in Las Vegas.
Edwards was docked 100 driver points, plus 10 bonus points. His crew chief, Bob Osbourne, was fined $100,000 and suspended, and Roush was docked 100 owner points.
In a statement, White did acknowledge that TRD got another team’s valve spring in Fontana, Calif.
“Following teardown on Monday afternoon a valve spring that was not ours ended up at TRD’s California location,” he said. “However, in less than 24 hours, that part was returned to the appropriate party. We made NASCAR aware of that incident, and they indicated it was not an issue.”
TRD has insisted, however, that is was unaware of the swaybar incident until this week.
Roush, who denied the team did anything to make the oil tank lid come off, said he’s never stolen anything from another team in 22 years of racing, and he’s disappointed that NASCAR hasn’t chosen to take action.
“It’s real easy for NASCAR to bring the rule book out and deal with what happens if a part is the wrong dimension or if it doesn’t fit a template,” he said. “But they don’t have a rule as it relates to theft, and maybe they should have. I’m not sure.”
With all the traveling teams do, all their equipment and the ease with which things get mixed up, Darby said it’s no big deal.
“Our garage is open. Somebody can walk up to anybody’s pit stall and look and see and photograph and measure and smell and touch any part they want to in the garage, and we’ve always been that way,” he said. “These are just stock cars and stock car parts.”