NASCAR: Gibbs crestfallen over cheating scandal
By Matt Markey
BROOKLYN, Mich. ó J.D. Gibbs squirmed in his seat, just like the little kid at grandma’s house who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
The president of the powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing team was clearly uncomfortable and embarrassed over revelations over the weekend that unidentified members of his team had attempted to manipulate the data NASCAR collects from the cars following Saturday’s Nationwide Series race.
“It was a really, really poor decision by some of our key guys at Joe Gibbs Racing, and I want to apologize to NASCAR, to our partners, to Toyota guys,” Gibbs said. “A couple of guys chose to make a decision there that really impacts all of us.”
The hanky-panky involved the Toyotas driven in the Carfax 250 by Gibbs drivers Tony Stewart, who finished third, and the seventh-place car of rookie Joey Logano.
Sometime after the race and prior to turning the cars over to NASCAR for the post-race inspection, magnets were placed below the accelerator.
“Our inspectors discovered some shims that were placed on the gas-pedal stop ó magnets that were about a quarter-inch thick that prevented the accelerator from going 100 percent wide open,” said NASCAR official Robin Pemberton.
The Gibbs teams have dominated the Nationwide Series, winning 15 of the first 25 races, but NASCAR recently instituted rule changes that decreased the horsepower in the Toyotas, with the expressed intent of leveling the playing field. The competing manufacturers had complained bitterly that the previous rules favored Toyota.
Some theorized that the manipulation was intended to throw off the data NASCAR gathered, indicating a significant reduction in power in the Toyota motors. An obviously irritated Gibbs, who runs the racing operation for his dad, former NFL head coach Joe Gibbs, said he struggled to understand the rationale behind the scam.
“If this alleged incident proves true, it goes against everything we stand for as an organization,” J.D. Gibbs said. “I know they’re probably frustrated about having less horsepower than ever before, and wanted to make it look like we’re handicapped more than ever before. I understand that, but that’s not an excuse.”
NASCAR expects to levy penalties and fines early this week, while Gibbs indicated that folks will likely lose their jobs when the internal investigation of the incident is completed.
“We will take full responsibility and accept any penalties NASCAR levies against us,” he said. “We will also investigate internally how this incident took place and who was involved and make whatever decisions are necessary to ensure that this kind of situation never happens again.”