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If you haven’t already heard by now, word came out in the 10th anniversary issue of ESPN the Magazine this week that Jack Roush had a proprietary component disappear from his shop; he retrieved it from an undisclosed Toyota team at the Atlanta race this March. Roush said that he is considering legal action, or even getting NASCAR involved following the incident. That’s ironic, seeing as in the face of those statements Roush chose to go to the press before approaching the legal process or NASCAR first. To the naked eye, that would seem more like sour grapes than a true legal issue; but only time will tell.
But this is not the first blow this season between these warring factions on NASCAR’s biggest stage. After Carl Edwards was found to have a “loose” lid on his oil tank compartment, Lee White, the general manager for Toyota Racing Development, was quite vocal in his belief that Roush Fenway Racing intentionally caused the lid to come off, and swore that there was a proven aerodynamic advantage which resulted from the loosened lid. Steadfast in his beliefs, White even maintained that Toyota’s testing proved that, with the oil-tank cover removed, there was a gain of nearly 170 pounds of downforce on the car. Roush quickly fired back at White, questioning his ethics about knowing that such a gain would occur based on testing results when such a condition would obviously have been illegal and, therefore, indirectly accused Toyota of testing ways to cheat the rules.
But that was not the end of the barbs that flew around after the Vegas race. Roush also insinuated that when Michael Waltrip‘s team was busted with jet fuel in their fuel system (the contaminant was never disclosed by NASCAR) they were not the only Toyota team that had additives injected, and that as such, they were trying to do far more than just work in the gray area last year.
This pissing contest has very long and deep roots between Roush and White. White worked for Roush before he ever decided to set up a stock car operation in North Carolina. However, Roush maintains that White was not brought along when the organization was established in North Carolina because he had a history of cheating on the road-racing powerhouses that Roush fielded before he ever entered stock car racing. And cheating the system, of course, is what Roush felt Toyota would be doing all along; when they were announced as an entrant coming into stock car racing, Roush swore that the automotive behemoth was going to ruin the sport by increasing the spending on all aspects of their teams. He has since accused them of increasing salaries and plundering existing organizations by utilizing their deep pockets to drive up the cost of competition.
With those bitter feelings already well established, it seems this latest accusation is just another volley in an ongoing battle of barbs. Roush is a shrewd businessman, and knows when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. If Roush felt like he really had a valid case that would result in some kind of legal victory, he would not have said a word until the papers had already been filed. So far, this looks like just another attempt at besmirching the young reputation of Toyota in stock car racing; nothing more, nothing less.
But have we seen the end of these tit for tat continuous exchanges of attacks by these organizations? Most likely not. When you are dealing with people who have huge egos and who don’t take kindly to losing, they will never back down. So, for now, enjoy the shenanigans and wait for the next salvo to be fired. Eventually, someone is going to be told to piss up a rope.
But that’s about it.