Sunday, August 17, 2008
Nationwide teams irked by alleged Gibbs Racing team's cheating
By Mark Ashenfelter ESPN.com
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Reaction was predictably swift Sunday among fellow Nationwide Series team owners in the wake of NASCAR inspectors catching Joe Gibbs Racing trying to alter the result of chassis dyno tests on the cars of Tony Stewart and Joey Logano.
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said inspectors preparing to run the tests discovered spacers -- in this case one-quarter inch thick magnets -- were placed on the gas-pedal stop to keep the car from running wide open and presenting a true indication of how much horsepower was reaching the rear wheels of the team's Toyotas.
"Their [rear end] needs to be kicked out of there," Richard Childress said. "They're shiftless anyway. They [NASCAR] just need to do something."
J.D. Gibbs, the team's president and son of owner Joe Gibbs, vowed that no matter what action NASCAR takes -- and he expects it "will be a pretty big slap," -- the team will take additional action against the employees involved. He stopped short of saying whether anyone would be fired, but said action would come quickly.
"That was a really poor and foolish decision on the part of our key guys," said Gibbs, who apologized to NASCAR, Toyota and the teams sponsors. "A couple of guys chose to make a decision there that really impacts all of us. To me, the frustrating part is, why?
"I know they're probably frustrated from the standpoint of wanting to show that, hey, we have less horsepower than ever before and wanting it to look like we're handicapped even more than we actually were. I understand that, but that's not an excuse."
Gibbs was referring to a NASCAR rules change late last month that cut horsepower from the Toyotas in the Nationwide Series in an attempt to even the field after previous chassis dyno tests showed Toyotas producing more horsepower than the Chevrolets, Fords or Dodges.
Joe Gibbs also apologized and vowed that his race team will investigate the incident.
"If this alleged incident proves true, it goes against everything we stand for as an organization.
"We will take full responsibility and accept any penalties NASCAR levies against us. 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.
"The expectations we set for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing begins with me, and I personally apologize to NASCAR, our partners and our fans for the negative light this situation has cast upon all of us."
Lee White, president of Toyota Racing Development, said the company is grateful that the team stepped up and took responsibility and made it clear Toyota was not involved.
"I found out about it halfway through the dyno session last night, when I went over there to see what was going on," White said. "I was surprised to see what was happening, and astonished and frankly incredulous. I couldn't believe it was happening because it's clearly defined in the entry forms that you don't do this sort of thing.
"But I'm sure Joe and J.D. will take care of that internally and, whatever fans think, they're going to think. We're just going to keep working on our stuff."
Childress said the tests showed Toyotas had 14 more horsepower and while neither NASCAR nor Gibbs would reveal the results of the tests, Gibbs said his team takes pride in its horsepower. JGR is the only Toyota entity with its own engine program; the remaining teams get their engines via Toyota.
"We kind of feel like, in the engine shop, that's kind of a badge of honor. If you win that engine dyno, good for you," Gibbs said. "That's how we've felt the last few years. ... The way I look at it, to come back after you've been chopped and then win it again, that's awesome. That's a great story. So that wasn't able to be told, so now we're sitting here going over [this issue]."
To Childress, the infraction was "damn blatant" and the only thing that surprised him was that JGR got caught.
Ford owner Jack Roush, who has long voiced fears that Toyota would come into the sport and outspend other manufacturers in a quest to dominate the series, isn't sure how NASCAR will react.
"NASCAR will figure out what they should do," Roush said. "That would seem to me like it would be actions that are extremely detrimental to stock car racing if they're going to make decisions based on parity after they've given them what they've given them with regard to the parameters on their engine based on flawed data [due to the spacer]. That certainly is detrimental to my interest."
The chassis dyno test was the first conducted by NASCAR since the rules change, which came as a result of a test following the July race at Chicagoland Speedway. The change was designed to cut the horsepower produced by the Toyotas. JGR has won 14 races this season and Toyota has won 15 overall. Kyle Busch won the first race after the change went into effect, but Toyota hasn't won in the last three races.
The first two of those, however, were on road courses where horsepower isn't as much of an issue. It was Saturday at Michigan, a sweeping, two-mile oval where Carl Edwards' Ford won and the Toyotas of Brian Vickers and Stewart were second and third.
Pemberton said any penalties will be decided early this week.
"We'll get together our groups back in Concord [N.C.] and Daytona Beach and discuss what's next. I anticipate that we haven't seen the end of it yet," Pemberton said Sunday morning. "We historically don't make our decisions [on penalties] within a 24-hour period. It takes time to get everybody in a group and talk about it. The intention was to manipulate the numbers that we get when we get our information and data off the dyno. [In the end] we got what we needed to."
Pemberton wouldn't divulge the results of the dyno tests, nor would he provide any indication as to whether any additional rule changes will come once the test results are analyzed. Childress said an attempt to hide JGR's advantage led to the infraction.
"They got their advantage. When people get an advantage they don't want to give it up," Childress said. "Sometimes they go to extremes to keep from giving up the advantage. That's just what they did."
Pemberton doesn't remember a similar such infraction being uncovered and refused to speculate whether a team may have gotten away with using a similar spacer during previous chassis dyno tests.
"Like everything we do, there's a lot of opportunity for things to happen and many times it's just different circumstances that come up," Pemberton said.
Roush said he can understand why someone with JGR was upset by the rule change, saying the team didn't do anything outside the rules to gain the horsepower advantage it had most of the year. He said his problem was with the rules package designed by NASCAR, which he said gives Toyota an advantage in both the Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.
"NASCAR's got a real problem figuring out what they want to do," Roush said, referring to the engine package in those series. "First of all, they gave [Toyota] too much, which they shouldn't have done. It wasn't fair for them to give Toyota folks the expectation they could keep that [advantage] and now that they've done it, it isn't fair to let them keep the advantage.
"For someone to try to go around that & certainly [NASCAR's] got a huge problem and we'll be watching to see what they do with it."
Mark Ashenfelter is an associate editor at ESPN. ESPN.com's Ed Hinton, David Newton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.