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A Busy Day At Martinsville For Ford Teams

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Wood Brothers Racing co-owner Eddie Wood is breathing a little bit easier this week since he knows his team will be racing on Sunday.  Bill Elliott is serving as the team’s driver this weekend and has the past champion’s provisional to fall back on, if he doesn’t make the field on speed.  Wood spoke about that relief, along with the crew chief change that was made earlier in the week.

EDDIE WOOD, Co-Owner – No. 21 Little Debbie Ford Fusion – WHAT IS THE PLAN THIS WEEKEND AS FAR AS A CREW CHIEF?  “Our crew chief left, so for this week Mike Smith is going to handle those duties this weekend and then we’ll go from there.  He’s been with us for 20 years and knows the ins and outs of what we do anyway, so that was the logical choice.”  IT MUST BE NICE TO KNOW YOU’RE IN THE RACE THIS WEEKEND?  “Yeah, that’s a different feeling and, of course, we want to qualify our way into the race.  We don’t want to use up one of Bill’s provisionals here, but just knowing you’ve got that as a backup means you can at least make some race runs and get your feet under you a little bit, which we haven’t been able to do the past few weeks.  Everything has been about qualifying, so that’s kind of reassuring.”  WHAT’S IT BEEN LIKE THESE LAST FEW WEEKS?  “It’s just bad.  Anybody that doesn’t make the show week to week, it’s hard on everybody.  It’s hard on the sponsors.  It’s hard on the crew people.  It’s hard on the driver, whoever.  It’s just a bad deal, but you don’t have to come.  It’s the way the rules are and it is what it is, and you come and just do the best you can.  But it’s hard.”

            David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 freecreditreport.com Ford Fusion, is coming off a season-best ninth-place finish at Bristol.  He held a Q&A session Friday morning to talk about the momentum a finish like that can produce.

DAVID GILLILAND – No. 38 freecreditreport.com Ford Fusion – ARE YOU A BELIEVER IN MOMENTUM?  “Yeah, I think Bristol was a great shot in the arm for our whole team and not only for our team, but for all of Yates Racing.  That’s what we need right now to be able to build some momentum and just having a little more confidence coming to the track each week.  I definitely feel like our team is capable of running in the top 10 and we just need to keep doing what we’re doing.”  BOTH TEAMS HAVE HAD TOP 10s THIS YEAR, SO IT WOULD SEEM YOU GUYS ARE WORKING WELL TOGETHER.  IS THAT THE CASE?  “Yeah, I think so.  I think by far this is the most that our two teams have ever worked together since I’ve been there and that’s exciting and encouraging for myself and our whole team.  I think it’s good.  I think Yates Racing is headed in the right direction and hopefully we can sew up those primary sponsorships soon so everybody can rest just a little bit easier.”  WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN HERE AT MARTINSVILLE?  “There are just so many things that can happen out of your control.  We’re just focused on trying to bring home a good solid finish here this weekend.  Qualifying is very, very important because track position is everything.  I know last week we weren’t able to qualify and were fairly good in practice, so we felt like that hurt us because we spent three-quarters of the race digging out of that hole of starting in the back and trying to get track position.  So qualifying is very, very key at a place like this and I’m really looking forward to racing here.  This is what I grew up racing on, a little short track on the west coast, so I’m really excited about this weekend.”  IS THIS RACE ONE OF THOSE WHERE YOU CAN NEVER GIVE UP BECAUSE WE’VE SEEN GUYS SPIN OUT EARLY, LOSE LAPS, AND THEN RALLY FOR A GOOD FINISH.  “There’s so much stuff that can happen here that you can never give up.  This is a track where if your car is good enough, you can get back into the hunt.  That’s always some comfort for the driver and we feel really good about our car.  We’ve tested it and feel really good about it, so, hopefully, we’ll have a good weekend.”

            Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings and spoke about this weekend’s outlook before Friday’s practice session.

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – HOW HAS YOUR WEEK BEEN?  “It was good to get back in the car after a week off, I guess.  I was enjoying my free time working at my shop everyday and I look forward to this race, really.  I kind of have a love, hate relationship with Martinsville.  In the past, I haven’t been as good here as I need to be, but certainly the last two times we’ve run here we’ve run a tremendous amount better and was seventh last time here, so I’m really excited about building on that and trying to come out of here with a top five.  That’s what I need to do.  It was kind of funny because a few minutes ago Amber (Moody, PR rep) said we needed to go to the media center.  We stopped by the NASCAR truck to sign in and I said, ‘You know, I don’t know where the media center is at.  I’ve never been there before at Martinsville.’   Hopefully, I’ll be back here at some point giving a top-three interview or figuring out how I’m gonna get that grandfather clock to the house.”

HAVE YOUR RESULTS FOR THIS SEASON SO FAR EXCEEDED EXPECTATIONS?  “I have to say it’s exceeded my expectations so far.  I wouldn’t have thought we’d be second in points, but I felt like we were capable of being in the top 10 for sure, so we’re probably a little higher than I expected to be right at this point in the season, and I just hope to be able to continue to stay here.  We know that this race and Talladega are kind of our two wild card races a little bit for us.  Anything can kind of happen here.  You’ve got to keep the brakes on the car and keep running well and then Talladega is one of those things, but we look at Texas and all these other race tracks where I feel we can win in the next five races.  I felt like that going to Bristol and Atlanta and all these other places.  That’s good confidence for our team to feel like we’re right there every week.”  

IS YOUR COMFORT WITH THIS CAR A CRAM COURSE OR A STEADY PROCESS?  “It’s been a steady process.  It’s been up and down for sure.  When we started out with this car, we were way off and then we’ve really honed in on it and gotten pretty good about it now.  Now, I feel real comfortable in this car, not that I feel comfortable driving it or sitting in it or anything else, I feel comfortable and confident that we’re gonna be fast every week, that we’ve gotten closer with our setups and we understand the car better engineering-wise and we start out closer on a race setup and bump stops and all those things.  So I feel a lot better when I sit down in the car that we’re closer than just starting way out in left field and having to try and work to running better.” 

TALK ABOUT THE TIRE TEST AT DARLINGTON AGAIN THIS PAST WEEK.  DID ANYTHING CHANGE?  “No, there hasn’t been any changes.  I know they brought back the same right that we had, which is harder than the Texas tire.  The Texas tires seemed really, really good at that race track.  They seem like a good tire, good construction, so we’ll see what those tires are like in Texas.  I’m anxious to get there, but they brought back a little bit harder left side.  They targeted in between two left side tires and the tire still has a lot of grip, which the drivers are gonna love that tire.  The thing about it is the track is still pretty dang fast.  There’s that happy medium we have to hit with keeping everybody happy.  I know the drivers are gonna be happy because the car is gonna handle good and that tire takes a couple laps to get its grip built up.  It’s a little bit harder left side, but it runs real consistent.  I did a 40-lap run and on lap 40 I’m running the exact same lap time as I ran on lap three – no cords showing on these tires at that point.  Cording the tires will be an issue like you know how it was at Bristol, we had cords showing in 15 laps on the first set and then 25 laps on the second set and then in the race we ran 70, so it’ll probably start out like that – just like Atlanta or anywhere else.  It’s a fine line they’re walking to have a tire – on a green race track, it’s gonna wear out quick – but if you build a tire for when we’re gonna race on Sunday, that’s a different tire from when we show up on Friday, so they’re trying to fit it all in that same box and I think this tire is definitely gonna be a fast, good tire – good for grip – so we hope the car isn’t too hard on the tire.” 

WILL THIS TRACK BE AN INDICATION OF IF YOU’VE CLOSED THE GAP ON HENDRICK?  “Yeah, we’re definitely gonna know that in about two hours from now, how we’ve done overall.  But I have to say that a couple of years ago we were winning races as an organization, five cars in the chase, and we still sucked here to put it lightly.  I don’t know if this will be a reflection whether we’ve truly made improvements with our program.  Obviously, these first races, Carl has run very well, Matt has run good, I’ve run good and Jamie and David have both been up and down, and David has got some good finishes, so certainly our new car program is a lot closer to Hendrick and we’ve closed that gap.  But here, this track is so unique that hopefully we’ve learned something about this race track with this simulation and engineering and if we can pick up where we left off, like I said, we finished seventh here.  I remember beating on the back of the 48 car for the lead down here in three and four.  I just had to bump him a few times.  I just got a chance to get close enough to him, so that’s kind of the highlight of my career as far as this race track, so we’ll see.  We’ll definitely see as an organization how we’ve done.”

HOW KEY ARE BRAKES AT THIS TRACK?  “Brakes have been the biggest issue for everybody, I think, since the beginning of time here at Martinsville, especially with how fast the cars go and how much power they make, and this car has to slow down a little bit more in the corner than the old car because it’s got a higher center of gravity and it just won’t go around the corner as fast.  The car is a little bit heavier, so we’re a little more demanding on the brakes.  Every race, I guarantee you, there are gonna be four or five cars on Sunday that are gonna have brake problems and I pray that we’re not one of them because I’ve had brake problems here about every time I’ve been here, except for the last time.  Hopefully, we learned a little bit about brakes.  I’ve learned a little bit about driving the car, but brakes are the most important thing.  Brakes are first and then getting your car to go around the corner is second.  It’s kind of an evil scenario because if your car doesn’t turn good when you get down in the corner and you put the wheel to it and the front tires slide, well you’ve got to slow down more for the corner so then you’ve got to use the brake harder to get the car slowed down enough to go around the corner.  If you’ve got a good handling car, you’re a lot easier on the brakes.  If you’ve got a poor handling car, you’re harder on the brakes so that’s difficult.” 

IS THERE A MORE MENTALLY DEMANDING TRACK THAN HERE?  “I think Darlington is probably tougher just because it’s faster and you’re closer to the wall for a longer period of time.  Here, it’s mentally demanding not to make a mistake, don’t bump the curb, but the speeds are a lot slower.  This place is pretty physical as far as inside the car, but I’d have to say Darlington is probably a more mentally challenging place.”

            Car owner Jack Roush held a Q&A session in the Martinsville Speedway infield media center to address the issue of his comments in the recent issue of ESPN The Magazine.

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner – Roush Fenway Ford Fusions – “I find myself in the eye of the storm.  Unlike the last time I was here, I’m not mad today.  I’m not gonna answer any question that all of you might have that would take me past the point of giving you information that I think is appropriate given the other considerations that are going on behind the scenes right now.  My apologies to one or more of you that approached me as I entered the garage area this morning before I had a chance to see what in fact had happened in the news.  I don’t hang on the web for any inflammatory comment than anybody might make that could aggravate me or be relevant or irrelevant to facts that are developing.

            “I will take some questions.  I’ll tell you in advance that if they expand the information I’m prepared to give you, the facts that I’m going to relate, I’ll just refrain from giving you an answer on that.  But I do want to fill in any holes in the story or the information I’m inclined to unravel for you.  It’s no surprise or no mystery that I was really upset at Atlanta when I found myself confronted with the fact – I actually woke up to news that morning with Lee White’s comments in USA Today that there was a strong insinuation that either I was stupid or I was complicit in the thing that had happened with the oil dry sump tank lid at Las Vegas, and the fact was that I didn’t know what it was worth.  We hadn’t anticipated that being an issue and for somebody to have explored in that area and have prior carnal knowledge of what that was worth, and prepared to maybe use it or not use it depending on what they thought the risk was, was really making me crazy at the time.

“In that context, I gave an interview to a number of you regarding things around my angst and what I thought was appropriate or inappropriate that was being said and done.  One of the people that I gave an interview with was a writer for the ESPN Magazine and I gave that Friday or Saturday and I guess the magazine was published maybe Tuesday or Wednesday of this week.  Of course there was all this brouhaha about what I had said about the theft that had occurred last year.

            ROUSH PROCEEDED TO READ THE BRIEF IN ESPN THE MAGAZINE.  He confirmed that the quote was correct and that “I’m not perished for having given it, although except for being aggravated, I probably wouldn’t have given it given other considerations.”

            “This was the point this morning that I was asked to comment on and I hadn’t seen it yet, but this has since been given to me by my PR folks.  READING FROM AN ESPN.COM ARTICLE – “Toyota’s president says team did not intentionally possess an RFR part,” and Jim Aust, I refute what Jim Aust says in this article, but I wanted to make sure that I understood clearly what he said before I responded to it.  AGAIN READING FROM THE ARTICLE – “Jim Aust, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Racing Development said once the part was found to belong to Roush Fenway, it was returned.”  “That is not true, I believe.”  READING AGAIN.  “He was uncertain how the part was discovered on a table with other Toyota parts, how it got there and from which team it came.”  He goes on and responds about the teardown process that involve springs and other parts coming off cars after the race.

            “I’ll tell you facts that I believe to be true based on, one, I either have first-hand knowledge, or I have second-hand knowledge that I believe is correct.  If I subsequently find that what I’ve told you as fact is not correct, I will make an appropriate apology at an appropriate time.

            “Looking at the timeline for what occurred.  At Dover last year – the fall Dover race – a number of the teams had a number of proprietary parts in our car as we attempt to work within NASCAR’s bounds and do things uniquely for our car that are within the rules that will allow us to get an advantage.  One of the challenges this car has is it’s heavy in the front end.  It’s hard to achieve the balance you’d like to have and get enough nose weight off the car to let it balance properly from a weight and balance point of view.

            “One of the areas that we’ve worked in is the front swaybar.  It’s not subject to a NASCAR teardown inspection.  It was not a part that would have been mixed up with other Toyota parts – a front anti-roll swaybar.  And within the confines – the package that NASCAR gives you, the material, the dimension, all those things – we designed our own part and we did an analysis of it.  We optimized the torsional effect of it with minimizing the weight of it through heat treating and material selection and the way the components were machined and the way it was assembled.

            “Let me tell you what happened and then I’ll tell you how we became aware of it secondarily.  What happened was, this part – let’s just say it’s a three-inch diameter part now with a hollow configuration and a very stiff end that welds on this machine dialed at 4130 or some exotic steel that’s properly heat treated or effectively heat treated.

            “Anyway, the tool boxes that the teams use in the garage area for their normal practice and qualifying would historically have had a deposit reservoir or receptacle in them to hold a number of bars that might have been up to two-and-three-quarters inch in diameter.  Well, this part is bigger than that part has traditionally been.  It’s inside NASCAR’s box of what it could be and the carrying storage box had not been revised for that.  So each team of my teams has 12 or 14 selections of this box that you tune on as you make your choice – if you want to make it tighter or looser or trying a bigger bar or changing the wedge.

“So they had a number of the bars out there.  They’re all serial numbered.  They’re painted uniquely for a Roush Fenway color and they’re uniquely configured.  They wouldn’t fit somebody else’s car unless they copied it.  So as they’re removing and replacing the bars, they storm underneath the toolbox.  Well, imagine this, the toolboxes are back-to-back, these bars – maybe a half-dozen of them at any given point in time – are underneath the toolbox.  The other team, the non-descript Toyota team, went behind my toolbox and took my bar out of my inventory and put it with their inventory and took it home with them.  That’s a fact.  It has not been refuted and it has been discussed with the team involved.”

            “In January, I became aware that a vendor that makes proprietary parts for us, the drawings that we produce, actually it happens to be a fellow that used to work for me at a point in time years ago, was contacted by the development manager of this team who wanted to know if he would be willing to produce for him the ends for the Roush front roll anti swaybar.  Well, the antennae went up.  We found out about that and when the manager found out, he went to look and see if we had any missing bars and, sure enough, out of at least 24 bars we had built per team, plus any test team stuff that we had – more than 100 of these bars – one bar was missing.  It was serialized.  We knew which bar it was.  It had showed up missing at Dover.  They thought it had been misplaced and nobody had raised the issue.  Certainly, I wasn’t aware of it.

            “In the meantime, mechanics and people from teams move around.  We had hired somebody that had worked for that team, who may have worked for us before they’d worked for the team, that became aware of the discussion about the missing bar.  ‘Yeah, I saw the bar.  I know where it is.  It’s in some storage area that is in this other team’s place.’  In the meantime, we made a separate inquiry.  I say we, I’m not speaking of Jack, but Roush Fenway made a second inquiry with somebody that still worked for that team to find out if the bar was there.  The bar was reportedly still there.

            “I found out about it and I wanted to go supersonic.  ‘We’re going up.  We’re going to get a search warrant.  We’re going to get the bar.  It’s intellectual espionage that’s going on here.  They’ve stolen the part.  They’ve got access to it.  They’ve had an opportunity to see what it does, see what its efficiency for weight and for function are and we’ve been damaged.  We’ve been harmed by this theft.’

            “So before I get things organized to tell people what to do about this, one of my managers calls a manager for that team and says, ‘You know, we’ve got information and confirmation that somebody from your team has stolen the bar and that it’s in your possession.’  I heard that had been done and I said, ‘That was stupid.  That thing will wind up in the river some place.  It’ll be gone.  We’ve missed our chance to get our arms around this thing.’

            “But we got the call back and the manager said, ‘I had no knowledge of that,’ and I believed that was true.  He went back and he found that they had the bar and they chose to tell us that they had the bar.  Again, without my knowledge – there are 300-400 people that work for Roush Fenway that do things everyday that I would like to have my arms around, but I can’t do that try as I might – so a clandestine meeting was arranged at 6 o’clock in the morning to return the bar one manager to the other.  I got the bar back.

            “It’s been sandblasted.  It’s got its appearance changed, but it’s still got the serial number on it and it’s got all the proprietary considerations that it had.  It hasn’t been re-machines.  It hasn’t been changed in shape.  It hasn’t been welded on.  They didn’t grind the numbers off.  It’s my bar.  I’ve got it back.

            “Roush Fenway is getting all loaded up to go public with this thing and do a deal that says, ‘Alright, we’re just going to go get a restraining order.  They can’t use any of the bars they’ve got until they proved that they haven’t used this technology and haven’t used that consideration at Daytona.’  I said, ‘Stop.  Wait a minute.  Let me have a conversation with the guys at NASCAR.’

“There is a lot of proprietary inner-team, NASCAR to team, team-to-team discussions going on that are and should remain private.  I said, ‘Let’s just go see if we can work this thing out.’  So, subsequently, I’ve had three discussions with NASCAR people, not all the same person, as I attempted to work my way through this with an appropriate sanction and relief could be given to me for the theft that occurred.  I still don’t have a satisfactory resolution to that.  I’m not going to say what the status of those discussions are, but we’ve had numerous conversations and I took it there first.

            “In the meantime, Lee White says, ‘Well, you were complicit in this thing and you obviously should have known what it was because here is what it’s worth,’ and in that context I gave ESPN Magazine a bit of news that says, ‘Look, they shouldn’t be throwing rocks around because they may just be subject to having a restraining order against one or more of their teams for the fact that they were involved with a theft.’

            “I asked Geoff Smith I said, ‘Can I say that we had a theft?’  ‘You can say that we had a theft because we can prove it.  We’ve got the part back.  We’ve got the information that says what happened.  We know what happened.  They didn’t bring it back until they were confronted in January – months later after they’d had it for all that time.  They didn’t bring it back until they were confronted with the fact that we knew that they had it and we were prepared to go in and with a court order on our side to try and get it back.’

            “There are people ready to sweep dirt under a rug.  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 either look stupid or complicit as it relates to the things that might occur within my team or have occurred within my team as it relates to NASCAR’s rules.  It is interesting that the high standard that we’ve got, for the things that the teams would do in an effort to race with one another, doesn’t apply to the simple moral conduct that – for me to have to go to the courts and the rules of the broader society to deal with this problem will be a disappointment to me.  I’m not going to comment more on that.

            “I believe that I have filled in most of the holes.  A theft did occur.  The part was recovered.  It was a proprietary part.  It was within NASCAR’s rules.  It was a legal part and it was not returned at a point in time when people within that team would have realized that they had a part.  They altered the appearance of the part by changing the paint on it or blasting the unique paint that we had off of it, and it is back and it is in our inventory and we are still considering what, if any, legal action we’ll seek in the public sector.”

Q&A SESSION

THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE MACLAREN ISSUE IN FORMULA ONE.  SHOULD THE PENALTY BE LIKE THAT ONE?  “My understanding is, and I’m not a Formula One fan or think that we should in our stock car racing – NASCAR racing – follow their soap opera and the things that go with their program, but it’s my understanding the owners there have signed an agreement – something called a Concord agreement – that says they will respect one another’s intellectual property and they won’t steal from one another, either hardware-wise or as far as intellectual property.  If that’s true, there would be a basis then for an action in terms of breach of contract that we as team owners in NASCAR don’t have.” 

WHAT IS CONSIDERED FAIR AND PROPER WHEN IT COMES TO FINDING OUT WHAT THE OTHER GUY HAS?  WHERE IS THE LINE?  “I heard that somebody said, in fact maybe it was reported by Robin (Pemberton) that this is business as usual in the garage.  Things like this happen all the time.  Well, 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.  If it’s happened and it may have happened, I’m not aware of it.  As far as what Jim Aust said regarding the spring and the teardown thing, if we lost a spring and if it was returned to us, I’m not aware of it.  Nobody has told me about it.  That certainly wasn’t the basis of my point last Friday at Atlanta.”

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A Busy Day At Martinsville For Ford Teams
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