Atlanta: Roush - Friday Ford interview

Jack Roush, car owner of Roush Fenway Racing held a press conference before NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway to discuss penalities handed down by NASCAR earlier in the week. JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush ...

Jack Roush, car owner of Roush Fenway Racing held a press conference before NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway to discuss penalities handed down by NASCAR earlier in the week.

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Fenway Ford Fusions

"The reason I'm here this morning is because I'm mad. I got woken up this morning to the news that Lee White, on behalf of Toyota, had made some disparaging remarks in the USA Today. I will comment on those at the end, but I'd like for David Poole and Mike Mulhern and anybody else who want so accept some off the record information about Lee White. Lee White worked for me in the eighties and I won't say more than that, but I can give you some insight to Lee. Lee is a real nice guy. I respect him, but he's also a great racer and will seek any advantage that he think he might have an opportunity for.

"I've got the part here that is in question and I'm gonna talk about that and a little big about our position on the appeal process that's being considered. I'm gonna talk about what happened and how it happened and what we know about it today.

"First of all, the part itself that was in question was a cover for the top of an enclosure for the dry sump tank. The dry sump tank is behind the driver and close to the driver's seat, and it radiates up to 300 degree temperature -- typically 250-270 degrees oil temperature gets radiated out through that tank. You want the tank not exposed to the driver, so there's an enclosure for it and it's exposed to air from underneath the car. Whether the extent to which there's a benefit from that enclosure not being tight, the degree to which there's a benefit there is something I'm not prepared to talk about because I don't know.

"But the enclosure is one of those areas that NASCAR doesn't have a real tight inspection process over. The teams have got some liberty to define that enclosure as they want. The car of tomorrow is a heavier car than the car of today that is still 3400 pounds, plus a consideration for what the driver weighs. We use spent uranium as an effort to move weight around in the car and to have the best weight balance front to rear in the car. We're spending today $3000 for radiators, where we used to spend $1200 for a radiator to get a few pounds off the front of the car. The tendency for the car is to be too nose heavy, so we do everything we can on all those things that NASCAR doesn't be real specific about to reduce weight in the car. The cover is here for anyone to evaluate, but the cover is retained with a flange on the front, so it tucks under a flange on the front of the enclosure and it's retained by one fastener at the back.

"Now it's not a part that we expect to need a really strong fastener. It turns out that on the cars of yesterday, which are the cars of today today, on the initial development cars -- and I've got one here -- we had a riveted fastner, a retainer of a nut plate that went in the bottom part of that enclosure and it had an interference thread. Over the winter, whether they could no longer get that fastener, they decided they were gonna weld it rather than rivet it, they went to a different nut plate that, as a matter of fact I found out five minutes before I came in here, in fact I found it out when I went to the 99 hauler to pick up this cover, that the nut plates that we're now using this year, which are different than some of the ones we used last year -- maybe all of them -- don't have an interference thread.

"So the one fastener was tightened into a nut plate that didn't have an interference thread without conscious decision being made by anybody. I guess the person who spec'd out that part of the car made a decision for the availability of it. I know the riveted part is a heat-treated part and I'm sure it's not weldable without cracking, so they got an up plate that didn't have an interference thread and through the vibration the car gets from the tires and from the race track, through the vibration the car gets from the drive train, from the drive shaft, from the engine and transmission and rear end -- all of those things -- there was enough of a resonance obviously set up in that car which may have been worse than the other cars we had, that the fastener decided to back out.

"Some of the teams use tape over the top of the plate. There's no big crime if you use tape and Bob, as a matter of fact, his car chief had been one of the car chiefs that made the decision not to tape that plate. Whether the tape would have been enough to secure the nut or the bolt as it decided to vibrate out, I'm not sure.

"When you look at it, it's real obvious. You say, 'What do you do about it?' Well, you could put a number of fasteners in it, and if they all didn't come loose, it would stay secure. One fastener is enough if it stays secure and keeping to the weight efficiency of the car, that's what you'd want to do. The thing that I did when I saw what happened I said, 'I want it safety wired.' I want the fastener safety wired to the top so that it would have to break the wire, either break the fastener, which did not happen, or have to break the wire to get off. So all of our cars, if you look at them, have got the Jack fix on them for here. They've got the one fastener. They've still got the nut plate without interference, but they've got safety wire in them, which will not fail."

"If you look at the plate, you say, 'Well, what did the team do about that? How do they deal with that during the race?' Well, the plate itself is really an engineering marvel from my point of view. It's organized so that the dry sump tank itself is exposed through the plate. There's a gasket that seals the plate to the tank and for checking the oil and filling the tank, all you have to do is loosen a clamp on top of the dry sump tank and you take it off. The people at the race track never had the plate off. The engine tuning guy didn't have the plate off. It wasn't on the mechanics check list to check. It was a car assembly fastener that was put in at the race shop and the guys at the track had nothing to do with it."

"If I decide I want to do it, I'm not saying that I will, but if I decide I want to, I'll take the person that fixed the plate with the fastener in the shop, I'll take the crew chief, the driver, the owner -- which is me -- the engineering manager and the engineer -- and we'll go do a polygraph. It won't be the first time that we've done that in the question of NASCAR penalities. The time we did it previously, we proved the fact that nobody had any complicity, nobody knew what was gonna happen, there wasn't an intention to do that, it was one of those things.

"One of the other things that happened during the race is that Matt Kenseth's power-steering reservoir cap fell off the car and it lost power-steering fluid and it was on the checklist, and somebody made a mistake in oversight. It wasn't an advantage for the fact that the cap secure failed, it was a threaded cap that just vibrated off because it wasn't tight enough. In that case, there was a hole in the thing for a safety wire, which in our finite wisdom we decided we didn't need to use. If it had been tight and if it had been safety wired, then it also wouldn't have come off.

"But we're not talking about 100 points, we're not talking about a six-week suspension, we're not talking about the embarrassment that I feel and the fact that we've lost the points lead and gone 100 points down, based on NASCAR's adjudication of the issue. These race cars are very complex. There are lots of fasteners in them. Fasteners fail because they get hit and fasteners fail because the harmonics go through the car. Fasteners fail. How many times have we seen a shifter fall off a car, off a transmission because the drive shaft was a little rough? How many times have we seen a mirror fall off a car because a tire equalized? Fasteners failed and in this case we had a fastener that went through practice at Las Vegas. We had a fastener that went through 150 laps of preparation for the race, including qualifying. It was tight and it was secure when the race started. Some time in that 400 miles, that thing decided to pack it in and vibrate loose. It may have been when one set of tires was on the car that was vibrating more, I have no idea. I was not complicit. Carl Edwards was not complicit and I'm gonna treat Lee White and Toyota for their accusations in USA Today today like they were an ankle-biting Chihuahua and be done with it."

Q&A SESSION

WITH ALL OF THE PENALITIES LIKE THIS IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES EARLIER, SHOULDN'T THIS HAVE CAUSED A RED FLAG TO TAKE PRECAUTIONS SO IT WOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED? "I haven't looked at each of the recent penalties that occurred for covers coming off enclosures for dry sump tanks. It's my understanding that a number of them came off in qualifying attempts. That being the case, if they weren't secure enough to go two laps without coming loose, it was gross negligence or there was complicity and there was intent. NASCAR, I think, doesn't care if you do something or you wind up having something -- like, for instance, we broke a spring not so long ago in one of our cars, a coil spring that broke. It didn't have a nick in it. It wasn't filed so that it would have a stress fracture. The car was low and it was low in a direction where the front end was low and the back end was high and we got fined and we got penalized. I don't remember if the crew chief got suspended, I don't think that was the case, but NASCAR's position was that if there was something wrong with the car that causes a car to have an advantage, they're gonna exact a price, regardless of whether there was complicity. I guess that in our case here, we're a victim of the same circumstance. If it is the case, and I have reason to believe based on the rash of what people have been obviously, doing intentionally, if there is some benefit to it, then NASCAR would -- regardless of complicity -- likely not rescind that action."

"I'm sure the escalation of the penalty has something to do with NASCAR believes, and it may even in fact be the case based on Lee White's statement that he knows how much it helps to do that because he's tried it for some reason. He went to Germany I guess to run it on a rolling plain wind tunnel so they made sure they had good information on what it was. I haven't done that, so I don't know how much benefit was there. So, yeah, it is likely the case that the rash of it has caused an escalation of penalties that we're caught up in."

CAN YOU UNDERSTAND WHY THERE WOULD BE SO MANY SKEPTICS ABOUT THIS EXPLANATION? "Yes. Yes, I understand the skepticism."

OTHERS HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS AS WELL AND SOMEBODY AT GM SAID IT'S AT LEAST 100-150 POUNDS. "If you say it's 100 pounds, you really need to specific or as Lee White said it, it was more than that. You need to be specific. Was it tested on a moving ground plain wind tunnel? Wind tunnels don't run 190 miles an hour, so if you run it on a wind tunnel that's 80 miles an hour and come back and do some kind of analysis that would allow you to predict is different than saying it's 100 pounds."

THERE'S ALSO BEEN TALK ABOUT THE WINDOW CLIPS ON THE RIGHT SIDE WINDOW OF CARL'S CAR. THOSE CLIPS WERE SOMEHOW OPEN AND THAT COULD BE ANOTHER ADVANTAGE. "Let's talk about the hole. I'm not familiar that the plug that holds the button for the latch on the side window was open. Is that what you're saying? They were popped open. You know what happens when you blow across a straw with a Coke in the straw, you suck air through the straw. So if you wound up having a hold in the side window, it would suck air out of the passenger compartment. When this cover blew off the tank, it blew air into the passenger compartment, it didn't blow it out. You can't have it both ways. The next question I would ask is, 'What is the percentage of the size of the hole?' And I'm guessing it's about an inch or inch-and-a-quarter in diameter for that plug on the side window, versus the other side window, which is 18 inches by 36 inches that's on the driver's side. I'm very concerned if those latches didn't work and the thing that concerns me is the fact that the window might come out because if the window comes out, you've got to go on pit road and put another one on. So there would be no reason that I would want to have a poorly functioning latch that could potential loosen that window. I've got to look at the picture if somebody's got one and I'm certainly gonna look at the latches and understand how they work. They need to be secure. That side window needs to stay in and two or three, three or four one-inch holes in that right-side window would not be worth the risk of the latch coming off, if it was in fact loose."

WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING A TECHNICAL CASE IN FRONT OF THE APPEALS BOARD IF YOU DECIDE TO GO THAT DIRECTION? "I'm not a fan of the commission. I prefer to have my issues adjudicated by a court of my peers as we do in our broader society. It's not a happy thing whenever we have to go to a NASCAR court and sit down and talk about things gone wrong. In 22 years of being involved with this thing, I've never gotten any relief and we've appealed several times. One of the times I carried my polygraph things in there and it was ruled out of order because it was considered not to be evidentiary. I don't look forward to doing that. We might feel that we have to do it in order to preserve our position in the court of public opinion. We may be pushed by a sponsor to do it, but Jack has no heart in going before that commission to have questions answered that have already been asked and answered. I think enlightenment is not one of the tools that would be useful for them. I think, for the most part, they're predisposed for one reason or the other and it's a rubber stamp thing."

FINAL COMMENTS -- "I got this from Geoff Smith via e-mail after he read the USA Today story. He had no idea that I was gonna read this to you. Geoff says to me, 'You might also say that given Lee White has admitted to testing illegal configurations, if I were in NASCAR's shoes, I would demand to investigate any other testing they've done on other illegal configurations, including whether they have or not tested illegal fuels in addition to the rocket fuel they used at Daytona last year. By the way, I think you should say we are going to test for ourselves to determine whether or not there was a competitive advantage obtained. If a test turned out that there was an advantage, it is unlikely that we will appeal anything other than the accusation that there was anything deliberately done to make the lid fall off based on recent decisions might be able to get our suspension reduced for Bob, if we can demonstrate action other than culpability."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush
Teams Roush Fenway Racing