Part 1 of 2 Mark Martin and Geoff Smith of Roush Racing appeared on a Ford Racing teleconference today to discuss Martin's attempts to win the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship and Roush Racing's decision to appeal NASCAR's penalty levied ...
Part 1 of 2
Mark Martin and Geoff Smith of Roush Racing appeared on a Ford Racing teleconference today to discuss Martin's attempts to win the 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Championship and Roush Racing's decision to appeal NASCAR's penalty levied against the No. 6 Viagra Taurus team following the Pop Secret 400 at Rockingham.
GEOFF SMITH, President of Roush Racing
"Essentially, the release we just issued follows the effort to evaluate all the avenues of recourse available to us in connection with the 25-point penalty assessed at Rockingham. Our conclusion is, and this is what's announced, that there is relief available to us through the NASCAR appeal process and we've elected to exercise the rights they've given us to appeal the penalty. And, at the same time, we've also stated that we will not be seeking any legal recourse against either the manufacturer or the seller of the spring, regardless of the outcome of the appeal."
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA FROM NASCAR WHAT THE PROCESS WILL BE NOW? DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE TIMETABLE?
"No. We don't know who the panel is that's going to be appointed out of the 12 commission members, nor do we know the timing or location. We just filed it with them this morning at about 9 o'clock, so I need to give them a little time to react."
WOULD YOU HOPE THAT IT WOULD BE BEFORE THE WEEKEND?
"We'd like it to be handled whenever we're certain that all of the evidence that is available can be heard. Ideally, if it could be heard this afternoon, the sooner the better, so that it's not hanging over the weekend in any fashion. But at the same time, we'd rather not have the hearing unless we've got all of the information that's relevant to the consideration of the appeal. And that has to do with basically whether or not our punishment has been equal for all of the equally situated offenders. And there are two other spring-related offenses that occurred this year that resulted in penalty points. We're quite convinced and I think almost everybody that's looked at the situation is quite convinced that we are not similarly situated as to those other people, and yet we got similar punishment."
WHY DID YOU DECIDE NOT TO TAKE LEGAL RECOURSE AGAINST THE MANUFACTURER?
"First of all, it was pretty clear that we had legitimate commercial claims under the uniform commercial code. But at the end of the day, we thought that Roush Racing was a more responsible party in the sport by just terminating any discussion about that. We're going to focus our attention with regard to the manufacturer on trying to get quality control improvements into their process. My comment is, basically, litigation and racing don't really go hand in hand to build a sport in a positive way."
ARE YOU CONFIDANT THAT THERE'S ENOUGH INDEPENDENCE IN THE NASCAR APPEALS PROCESS TO GET A FAIR SHAKE?
"I'm confident that there is a rule which says that penalties are supposed to be determined by the gravity of the violation and it's effects on the fairness of competition. And that's a rule that NASCAR put in place to protect the teams from individual action of the managers who make the decision. And NASCAR also gives us an appeal process. So, we have a couple of things that you don't get in sport and I'm happy that I have that. The fact that we don't have the same kind of independent standards of review - I'm not really complaining about the fact that it doesn't look the same as an appeal that I might make if I lost a court case."
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THIS APPEAL IF IT'S NOT HEARD UNTIL AFTER SUNDAY AND MARK MARTIN LOSES THE CHAMPIONSHIP BY MORE THAN 25 POINTS? ARE YOU STILL GOING TO CARRY THROUGH? DOES IT EVEN MATTER AT THAT POINT?
"We'll make a decision about that later, if we're faced with it. Our thinking, generally, is we are - Jack, in particular has made this point before to NASCAR - we're very concerned that the penalty side of the rule enforcement process is going in the wrong direction, which is by imposing points penalties on inconsequential kind of deviations from a regulation is being done without consideration of what is appropriate for the circumstances. And that'll end up being a system that is unfair for today and unfair for rule-enforcement making in the future. We want to press this point, and whether we continue to press or we assume that our point has been made, whether or not we continue to appeal, we'll decide on that after Sunday."
GREAT MANAGERS HAVE CERTAIN ATTRIBUTES. WHAT ATTRIBUTES DO YOU HAVE?
"I'm not quite sure what that has to do with our appeals. I've succeeded as a manager for a number of years, and I still have my job and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be taken away through efforts of Mark Martin or Jack Roush here in the next week or so."
BUT YOU HAD TO COME TO THIS DECISION WHICH IS WHY WE'RE HERE TODAY.
"Oh, yes, I did have to come to the decision. Actually, when you have rules that are put in place and they're designed to be put in place to ensure there are fairness to the team and to the driver in connection with the imposition of penalties, and we're given an opportunity to the review, I don't think I could sleep at night knowing, given the facts that we have, if I didn't put those forward and we lost by 24 points, I don't think I could look Jack or Mark in the eye."
DID JACK ROUSH GET INVOLVED IN THE DECISION TO DROP THE LITIGATION ANGLE AGAINST THE SPRING MANUFACTURER? AND, HAVE YOU TALKED WITH THAT MANUFACTURER ABOUT WHAT MAY HAVE HAPPENED WITH THAT PARTICULAR PIECE?
"First of all, we did not talk to the spring manufacturer. We have done an inventory of our springs and we did find another spring from the same manufacturer from our inventory that had the same problem in the manufacturing process. How the manufacturer's approached, I'm not sure how Jack is going to do that, whether it'll be done through NASCAR or whether we'll do it independently. We're going to want to understand about the quality control side of that. In terms of the dropping of the litigation, Jack and I did confer on that we both - that is where I wanted to head, and he agreed."
THAT THERE WOULD BE NO GOOD FROM A LAWSUIT?
"We have to go race this weekend. We need to get our teams ready to have great year in 2003 and we're expecting a great year again, based upon the success and progress that we've made throughout our organization this year, and we just didn't want to have February and March and April and all of 2003 and maybe some of 2004 tied up talking about this issue."
WHAT CONVINCED YOU TO GO THROUGH WITH THIS PROCESS? YOU MAKE IT SOUND LIKE A SIMPLE DECISION, BUT YOU WAITED 10 DAYS.
"First of all, I wanted to wait because I wanted to hear what as many other people had to say about our situation as I could possibly hear. I wanted to just internally hear from our own crew chiefs, from garage comments from crew chiefs, I wanted to gauge the media reaction. I just wanted to find out, 'Have we done something here that we shouldn't be griping about? That we should just shut our mouth and pack our books and go on to Homestead?' And I haven't heard one piece of information that was contrary to my understanding of what the situation was. And that was part of the reason that I was waiting. Because I didn't want to be embarrassed by finding out something that differed from what our position was that I couldn't defend. So then as we looked at the NASCAR rules, and it seemed to reinforce the principle. Because it says penalties are determined by the gravity of the violation and effects on fairness, and for the life of me, I can't see how this inconsequential violation had any effect on the fairness of competition, since it didn't alter the performance of the spring or the car in any fashion. So, in terms of factual and rules that are in place, I felt like we're as strong a position as is available to us."
HOW DO YOU HOPE TO CONVINCE THIS PANEL THAT THIS DIDN'T AFFECT THE PERFORMANCE OF THE CAR?
"It turns out, from an engineering point of view, Mark, help me if I'm wrong here, is that when springs are altered for a performance benefit, they have to be cut short enough that the coils can be re-wound to make it appear like it's the same length, and that additional spacing in between the coils provides for a longer length of travel before coil bind occurs."
MARK MARTIN-6-Viagra Taurus-"That's correct."
GEOFF SMITH: "And so, what you saw right away on our spring is that the spacing between the coils was exactly the same as it was supposed to be manufactured. So, there was, obviously, no intention to adjust the spring to allow for that greater differential in coils. In other words, the shortness of the spring was so inconsequential that there was no engineering way to re-configure the spring to have make it make any difference. And that can be seen, in particular, when it's compared to the other springs that had appeared on NASCAR's table of shame there earlier in the year."
YOU SAID YOU FOUND ANOTHER SPRING IN THE SHOP. IS THAT THE ONLY ONE, AND HOW MANY SPRINGS DID YOU CHECK?
"We checked all the springs from that manufacturer in all of programs, and we might have 20 springs per, Mark, would you say?"
MARK MARTIN: "Probably."
GEOFF SMITH: "Something like that."
MARK MARTIN: "The one was in the trailer. I mean, Ben pulled it out of the trailer, it had never been in the car, and took it over and showed it to Darby. There was another one, the identical rate, it was a twin to it, it was brand-new that had just come out of the box, it was in trailer. And then, according to Ben, there were a few others that they found that were marginal. But there was one twin to it in our trailer at the race track."
IS THIS MORE ABOUT POINTS, OR FAIRNESS OR REPUTATION OF YOUR WHOLE OPERATION?
GEOFF SMITH: "I think it's about all three. We want the points because Mark and that Viagra team earned them on the race track. And it's about fairness because we want a rules-making and -enforcing process in NASCAR that conforms to the rules that they have established. And it's important to point out these differences in a public way to continue to keep pressure to keep fairness in the system. And it is partly about reputation, too, because when the penalty's issued, the first thing is you've got the scarlet letter 'C' tattooed on your forehead, and 'C' being 'cheater.' That's really unfair on this organization for this type of penalty and this type of circumstance."
MARK, YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WHOLE SITUATION?
MARK MARTIN: "I don't know. The whole situation makes me sick. I had a great race in Phoenix and left there feeling really good, but I didn't get out of Phoenix without having a train wreck, you know, with trying to get out of there. So, I guess my point was I feeling a lot better Sunday evening leaving the race track, but it still looms over us, and the thing that will really be bad is if it was to make a difference. I'm really proud of what my team's done. They've revived my career. For so many naysayers in the media, or for a few naysayers in the media, let's say, for a few, my team, not me, my team has proved them wrong, and I'm proud of that."
TWENTY-FIVE POINTS CAN'T REALLY AFFECT THE WAY YOU APPROACH SUNDAY'S RACE, RIGHT?
"It really can't, because, unfortunately, we haven't been holding back. And we haven't been holding back all year, so the reason that we're within striking distance of this thing is because we have raced hard and we have raced smart, and we have a great, great race team, and I've had a great year. And I look forward to going to Homestead, especially with the way we've been running. We had a nice test down there, and I look forward to going racing."
Mark Martin press conference part II