Michael Kranefuss, car owner of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, and driver Jeremy Mayfield addressed members of the media prior to Friday's first practice session for the Pontiac Excitement 400. The two men talked about recent penalities ...
Michael Kranefuss, car owner of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, and driver Jeremy Mayfield addressed members of the media prior to Friday's first practice session for the Pontiac Excitement 400. The two men talked about recent penalities assessed by NASCAR and the effect it will have on the team.
MICHAEL KRANEFUSS, Car Owner --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE ROOF FINE?
"That was sort of a surprise. Gary Nelson said he saw footprints in the area where they were measuring and NASCAR did assure us that there was nothing illegal with the car. Obviously, nobody can recreate the original roof line, but the most likely conclusion is, and that was confirmed by both Mike Helton and Gary Nelson, is that Jeremy jumped on the roof and as a result the roof was a little lower."
DOESN'T THAT SEEM A LITTLE EXCESSIVE?
"Yeah, I think this is the week where we're getting fined. I think it is excessive, but he reminded us of some instances like Rusty in, I think, Sonoma some years ago where he sort of had an off-road event and then the car lowered and did not pass inspection afterwards, so that's the rules. Obviously, you can argue. Is it excessive? The whole week was like 70 grand for us."
WILL YOU APPEAL EITHER PENALTY?
"I don't think it makes any sense. I want to get this thing over with and that's the way the whole team, and, specifically Jeremy and Peter are feeling. I don't want to drag this out for another week, a couple of weeks, whatever it would take to get an answer on the appear. You know how it goes. I think we would have a pretty strong case, but the car cannot be put in a state that you can repeat where it was in California. It did not pass the height sticks in California, that's a fact and if they go by that, then obviously got a a point. If they say, 'Well, we wanted to re-measure the car in North Carolina, that was impossible because the car was on different shock absorbers, half of the engine was gone, so the ride height was a different one. But I'm sure they went through every bit of the car to see whether there were any illegal devices in there."
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF PETER SOSPENZO AND THE PERSON SUSPECTED OF POTENTIALLY DOCTORING THE FUEL?
"We have taken disciplinary action, obviously. Peter Sospenzo, as the crew chief, has got to take the responsibility for the state that the car appears on the race track. The person that was involved, it's not a black and white issue. We are dealing with him. This is a team thing, we all feel embarrassed about what has happened and that's about all you can say."
WHO WAS THE EMPLOYEE?
"As I just said, it's a team thing. We will not give out any names."
WHAT WAS THE FUEL ADDITIVE AND IS IT SOMETHING YOU CAN BUY OFF THE SHELF?
"Yeah, it is a product you can buy off the shelf."
IS THAT WHERE IT CAME FROM?
"That is basically where it came from."
DO YOU KNOW WHERE?
"I wouldn't be able to tell you. I mean, there are people running around and you can buy stuff that addresses a number of areas where you would possibly gain an advantage, but it's not legal."
IS IT TRUE YOU TESTED THIS DURING A PRIVATE TEST SESSION?
"Yes, we did...no impact. There was no impact at all, but I can also tell you that if you want to make this particular deal impact, you would have to mix about 50-50. We didn't have enough to do that, so I don't think there was any impact."
WHY DID THE CREWMAN TRY IT DURING THE RACE THEN IF THERE'S NO IMPACT?
"I really can't talk about this. As I said with respect to this person it's not a black and white situation for us to say, 'Alright, here it is and there you go.' We as a team accept the responsibility for what has happened at Talladega and we as a team deal with it. We are dealing with it internally and whatever we do to those individuals, they will be disciplined and there will be actions taken. In some cases they have been taken, but that's all I can say about that."
IS HE STILL WITH THE TEAM?
"So far he is, yeah."
WHY TEST THE STUFF IF IT IS ILLEGAL?
"At that particular test we had an engine that was a little down on power and we wanted to see if we came back to that race track with the right power what the impact would be with respect to the chassis setup. It's a very quick way to do it, and, obviously, they were sort of curious -- is this stuff working."
BUT ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE GAINED FROM IT, WHAT WOULD IT HELP YOU WITH IN A RACE?
"Like I said, we had a test motor that was about 40 horsepower down from our regular motor, so if you set up a car with that kind of power there is a difference and in order to get to a level to which we race later on, we tried to use the stuff but it had absolutely no impact. Later on we found out, actually after this whole thing had blown up, that we missed badly on the dosage and the mixture."
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HANDLE THE CREW CHIEF SITUATION?
"We have Buddy (Sisco) here who is the shop foreman and he is going to replace Peter, he's the point man. It's not just this weekend, but four events -- three point events -- so we'll have to cooperate and make do and do what we have to do."
THERE ARE HEAVY RUMORS ABOUT JEREMY'S STATUS AND HIM POSSIBLY LEAVING. WHAT IS HIS CONTRACT STATUS?
"First of all I think it's nothing but a rumor. Secondly, we've got a long-term contract. Thirdly, if anything has come out of this that you could portray as positive is that the whole team has moved a lot closer together. We've lost one or two people in the shop. One that was already planned before and another one who, I'm sure, partly as a reason of what has happened lately to us. But the whole team is a lot, lot closer as you've seen in California. I think if you look back six months from now, and none of you can imagine the two weeks that you're going through if everyday another piece of information or NASCAR coming and this and that...you're so distracted and then you go to California and you win a race. And not a race that was given to you. I mean, I could have argued about whether or not we actually got a lap down, but we lost a lap, we made it up and we won the race. That shows where the team is at the moment and the same goes for Jeremy. I'm absolutely certain he will confirm the same thing."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO MOBIL AND HOW DO THEY FEEL?
"Like everybody else, who is happy about a thing like this, but you saw Mobil did a win ad this week. It was a great event for Mobil because Jeremy had oil temperatures of over 320 to 340 degrees all afternoon, so it was a testament for the product. I don't think any other oil would have allowed us to do 500 miles, never mind that Jeremy was a little on the hot side. So, to that extent and, obviously, the victory in California, the ability of the team, the togetherness of the team certainly has come across to Mobil. Are they happy? Were they happy? Certainly not."
WERE YOU CONCERNED THEY MIGHT LEAVE BECAUSE OF THIS?
"There's always a concern in a situation like this. Exxon/Mobil is one of the top companies in the world. They do not want to be seen involved in anything remotely like this, so, yes we have a lot of work getting the pieces back together but we have kept them in the picture and given them a minute-by-minute rundown of what has happened. They know that we have cooperated with NASCAR and they also know that this had not been a planned sort of an action where you really go through the motions -- like people that got fined with other devices like the lowering devices. I mean, that's something you have to engineer and put in the car and you're fully aware that here is something going on that you don't want to be caught with. That's not the case here, obviously. There are some mitigating circumstances, but because of the length of the whole deal it certainly gave an impression that nobody really wanted. Therefore, I think Mobil's reaction was perhaps, if this would have been a black and white deal -- two days like NASCAR usually does -- we could have dealt with it a lot more effectively, but because it took so long it allowed people to start speculating, you guys as well as anybody else in this business so it did perhaps with Mobil. So, things that we were saying yesterday and the next day they were in a different light -- not just with Mobil. Some of you guys were coming to different conclusions, so that's just the way it is and you have to deal with it. We have had an excellent relationship and we continue seeing Mobil people. We saw them in California and we'll continue to mend fences."
WHAT WAS ROGER PENSKE'S REACTION?
"Very, very upset and that understandable too. I mean, who likes that. I mean, I've been in racing 40 years and I've never, ever been involved in a thing like this and one day maybe we can talk about what really happened and you guys will hopefully understand a little better. It's a bad thing."
ARE YOU SATISFIED THAT ONE CREW MEMBER ACTED ALONE IN THIS THING?
"As I said, if you one day will hear what the real story is and you hear about how naive and amateurish the whole deal had come together, you would not doubt it. For NASCAR to say we are certain that neither Michael or Jeremy knew about this and they went through the whole deal for the better part of two weeks."
WAS THERE PERHAPS ANOTHER TEAM INVOLVED?
"No, no, no. Well, in terms of finger-pointing, I have no idea. That goes around here fairly quickly, but I have no idea. But the fact remains we were illegal. We accept the penalty, it is a team deal and we'll deal with it as we think we have to deal with it and that really is with respect to that affair. All I can say is it's been a terrible almost three weeks. I hope we have the strength, all of us, to repeat what we have done in California. I'm not saying we are going to win, but we certainly are going to shoot for it."
SHOULD NASCAR TRY TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE VENDORS TRYING TO SELL SNAKE OIL TYPE PRODUCTS?
"I don't think you can actually...what do you gonna do? This is a free country and if people are producing certain products and that seems to be appealing to certain types of business -- what are you gonna do? You know. NASCAR, I think we're hopeful that they were going to find the source of such a product and then they saw that in this case it was basically an over-the-counter product."
HAVE YOU AND ROGER HAD ANY CONVERSATIONS ABOUT HIM WANTING OUT?
"No. We did not have a discussion about wanting out. We had a discussion where I tried to explain and where he explained his feelings. That was basically it. He has been in Brazil last week, so he was gone since the previous week Wednesday, he came back on Monday. We talked about California and he was certainly happy about that. I mean, sure it's Roger Penske but if I was a partner in his business and this would have happened, I would have been upset. Would I talk to him about leaving? Yeah, but if I do I would probably not do it publicly."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE SAYING HE'LL REMAIN AN OWNER OF THIS TEAM?
"I'm not comfortable with saying anything at this point. We are going through a mending fences phase right now with not just Roger Penske, with a lot of our partners. It's not just Mobil who is behind the team. It's our fans, it's Goodyear, it's Snap-On, everybody who is involved with us -- we didn't exactly do them a favor."
WHAT WERE ROGER'S FEELINGS?
"Upset, really upset."
DID YOU FEEL THE SEVERITY OF THE PENALTY WAS EXCESSIVE -- ESPECIALLY WITH THE POINTS?
"Yeah, that's a bad deal. Has it been excessive, I think if you compare it to other incidents, yes. The points are gonna hurt us, big time. Thankfully, there are still twentysome races to go so we can make up some ground, but you don't make up 151 points easily. I think because of the length of the investigation and the time it took NASCAR to come out with the ruling, NASCAR perhaps was surprised about the hostility of all the other teams, particularly the top teams -- the owners and crew chiefs -- at California. I think maybe that led to NASCAR saying we really have to come down and defend the speculation that this was the deal in California where we were, more or less, given the victory because it used to be a Penske race track. That definitely hurt us more than it helped because, I think NASCAR, again, had to make a stand that this was not the case."
DID YOU FEEL YOU WERE REALISTIC CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS BEFORE THE PENALTY?
"Realistic championship contender, yeah, you always like to...we had a bad year last year, there was a lot of stuff going on and you don't regroup from not being anywhere on a consistent basis to being a serious championship contender. Are we a top five team? Absolutely, and that's what we are trying to get back into."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ROOF FINE?
"I mean, NASCAR did what they had to do and we cooperated with them for two weeks and done everything we could do. It's time to put it behind us and go on, you know. You can't dwell on it forever. We're ready to race and here to focus on Richmond and that's what we've got to do."
THE 151 POINTS REALLY HURTS.
"It's a huge dent, especially when you work hard for points. That part hits us harder than anything and we'll have to race hard and make it back up and do the best we can. That's what we plan on doing. We're focussed on Richmond and from here on out the future, so we'll do the best we can to get those back."
WHAT HAVE YOUR TALKS WITH PETER BEEN LIKE?
"They've been good. Peter's a great guy, a great crew chief, a winning crew chief. We worried about Richmond all week and just dealt with whatever has been thrown at us and we've got to go from there."
HOW WILL IT WORK THIS WEEK WITH PETER?
"We're keeping him informed on what's going on by phone and talking back and forth. I feel bad for him. He's done a great job and he wants to be here. We all want to make him feel like he's still part of this deal for the next three races and we're gonna do everything we can, talk back and forth, and just go from there."
HOW WILL YOU HANDLE THE CREW CHIEF DUTIES?
"We've got our car chief and Buddy Sisco, who is like our shop foreman and Steven Lane has been our car chief for about a year now and he can handle it. We'll do the best we can. We're certainly gonna miss Peter, but we'll do all we can."
WILL THERE BE MORE PRESSURE ON YOU TO MAKE CALLS?
"A little bit, but that's what we've been doing anyway -- not anyway, but me and Peter work good together. Steve has been there and heard our conversations for a year now and we'll just do the best we can and, hopefully, have a good car here."
WHAT WAS ROGER'S REACTION?
"I haven't even really talked to Roger, I'm not sure. I know he's been racing and been out of the country and all that stuff and I haven't really talked to him."
WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT THE FUEL INFRACTION AND WHAT WAS YOUR REACTION?
"I found out about it Sunday night after Talladega. I was sitting at home and heard about it. I couldn't believe it. I didn't really understand what was going on. I was already at home laid back on the couch wanting to get away from the race. I was mentally drained already and when that happened it was just unbelievable. That was the first I heard about it."
DID YOU FEEL ANY DIFFERENCE IN THE CAR?
"Not at all. Man, if there was gonna something in there I wished it would have worked anyway, but I didn't feel anything. That's why I did not have a clue that anything was even close to being in there and, certainly, I didn't feel anything. If anything, it hurt it."
IS THIS EMBARRASSING FOR YOU GUYS?
"Oh yes, definitely. It's embarrassing for us, our sponsors, everybody involved but you've gotta go on. We're a strong race team and we've got to continue on and do the best we can to make up our credibility and go from there."
DOES IT TAKE AWAY FROM YOUR WIN?
"It probably took away from somebody's point of view of it, but not as a race team. We're proud to say we won California and it didn't take away from that for us personally as a race team. We're proud to be able to come back and go through everything we went through the last two weeks and come back and win. That shows right there that this race team can go through a lot and handle a lot of pressure."
DID WINNING PROVE A POINT?
"Oh yeah, it definitely proved a point to us anyway. We weren't trying to prove a point, but we were on a mission and been on one all year. I'm proud of them (the race team). Everything we've accomplished in the last two or three weeks is something I'm very proud of and nobody can take that away from us. We just have to continue on with that."
HOW DIFFICULT HAS IT BEEN?
"It's definitely been a distraction, a huge distraction because we're trying to figure out what happened, what it was. I mean, it's been two weeks of a lot of unknowns and trying to get to the bottom of it. We talked to NASCAR everyday about it. It's been a distraction, that's the biggest thing but to overcome that is pretty cool, you know."
WHAT ABOUT THE OTHER TEAMS IN THE GARAGE. DO YOU THINK THEY'LL HAVE DOUBTS?
"Well, I don't think that they've got doubts as much as we came back and won California and, trust me, they went over our car with a fine-tooth comb. I don't think they've got as much doubt as they do worry because we came right back and showed that we don't need nothing. I'd say they're more worried than anything."
WAS IT ONLY ONE PERSON WHO KNEW ABOUT THE FUEL?
"At that point in time, yeah, one person. That's what was weird, we didn't know anything about nothing. Sunday night you get a call and it's a shock. I thought it was a dream, like Peter was messing with me. It's a weird deal."
MICHAEL SAID THIS HAS PULLED THE TEAM CLOSER TOGETHER, DO YOU AGREE?
"Definitely. It's by far pulled the team together. We all believe in each other. You're gonna get a lot of talk from the outside, but we're focussed on one thing and that's getting through this and becoming a better race team."
TALK ABOUT YOUR STATUS WITH THE TEAM?
"I've heard all kind of rumors. I've been leaving for three or four years now and I haven't left yet, so that tells you a lot right there. There is a lot of stuff going on. A lot of team members, you hear they're gonna leave, this, that and the other, but we're gonna do the best we can to work through this and with Michael there, Roger and everyone at Mobil 1 involved, we're all gonna be involved in this deal."