Michigan: Front Row Motorsports - Friday media visit

Front Row Motorsports Bob Jenkins - Owner Jerry Freeze - General Manager Travis Kvapil) - Driver Travis Kvapil was docked 150 points and the team lost 150 points in the owner standings in addition to a $100,000 fine and 12-week suspensions...

Front Row Motorsports
Bob Jenkins - Owner
Jerry Freeze - General Manager
Travis Kvapil) - Driver

Travis Kvapil was docked 150 points and the team lost 150 points in the owner standings in addition to a $100,000 fine and 12-week suspensions to crew chief Steve Lane, car chief Richard Bourgeois and tire specialist Michael Harrold after NASCAR found illegal valve caps on the No. 38 car at Pocono. Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins and General Manager Jerry Freeze, along with Kvapil took time to talk with Ford Racing about the penalties levied on the team this week by NASCAR and the events surrounding the race at Pocono.

THIS WEEKEND TAKES ON A DIFFERENT COMPLEXION NOW THAT TRAVIS IS OUT OF THE TOP-35 AND HAS TO QUALIFY ON TIME. HOW DO YOU APPROACH THAT?

Jerry Freeze: "Really the biggest thing with that is we have to go in a pure qualifying mode on Friday where before when we had the safety net of being in the top-35 we would go to Friday and work on race practice and then at the very end do your mock-qualifying run and take the spot you get. I left the shop Wednesday night at 7 pm and they were still working on the chassis dyno and trying to get everything out of Travis's car that they could. They were trying to get it tuned to the max so that we would have something to roll off the truck and be competitive with Friday. It has really changed our whole way of thinking for this weekend. We just have to really be prepared when we roll off the truck tomorrow."

HAS THIS BEEN A DISTRACTION?

Bob Jenkins: "I think in a way it has been. In another way I think it helps the team. My hope is that it will galvanize our three teams into one. The hardest part is the families and the people who are involved. We have two people who are suspended for 12 races and that is tough. Each of them had a different situation, so that has been a bit of a distraction, yes. I think that we have good enough people, and hopefully enough bench strength that we will come back and not miss a beat."

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THE PEOPLE THAT SAY YOU HAD TO KNOW WHAT WAS ON YOUR CAR, THAT THIS WAS INTENTIONAL?

Bob Jenkins: "I think the big differentiation there is that there is a difference between a valve stem and valve stem cap. Initially it was reported that we tampered with valve stems and that is totally inaccurate. I think if you follow the progression of events from before the race started, through the rain delay and afterwards, it is clear that this is a very limited number of valve stem caps and they were randomly placed. They weren't even put in places on the car that would benefit you. It is funny because the one place you might consider doing that is the left-front tire and on that set of tires, that was the only one that didn't have one on it. There was even one on an inner liner. TO the naked eye, there is no discernable difference between those caps and a regular cap. The biggest thing we have learned going forward is that we have to have quality control. These are not expensive parts. We are ultimately responsible for every single component on that car. That is why I am very reluctant to become a victim in all of this. When we sign that entry blank, it says that we will control our car from start to finish. There are so many different sources, whether it is wheel service or Goodyear or if you transfer tires in and out from other teams, these caps can just come and go from so many different directions. To answer the original question, if someone is looking for a conspiracy theory on how we were intending to cheat, it would be real tough to do. For example, if you look at it, it was at the very beginning of the race. Why would you want to do it on the very first set of tires and not on subsequent sets of tires? If we were doing that, we knew there was a rain delay, so all we would have had to do is close those caps up so they didn't leak. If you look at all the specifics of it, it just doesn't make sense. Like I said, they were still illegal and they were still on our car, for that we have to be accountable."

YOU HAVE DECIDED TO APPEAL, WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO GAIN FROM THE APPEAL PROCESS?

Bob Jenkins: "I certainly understand there should be a penalty and as an owner I appreciate that because I am going to be competing against the rest of these guys next week. NASCAR has to send a strong signal because it is an area on the car that could potentially provide a huge competitive advantage. My number one concern is my employees. Their reputations are important. It was obvious to me, and I think to others, that there was no intent. Obviously it is a big fine and it is a lot of points. For a team battling to stay in the top-35, 150 points is pretty excessive. Those are the reasons. I understand there should be a fine, but I felt that 12-week suspensions and that level of points are pretty high."

FROM A QUALITY CONTROL STANDPOINT, ARE THERE THINGS YOU HAVE PUT INTO PLACE FOR THIS WEEKEND THAT WILL GO INTO EFFECT TO TRY TO ENSURE SOMETHING LIKE THIS DOESN'T HAPPEN AGAIN?

Bob Jenkins: "Yeah, specifically with the valve caps we have asked all three tire guys with each of our teams to pull out each tire cap we have on the trucks, back in the shop, wherever, so that we could inspect them all, trying to get an idea of what is a good one and what is a bad one. Like Bob said, we get them from some different sources, so somewhere along the line we got some that weren't entirely kosher. We just want to make sure we didn't have any more in the batch. We gathered everybody together in the shop this week and we talked about how we bought a lot of inventory from other teams in the past. Some things that were made years ago and NASCAR may have outlawed that at some point that we still have in a storage area of there. We talked specifically about some spindles that we have. We have to identify them, paint them red or something, so that anyone can identify that they are not to be used on a race car at a race track. Sometimes you send a young guy over to fetch something and he's not really sure that it is something that isn't legal anymore. This whole thing is pretty devastating to Front Row Motorsports, but it could have been even worse if the penalties had been more severe."

YOU HAVE A VETERAN WITH TRAVIS THAT KNOWS HOW TO QUALIFY; DOES THAT EASE THINGS FOR YOU KNOWING THAT YOU HAVE A GUY THAT KNOWS HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS?

Jerry Freeze: "We had the same situation at Texas this year where he had to qualify. He had to do it at Homestead last year on a similar type track to Michigan. Michigan has been a great track for Travis in the past; I think he has two truck series wins, so he has a lot of confidence here."

Bob Jenkins: "The other thing too is that the team Travis is driving for is the same team that qualified 10th here last year. Our hope is that we can take our notes from last year, apply them to this car and qualify and make the race. I think over the next month or six weeks we will be able to climb back into the top-35. Although it is painful to take this dose of medicine, I firmly believe in the long run we will be better for it. I really want to say too that I have a new found appreciation for the way NASCAR handles situations like these. They treated us with respect through the entire process. They were very courteous and understanding. I can't speak for them, but I am convinced they believe we had no intention to cheat, and I think that weighed into their decision. I also understand that they are going to stick by the rules and enforce them to the best of their abilities."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU FOUND OUT WHAT WAS GOING ON WITH THE PENALITIES?

Travis Kvapil: "When we started the race, they said they were going to back us up and change our rear tires. I didn't understand what was going on and nobody said anything. I don't think anybody said anything because none of our guys knew what was going on. We didn't know we had illegal parts on the car. Throughout the race I didn't know what was going on. We had a great finish, left the race and got to the airport and we were missing four or five guys. That is when some of the other guys told me that NASCAR found something that was possibly illegal with the tires. I was disappointed because I knew wholeheartedly we didn't intend to have those on the car. We didn't have a performance advantage. We never made a green flag lap with those on the car. The good performance we had and the good points day was all for not at that point. It is a bummer deal. This is a team that is not pushing the envelope. We are not in a financial position or a position in the points where we can afford to take risks like this. It was completely unintentional. The guys have been working really hard and we were just starting to see some daylight and now we are set back."

YOU NOW HAVE TO QUALIFY ON TIME, HOW DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR PREPARATIONS THIS WEEK AND WEEKEND?

Travis Kvapil: "It is tough but fortunately we bring our best car to the track every week. The big disadvantage is that typically we would spend the first hour working on race trim with not a big concern at where we qualify. It is kind of an extra test session and gives us a head start on our Sunday setup, so we will lose time working on that. An hour-and-a-half with four or five sets of tires just doing qualifying runs will allow us to get plenty of runs and hopefully we hit on it. Michigan is a track I like and I am looking forward to the challenge of it."

YOU HAVE WALKED IN THESE SHOES BEFORE IN TERMS OF QUALIFYING ON TIME, IS THAT A HELP TO YOU?

Travis Kvapil: "Yeah, I have been through this drill before. I went through it for a whole year in 2006. It is a challenge and the worst thing about it is that it is just nerve-wracking all week long. Ultimately the job is to get things done on Sunday. You just never know though if a little thing goes wrong, if you slip just a little bit, the field is so tough that you can't have a little mistake. Even with that said, I still feel optimistic about it."

-source: ford racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Travis Kvapil
Teams Front Row Motorsports