Local News

Roush Still Seething About Penalty As Stewart's Plane Hits Deer

Posted November 8, 2002 10:44 a.m. EST

— Jack Roush is seething over a 25-point penalty that could cost Mark Martin the Winston Cup championship.

Instead of enjoying what has become a duel bfor the title etween Roush Racing driver Martin and leader Tony Stewart with only two races left, Roush is angry with NASCAR.

Martin cut Stewart's lead to 87 points with a second-place finish last Sunday in Rockingham, N.C. But a post-race inspection found an unapproved spring on the No. 6 Ford.

The next day, NASCAR docked Martin 25 points, took 25 team owner points from Roush and fined crew chief Ben Leslie $5,000.

That left Martin 112 points behind Stewart entering Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"Based on what NASCAR has done over a period of time," Roush said, "if Mark would happen to lose the championship and is less than 25 points behind Tony Stewart, that would be the third time that NASCAR, through an unwarranted, unjust, unfair, unacceptable - to me - punitive action has taken one of my drivers out of a championship."

Meanwhile, Stewart's plane was involved in a strange accident on the way out West.

The Cessna Citation Bravo, a twin-engine executive aircraft, with Stewart aboard, was taking off Tuesday night from a small airport in rural Texas after refueling. A deer darted across the runway and collided with the plane.

"I was sitting in the back of the plane, and I felt a bump," Stewart said. "I knew there wasn't supposed to be a bump like that on takeoff, and I went up front to see what happened. They said we hit a small deer."

No one was injured, but the collision did considerable damage to the plane.

Stewart said the pilot was able to fly the plane to San Antonio, where it is being repaired. Stewart and his party had to charter a plane to continue their journey.

Stewart was en route to personal appearance in Las Vegas.

For Martin, last week's penalty reminded him of 1990. when he was fined 46 driver points for an illegal carburetor spacer found on his Roush Ford after a race in Richmond, Va. He lost the championship that year to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points.

In 1999, another Roush racer, Greg Biffle, driving a NASCAR truck series entry, was penalized 120 points for an illegal carburetor spacer following a race in Las Vegas. He lost the title to Jack Sprague by eight points.

Roush said the penalty against Biffle was definitely unjustified.

"We'd won one other race with that manifold, and we'd raced it seven other times," Roush explained. "So, seven times they'd looked at it ,and one other time they had it for teardown."

The inspector who allegedly told the team at the beginning of the season that the manifolds were legal, denied it, Roush said.

"So I lined all my guys up, and I got the state police guys and the lawyers and we went and did a lie-detector test," Roush said. "I went to NASCAR and said:`OK, here's everyone that prepared that manifold. Here's all the documentation of when it was built, and work orders that went through the shop. Here's when it was built. It hasn't been modified. What are you going to do about that?' They said:`Nothing.'

"It's a kangaroo court."

The Roush team has until Wednesday to appeal the decision to the National Stock Car Racing Commission. He said an appeal is being recommended by lawyers as part of the process that could lead to action against the spring manufacturer, whom he did not name.

"That's the people that damaged us," he said. "They gave us a part that was presented to us with the implied warranty that it was acceptable to NASCAR's rules.

"For us to have the opportunity to get our relief from them, we may have to go through the appeal process so that we've done what we could to get our relief before we go after the spring manufacturer."