NASCAR's Mark Martin
2002 Season Articles - Page 2.
Mark Martin 2002 Season Articles -Page 3.
Mark Martin 2002 Season Articles - Page 1.
Martin Finishes Second In Cup Championship
November 17, 2002
FORD RACING TAKES 7 OF TOP-10 FINAL SPOTS
Homestead, Fla. — For the fourth time in 13 years, Mark Martin earned runner-up honors in the Winston Cup Championship. Martin's fourth-place finish at today's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway closed the point gap with Winston Cup Championship Tony Stewart from 89 to 38 points.
Final NASCAR Winston Cup Standings:
1. Tony Stewart Pontiac
2. Mark Martin Ford
3. Kurt Busch Ford
4. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet
5. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet
6. Ryan Newman Ford
7. Rusty Wallace Ford
8. Matt Kenseth Ford
9. Dale Jarrett Ford
10. Ricky Rudd Ford
MARK MARTIN -6- VIAGRA TAURUS
“Those guys were just a little bit stronger than us, but what an effort. We came from the back of the pack and wrestled with ill-handling all day and we got it right at the end and the car was really, really good. We worked our way up all day. The only regret I have is that I could have provided more leadership to this team so that we could have scored an extra 100 or 150 points this year somewhere along the line, but we didn’t and I couldn’t. I’ve done all I could and I’m proud of what we accomplished.”
YOU BATTLED RIGHT TO THE END.
“It was a long, long battle. We got real good early in the race and then we got off in the middle and then we got real good at the end.”
ANOTHER SOLID SEASON.
“We fought hard for it. You can’t say that we ever gave up. I don’t know how close it was, but it was pretty close. I’m proud of this team. We realized back in May that we might have a shot at winning this championship and it just never went away for us. It kept on being a reality all the way down to the end. I’m glad it’s over. We gained points the last three races every race, so, in a way, I wish it wasn’t over. This team is great. They put me in race cars the last three weeks that have been incredible.”
DID YOU ASK WHERE TONY FINISHED?
“I asked afterwards. They said he finished 18th and I said, ‘Uh oh. How many points is that?’ So, anyway, we made it close. We gained points on the guy that’s incredibly hard to beat three races in a row. I’m as proud of that as anything we did all year long. We beat him the last three races in a row and I’m telling you that’s a tall order. The good thing is I get to save all these guys. I think they probably want to stay. I shared my part of the No Bull Five with them and I imagine they appreciate that and I imagine they want to stay. That doesn’t mean we’ll do as good next year, but it means we know what we’ve got. A year ago, we didn’t know what we had for sure. We didn’t know about our cars, but we know what we’ve got now and we’ll address next year with our very best effort, but it might be another effort outside of the Top 10, I don’t know. I do know that this one turned out to be almost a fairy tale for Kurt Busch and myself both. It was a tremendous year for Matt Kenseth as well. I’m happy with what I’ve been able to do. I don’t think I’m the greatest race car driver that ever lived, but I think I’ve got a lot of nice trophies on the shelf.”
MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE
“I guess a couple of things I really want to say is I never really looked at this thing this year and allowed myself to think that I would win it and that’s a good thing because I feel no letdown now. But I had so many people that wanted me to win it so bad, that I almost got afraid that they were gonna be letdown so bad and I was gonna let them down. I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you. Thank you to all the competitors that felt that way and all the fans and all the people that I know. I want to thank them. I gave it everything I had from January testing to the last lap today. I’m not disappointed with the outcome. Probably one of the things I’m most proud of is that we beat Tony on the race track the last three races in a row. I don’t know how you do that. That is a tall order. I told you guys when we took the point lead at Dover that the guy I was really worried about was Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Those guys had the speed. They had the speed that I didn’t know if we could hold ‘em back. Tony put it all together and Ryan put a tremendous charge on and, actually, Kurt surprised everyone with his charge. But Tony Stewart and his team were the ones that I feared the most back at Dover. It’s an incredible feat that this team managed to outrun him three races in a row. That’s big. We whittled that down, down, down each week. Unfortunately, we got a little bit too far behind. We had three weeks where we went from right on top of it to a little bit too far behind due to some unfortunate circumstances that happened on the race track, which happens to everybody.”
COULD YOU SHARE WHAT YOU SHARED WITH JEFF GORDON?
“No, I’m sorry, that’s private.”
YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATES FINISHED SO STRONG THAT NEXT YEAR LOOKS PRETTY GOOD. HOW DOES THIS AFFECT HOW YOU LOOK AT NEXT SEASON?
“It’s OK with me if you write that, but you know me by now. I don’t know if we can make the Top 10 next year or not. I just don’t know. I don’t know how we did it this year, I just don’t know how we did it. It’s so competitive and it’s so difficult, I have no idea. But these guys gave me a shot right down to the very last lap and you better believe I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful to the fans, I’m grateful to the people who have supported me through the years, but I’m mostly grateful to Jack Roush and Ben Leslie and the guys that work on that car.”
HOW REJUVENTATED ARE YOU BECAUSE OF THIS YEAR?
“It’s good, man. The last time I finished second in ’98 the championship was sewed up at Rockingham, man. I mean, we had a great year. We won seven races and were awesome, but Jeff Gordon won 13 and just clobbered us. We didn’t have a chance, but we finished second. Man, we fought for this one right down to the wire. I can’t remember back in 1990 and don’t care to, but this may be the greatest battle that myself and the people around me ever fought. This 36-race deal was incredible. I don’t predict next year, but I do know one thing - they’re gonna be there. I’ve got a great sponsor and great people and we finished the year on a high note. We were fast. We were fast at Rockingham. We battled back today from mediocrity to being really fast at the end and we really had a great car last week at Phoenix, so that’s the way to end the year.”
HOW HARD IS IT TO WIN A TITLE?
“I haven’t thought about it. One think you do have to remember is you can beat me all you want to about running second and that’s not good because I feel like that sometimes, but I’ve had a great career and I’ve done all I can do. Say what you want. I didn’t score enough points this year, nor did I in ’98, nor did I in ’90. I never scored enough points. I don’t think that I’m the greatest race car driver that ever lived and I don’t want anybody to write that about me. I do what I do and I’ve been very fortunate. I have a lot of respect and I’ve got a lot of trophies, believe me, a lot more trophies than most people. I’ve done a lot of really neat things in my career and that’s all I can do.”
CAN YOU COMMENT ON TONY?
“I admire Tony Stewart. I am a commercialized racer. You have to be commercialized in this business and I’ve done my very best to do that and to represent the sport the best way that I can. But, down deep, I’m like Tony. I’d rather be on the road right now headed toward the dirt track or the quarter-midget track and watching the kids race. That’s where I’d really like to be going right now, instead of sitting here talking to you guys. I admire Tony Stewart. He’s a racer’s racer and he’s really, really good.
“He didn’t just step in and get this stuff given to him. He’s won everywhere he’s ever been. Yeah, he’s intense and, yeah, it’s gonna be interesting to watch because it’s a tremendous load. I’ve thought about the load because this could have swung my way too, and I know it would have been a tremendous load on me as well. Whoever does win the Winston Cup championship carries a big load and it will be interesting to watch, but I admire Tony. I race with him hard and he races with me hard - fair, clean and he has respect. I was there first a long time ago when he was just a kid and he respects that. It’s nice when these young guys come along that are so incredibly talented and also have the respect that you would like to have. So I’m a Tony Stewart fan. I guess you could say that, but I’m a fan of all these guys. I’m a fan of Ryan Newman’s big time and I’m a fan of Kurt Busch as well and Kyle Busch.”
HOW GRATIFYING IS THIS SEASON AND CAN YOU COMMENT ON KURT?
“Maybe I should have prepared something because I’m blank. I don’t feel disappointed, I don’t feel excited, I don’t feel anything right now. I just raced my brains out in the middle of the pack half the day and had a triumphant fourth-place finish and made it a tremendous points race and made it close. That’s all I know. I’m just blank other than that. Kurt Busch is just unbelievable and they say his little brother may be even better yet. It’s gonna be fun. You watch Ryan Newman out there blazing, Jimmie Johnson, which, I don’t know if Jimmie is as young as Ryan, but I look at Kurt and I look at Ryan and I look at Casey Atwood, who has been overlooked so much. What a tremendous talent Casey Atwood is, that we have all sort of forgotten that when he gets in the right situation he’s gonna show you all something too. We’ve got kids coming along. I know a 14-year-old right now, spent one day with him, and I’d race with him out here. I mean, they’re coming. I’m a race fan and I’m excited. Now last year when I told you all that you all strung me up and tried to say I was quitting or lost my drive to race - whatever it was. It’s not that. I’m a race fan and it is very exciting to see these guys come along. I have a lot of fun watching Ryan and Kurt. Kurt has really shown tremendous improvement in not how to go fast but how to win.”
IS TONY DIFFERENT IN THE GARAGE THAN OUTSIDE BECAUSE MANY DRIVERS SAY THEY HAVE GREAT RELATIONSHIPS WITH HIM?
“Tony Stewart is just a tremendous racer. He says some things like the press conference yesterday, he was pretty candid about some things and we all laughed. I went back and told Arlene, I said, ‘Tony says things that I think.’ If you ever wonder why I’m quiet [laughing]. It’s gonna be interesting, but that’s Tony. He’s an incredible race car driver.”
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE DID YOU GIVE TONY EARLY IN HIS CAREER?
“He asked me things about tracks and about driving. I probably talked to him a little bit about give and take on the race track, but more than anything it was like, ‘Hey, it’s the middle of the race and I come up on you from nowhere, just pull over and let me go. Later on, you come up on me from the middle of nowhere and you get it back, and then we don’t ever take a chance on bending a fender or having a flat tire.’ You don’t race like that when you race 30 lappers or whatever. These races are so long and so many things can go wrong. I gave him advice on how to race smart. He overplayed it too. I didn’t do that much. I’ve had a lot of people ask me a lot of stuff, especially Busch drivers and beginners or rookies.”
DID YOU TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU WERE AT DURING THE DAY?
“You know what, I saw him falling back because I was in the middle of the pack. I knew he was back if he was coming to me, so I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Man, I can’t even run good enough to capitalize on this,’ but we just kept hammering and managed to capitalize on it well. But they never said a word and never said a word after the race. I was the one that asked them where Tony finished, but I knew he had made his lap up.”
IS IT EASIER KNOWING HE WON BY MORE THAN 25 POINTS?
“Yes it does. I think that was important. It would have been 13 points either way, so I feel good about that. I feel like they beat us, they earned it and I congratulate ‘em.”
Martin Content With Season
By Rupen Fofaria
November 17, 2002
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- MARK MARTIN LOST ANOTHER WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP!
Scream it as loud as you want to as many people as you want. Martin isn't depressed or bitter in defeat. In fact, he's celebrating revival.
"You can beat me all you want to about running second, but I've had a great career," Martin said. "I've done all I can do. Say what you want. I didn't score enough points this year.
"I don't think I'm the greatest race car driver that ever lived, and I don't want anybody to write that about me. I do what I do and I've been very fortunate. I've got a lot of respect, and I've got a lot of trophies -- a lot more trophies than most people. I've done a lot of really neat things in my career, and that's all I can do."
Losing this championship -- by a mere 38 points to Tony Stewart -- marks the fourth time Martin has finished second in the Winston Cup standings. But of all the title hunts, this year's was his favorite.
He was a non-factor last season, finishing outside the top 10 in points for the first time in 13 years. To bounce back and have a shot -- albeit remote -- to win the title on the last day of the 2002 season was more than the 43-year-old driver could ask for.
"This might be the greatest battle that myself and the people around me have ever fought," Martin said while, out of the corner of his eye, watching on a nearby big-screen television images of Stewart celebrating in victory lane. "It was incredible."
Martin has had a successful 19-year career in Cup despite not winning a championship -- and he knows it. The popular driver -- with several fans inside the garage as well as outside -- knows success is measured in many ways.
His competitors measure it with respect -- of which Martin gets a lot.
Over the years, Martin has sometimes been curt and almost always been pessimistic, but he's also always been fair. That's what everyone in the garage seems to say about him. And, lately, he's been gracious, too.
"There isn't a classier guy around," Ford driver Dale Jarrett said. "He's been around here a long time and after all that time it'd be hard for you to find someone that will say anything bad about the man."
And the man doesn't say many bad things about others, either. In fact, when asked about how he had actually out-performed Stewart over the final three races of the season, Martin made sure to turn his response into a compliment to himself, and to Stewart.
"We gained points on a guy that's incredibly hard to beat in the last three races in a row and I'm as proud of that as anything we did all year long," Martin said. "We beat him the last three races in a row and I'm telling you, that's a tall order."
Martin's team owner, Jack Roush, hopes Martin can deliver another tall order before he hangs up his helmet.
Roush has been with Martin through all the defeats in the championship races. He was there in 1990, when it hurt worst after getting penalized 46 points that season and losing the title to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points.
And he was there earlier this month when Martin was penalized 25 points in a tight championship race because of an non-approved spring found on Martin's No. 6 Ford at North Carolina Speedway, where Martin finished second.
Roush touched on NASCAR finding ways to stop his drivers from winning -- presumably referring to these two penalty situations -- but said he hopes Martin finds a way to pull one out sooner than later, even though he believes there's plenty of time left.
"There's a lot of time left for him," Roush said. "It's a matter of him deciding when he wants to start focusing on (his youngest son) Matt and other things in his family life that would get in the way of his racing. I don't think we're to that point yet. I hope we've got five years to pursue a championship with Mark."
But you can bet that Martin will treat anymore title runs just like he treated this one -- distancing himself, emotionally.
Martin's not a guy who needs to be told things twice. He's no glutton for punishment. He anticipated another heartbreaking end to this championship run, so he decided not to invest his heart so as not to have anything to break.
Still, that strategy almost backfired.
"I never really looked at this thing this year and allowed myself to think I would win it -- and that's a good thing because I don't feel a let down," Martin said. "But I had so many guys that wanted me to win it so bad that I almost got afraid that they were going to be let down so bad and I was going to let them down. I guess what I'm trying to say is, 'Thank you.' Thank you to all the competitors that felt that way."
Martin begins the 2003 season on Tuesday, testing a Ford he will race next season. And as little as he cares about anyone screaming that HE LOST THE CHAMPIONSHIP! he cares even less about people dumping high expectations for next year on him.
He says he doesn't know where he's going to finish -- might not even be in the top 10. All he can do is try hard and, since Stewart won by more than the margin of the penalty he was assessed, be thankful that he lost the championship to a guy who deserves it.
"I feel good about that," Martin said. "They beat us, they earned it and I congratulate them."
Mark Martin Finishes Second Again
By Mark Long
AP Sports Writer
November 17, 2002
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Mark Martin finished the race in the same spot he has so many times this season — in the top 10. He finished the season in the same spot he has so many times in his career — just short of the Winston Cup championship.
Martin rallied in the final laps to finish fourth in the Ford 400 on Sunday, but came up 38 points shy of Tony Stewart for the title.
Close but no championship. Again.
The 43-year-old driver finished second in the points race for the fourth time in his 20-year NASCAR career.
"You can beat me all you want to about running second, but I've had a great career,'' said Martin, who also was the runner-up in 1990, 1994 and 1998. ``I've done all I can do. Say what you want. I didn't score enough points this year. ... I never scored enough points.
"I don't think I'm the greatest race car driver that ever lived, and I don't want anybody to write that about me. I do what I do and I've been very fortunate. I've got a lot of respect, and I've got a lot of trophies — a lot more trophies than most people. I've done a lot of really neat things in my career, and that's all I can do.''
Martin won just once this season, at Charlotte, N.C., in May, but finished 22 of 36 races in the top 10. It put him in the championship race but didn't make him a champion. And he retains the title of ``best driver to never win a championship.''
Stewart took an 89-point lead into the series finale Sunday and, starting from the sixth position, needed only to finish 22nd or higher to hold off Martin.
Martin started 34th in the 43-car field and spent much of the afternoon in the middle of the pack, avoiding wrecks and trying to make up ground, before moving into the 10th position on Lap 180 of the 267-lap race.
Martin was sixth on the final restart with 23 laps to go, then moved up two spots for his 12th top five finish of the season.
Stewart finished 18th, well behind Martin — yet so far ahead.
"I never really looked at this thing this year and allowed myself to think I would win, and that's a good thing because I feel no letdown now,'' Martin said. ``I gave it everything I had from January testing to the last lap today and I'm not disappointed with the outcome.''
Martin has finished in the top six 12 times in the in the last 15 years, but this was his first since 1999. He was eighth in the standings in 2000 and 12th last season — prompting many to think Martin was on the downside of his career.
He erased all doubt this season. He reshaped his crew this offseason, getting 30-year-old crew chief Ben Leslie, and revitalized his career.
The only question remains how long he will continue racing, and trying for the elusive championship.
"There's a lot of time left for him,'' team owner Jack Roush said. ``It's a matter of him deciding when he wants to start focusing on (his youngest son) Matt and other things in his family life that would get in the way of his racing. I don't think we're to that point yet. I hope we've got five years to pursue a championship with Mark.''
Martin finished 26 points behind Dale Earnhardt in 1990, 444 points behind Earnhardt in 1994 and 364 points behind Jeff Gordon in 1998. He might have won the series in 1990 had his team not been fined 46 driver points for an illegal carburetor spacer found on his Ford after a race at Richmond International Raceway.
The same thing almost happened this year.
Martin was docked 25 points for using an unapproved spring in the Nov. 3 race at Rockingham, N.C. His Roush team argued that the infraction was not intentional and that the penalty was too severe, but an appeals committee upheld the penalty.
It didn't matter because Stewart finished more than 25 points ahead of Martin.
``I feel good about that,'' Martin said. ``They beat us, they earned it and I congratulate them.''
Race Car Panel Denies Martin Appeal
By Mike Harris
AP Motorsports Writer
November 16, 2002
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Mark Martin's appeal of a 25-point penalty was turned down Saturday, making his bid to overtake Tony Stewart for the Winston Cup championship that much tougher.
Martin was docked the points for using an unapproved spring on his Ford in the Nov. 3 race at Rockingham, N.C. His Roush team argued that the infraction was not intentional and that the penalty was too severe.
Now Martin will go into the season-closing Ford 400 Sunday 89 points behind leader Stewart. Stewart will win the championship if he finishes 22nd or better on Sunday, no matter what Martin does in the race.
Saturday's decision by a three-person panel from the National Stock Car Racing Commission also upheld appeals of team owner Jack Roush's 25 car-owner points penalty and crew chief Ben Leslie's $5,000 fine.
The commission issued a statement: ``The spring rule as written is clear. The spring from the No. 6 car did not meet the requirements of the rule. NASCAR acted fairly and consistently in issuing the penalties.''
NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said, ``The issue here is the spring must have 4 1/2 coils and the one in question didn't.''
The Roush team said that the unapproved spring, which had only 4 3/8 coils, was taken out of the box it came in and put on the car with no intention of getting a performance advantage.
After the appeal was filed on Wednesday, Roush team president Geoff Smith said it was decided to appeal because the spring had an ``inconsequential deviation'' that had ``absolutely no effect on the fairness of competition.'' He called the 25-point penalty a ``draconian remedy.'''
Following the rejection of the appeal, Smith said, ``This was an unbelievable situation that in a championship hunt, a penalty on a nonperformance issue might come into play.
``It will be easier if the 25 points don't make a difference. If they do, you'll have two great, hard working competitors in Mark Martin and Jack Roush penalized twice because of nonperformance issues. Jack will go on, but he'll be heartbroken.''
The only recourse left for Roush would be to appeal the panel's decision to Charles D. Strang, the National Stock Car Racing Commissioner, but Smith said, ``We're done.''
The appeal was heard by commission chairman George Silberman and commissioners John Capels and John Bishop.
Low Expectations Equal Low Disappointment For Roush
November 16, 2002
BY TEAM FORD RACING CORRESPONDENT
Homestead, Fla. — The points deficit that Mark Martin will try to erase in tomorrow’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway is 89 points. The number became cast in concrete when the National Stock Car Commission upheld the 25-point NASCAR-issued penalty against Roush Racing and Roush Racing decided that enough is enough.
NASCAR’s vice president of communications, Jim Hunter, pronounced the expected outcome when he said, “The commission spent about 5 hours on the process. I do know that the commission acknowledged Roush presented a very compelling argument; but that John Darby, who presented NASCAR’s side, that John Darby also presented a pretty good argument."
Hunter, delivering the final blow added, “The commission weighed everything and decided that the spring did not meet the specification as spelled out by the rulebook. According to that, and that only, the commission upheld the penalty.”
"You have to have a certain degree of expectation in order to have a certain degree of disappointment,” said Roush Racing President Geoff Smith. "We didn't have a high degree of expectation, so we have a low degree of disappointment that any result was gonna be any different. We've made it clear all along that we thought our odds of any success were gonna be negligible."
“We're all done,” added Smith when asked if the team would appeal. “You can only play Don Quixote and Sancho Panza for so long before you have to wrap it up. I think the clear point of what has occurred here is that the score of the contest can be altered even though there has been no performance gained on the playing field. Apparently from the outcome of this result, it's really fair warning to all of the race teams that no performance will take away the same amount of points as a performance-enhancing illegal part."
Explaining the “why” of the appeal Mark Martin explained, "If something were to happen tomorrow [in the Ford 400] and we were to wind up within 24 points of Tony and we hadn't appealed, we could never forgive ourselves when we have such a great case."
Appeal Committee Set For Saturday Hearing
By Dave Rodman, Turner Sports Interactive
November 15, 2002
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- A three-man board representing the National Stock Car Racing Commission has been selected to hear Roush Racing's appeal of penalties of Winston Cup driver and owner points and money following a spring violation two weeks ago at North Carolina Speedway.
NSCRC chairman George Silbermann and commission members Johnny Capels and John Bishop are scheduled to hear Roush Racing's appeal somewhere on the grounds of Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday morning at 8 a.m. ET.
Roush Racing president Geoff Smith, a former lawyer who will lead Roush's appeal, waited the available 10 days before filing the appeal on Wednesday. The meeting was set for the race track since the season finale is on Sunday.
Following the penalty of 25 driver points to Mark Martin, Roush's lead driver trails Tony Stewart by 89 points. Roush was also hit with a 25-point owner point deduction and crew chief Ben Leslie was fined $5,000.
Smith said he was comfortable with the commission's makeup.
"I think all of the commission members have a tremendous amount of experience in the sport," Smith said, "Regardless of which three were picked, I think the fact that they are experienced people is helpful to make it easier for us to present our point of view with regard to whether or not there was a performance enhancement gained in this rule violation."
Smith also said with the implications on the championship and NASCAR's overall implementation of penalties hanging in the balance, that he would have no trouble sleeping Friday night.
"I actually don't view this as an adversarial confrontation," Smith said. "I view it as the whole organization between the teams and NASCAR as people all coming together trying to do the right thing and this particular process is just to review whether or not the right thing has been done for the circumstance.
"I'm not worried about what any of our people might say so I don't think I'll have any trouble sleeping tonight -- mainly because I think we're doing the right thing and I can usually sleep better knowing we've done the right thing, regardless of the outcome."
Roush Racing's Geoff Smith & Mark Martin Press Conference
Christopher Fisher, Ford Racing / Campbell & Co.
November 13, 2002
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 CONFIDENT 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
"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?"
"Something like that."
"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?
"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?
"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."
IT SEEMS LIKE THE NASCAR APPEAL PROCESS HAS ALWAYS BEEN SO FUTILE. WHAT MAKES YOU THINK YOU CAN TURN IT AROUND?
"I'm the eternal optimist. I like to think that because we've got all of the facts on our side and we've got the rules, as they've written them, on our side that we might be the one in a thousand that actually succeeds in this process."
"From my side, I view myself as the points scorer, and I view Geoff Smith as the expert in this area. I line up behind any decision that Geoff Smith makes."
BUT AFTER WHAT HAPPENED IN '90 AND WHAT'S HAPPENED NOW, DON'T YOU EVER FEEL LIKE NASCAR'S WHIPPING BOY, MARK?
"It was an incredibly unfortunate situation that happened in 1990. But in February, NASCAR didn't look at Jack Roush and I and say, 'We're going to prevent them from winning the championship.' So, if I thought that they did that on purpose, for that reason, then it would be a tough day for me. I don't feel like their whipping boy, no."
OCCASIONALLY THESE PANELS INCREASE THEIR PENALTIES? DID YOU TAKE THAT INTO CONSIDERATION?
"I didn't think that possibility could exist in good conscience. It was a consideration that was eliminated after very few moments of thought."
ARE YOU GOING INTO THIS FROM THE POSITION THAT TECHNICALLY YOU HAD A VIOLATION BUT IT'S NOT AS SERIOUS AS THE OTHERS BECAUSE IT WASN'T INTENTIONAL? IS THAT YOUR CASE?
"Yes. You're missing one point. It's not only did the spring itself demonstrate that we had no intention to alter, but, in fact, there was no performance alteration as well."
BUT IF IT'S STILL A TECHNICAL VIOLATION, THEN THE POINT PENALTY SHOULD BE SMALLER?
"The penalty should be smaller than it was. And remember we had a cash penalty, and then we had a points penalty. And it's very clear, in terms of how NASCAR was approaching fairness in their rule book, that it's critical that there be an effect on the fairness of competition. That, before you impose a significant penalty. And, points are significant, whether it's one point, 25 or 100. Subtracting points is a very Draconian remedy which should not be used against these innocent violations that have no performance impact. If there was a performance impact, even though it was innocent, then we could also expect a points penalty, because then there was an effect on the fairness of competition, even if it was innocent."
YOUR GOAL IS TO ESSENTIALLY WIND UP WITH ONLY A FINANCIAL PENALTY?
"Correct. That's our best shot."
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED THAT THIS IS OVERSHADOWING THE FACT THAT YOU ARE IN THE POINTS RACE TO THE VERY END?
"Yes, I'm a little bit disappointed with that. I feel better this week than last week, because we had another great race. But the whole effort since January has been to win the Winston Cup. And that didn't seem real realistic to me in January or February or even March, but as we got on into the season that became more and more realistic. And, obviously, no matter what, we still have a chance, and we're still fighting, and that's what we're going to do. I'm going to keep my eye on the target, and we'll try to be as sharp as we can be this weekend."
YOU'RE USUALLY A BLACK-AND-WHITE KIND OF GUY. DEEP DOWN DO YOU THINK THIS IS AN ISSUE OF FAIRNESS? AND IS IT UNFAIR?
"Obviously, being as close to race cars as I've been for 25 years, understand how springs are made and how they work and all that. I've been close to a spring manufacturer back in my early years, back with Ray Dillon in the late '70s, early '80s, and done a lot with springs, and Ray had made all kinds of springs for all kinds of race cars I raced in the '80s. I'm disappointed that we had to go through this, based on the given situation. Had there been intent to run a spring that was pushing the limits of the rules, that would've been one thing. But there was none of that. You don't run soft springs at Rockingham. And that rule was to discourage the really soft springs that were being run, basically, on the flatter race tracks. And this spring was considerably stiffer than that. So, I don't know."
GOING INTO THE WEEKEND, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THIS TAKEN CARE OF SO THERE'S NO UNCERTAINTY REGARDING THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"To tell you the truth, my team and I have worked incredibly hard this summer, and my schedule has been absolutely unbelievable, and, yes, I do have better things to do right now than to deal with this, and some of those might have to do with trying score points at Homestead. But, I can't change it, can't change the fact. I'm not worried about it. I'm focused on what I've been focused on ever since the middle of summer, we're in the middle of 20 races straight where we've done extensive testing among all of other obligations, and I just don't waste a whole lot of time, you know me, I don't waste a whole lot of time about what-ifs, I have to deal with what's in front of us, and we'll take it all straight on between now and Sunday. We'll take it all straight on."
DO YOU THINK THAT THE SPRING RULES ARE TOO SPECIFIC, AND SHOULD THEY EVEN EXIST AT ALL?
"The spring rule was made to try to prevent things from getting out of hand with these really, really soft springs that were going on at a lot of the flatter race tracks. I've never had a problem at all with the spring rule, and with them eliminating the bump stops. They all kind of went hand-in-hand, the spring rule and the bump stops being thrown out and all that. I never was opposed to any of that. I don't really have a problem with the rule itself. There are certain areas that are pretty sensitive, and you have to use reasonable judgment when you start getting into those areas. This was a situation where there was neither any intent to run anything special, the application didn't require anything special, and it wasn't anything special. The spring was standard non-specialty spring whatsoever."
GEOFF, ARE YOU PRECLUDING ALL OUTSIDE LEGAL ACTION IN THIS CASE, WILLING TO LET THE NASCAR PROCESS BE THE ONLY METHOD OF APPEAL?
HAVE YOU OR MARK HAD ANY TALK WITH NASCAR OFFICIALS OVER THIS, EITHER MIKE HELTON OR BILL FRANCE OR WITH YOUR SPONSOR. AND, IF SO, DID THEY PERSUADE YOU TO TAKE THIS APPROACH?
"Jack has, and maybe Mark has, but Jack has conducted all of the discussion directly with NASCAR officials. I haven't had any."
AND HE HAS TALKED WITH ONE OF THE NASCAR OFFICIALS OVER THIS?
"Not over the decision about appealing; he had discussion at the time, and he's had discussion subsequent at the race track."
MARK, DID YOU HAVE THE FINAL WORD ON THIS WHEN ALL WAS SAID AND DONE?
"No, I didn't. I feel like my area of expertise right now is scoring points. Obviously, Geoff Smith is a brilliant man, you can tell that by listening to the teleconference, in that area. I wouldn't let Geoff pick the weight distribution or sway bars for my car this weekend, but at the same time, I certainly wouldn't make decisions or have the knowledge or anything like that in the areas that Geoff has. We work as a team. I rode home with Mike Helton Sunday night, they gave me a ride home, after our problem with our airplane, and it never came up. I figure that this is sort of business. The people at NASCAR have their job and their duty, and we have ours. And I have a good relationship with Mike and I try not to let business overly influence personal feelings outside of that. I've only had one discussion with Mike about it and that was a week ago Monday."
GEOFF, DO YOU THINK, TAKING THE TECHNICAL ASPECT OF THIS APPEAL, THAT THE BOARD SHOULD INCLUDE A MORE TECHNICAL PERSON?
"We've never been canvassed for what kinds of attributes or personalities or backgrounds that board members should have. I'm pleased that the rules have an allowance for this, so I'm not going to go to the next step and be critical of that how that composition is determined. If we sat down with a clean sheet of people and said is there something we should do in terms of the composition of the board or the way it's heard and that sort of thing, maybe we'd come to some different conclusion, but, actually, I feel pretty good of the fact that these board people are going to have racing backgrounds, that the issues that we're presenting are simple to understand, that there won't be, I'm believing, that there won't be any engineering disagreement over the points that Mark and Jack have made here, so I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that out of the group selected they've all got comprehensive racing backgrounds."
MARK, COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED SUNDAY NIGHT WHEN YOU WERE TRYING TO LEAVE PHOENIX?
"On takeoff, just before we got ready to lift off, we had a flat tire on the main gear, and the airplane tried to pull, tried to get off the runway. In attempts to keep it on the runway, we did some sliding and wound up blowing out the other main gear tire. So, we stopped about halfway down the runway with two flat tires right on the edge of the runway, so we never got off the runway. It was a scary ride."
MORE EXCITEMENT THAN YOU WANTED?
"We had a great day on the race track. Everything was wonderful, man. It was early, we were going to be back in Daytona at a reasonable hour, and gonna get plenty of rest, and it really scared us. Jason, my pilot, and I, I was sitting up front with Jason, and Jason and I have trained extensively in simulators, in the simulator for that airplane, and had every kind of emergency and malfunction in the air and on the ground, but this was something that when we stopped, he and I just kind of looked at each other, like 'What happened?' It really happened fast. You know how when people tell a lot of things, they say, 'It happened so fast, I can't hardly remember'? It was something that really happened fast."
WAS THE SIMULATOR GOOD TRAINING FOR THE EXERCISE?
"Well, it was. I don't know that we've trained for a blown-out tire. Actually, I thought the left engine had gone out, which we train for, on and on and on, because that's typically the most dangerous situation, is loss of engine on takeoff. And this was very much like that, and the slide was very much like what they call a V-1 cut, which is a loss of engine right before rotation speed, at your greatest speed that you don't continue on, you go ahead and stop instead. Actually, we didn't even really tear up the airplane, either. So, there were some good things that came of it, but it's been kind of awkward. You forget how reliant you are on your aircraft. It's been incredibly awkward for me. I had to fly yesterday, and I've got to fly twice on Friday, Sunday, and Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. Certainly hoping to have the plane back, at least for next week."
DID THE TWO PREVIOUS PENALTIES FOR LOW ROOFS HAVE ANY IMPACT ON THIS PENALTY? AND, HOW MUCH WERE BEN AND MERK INVOLVED IN YOUR DECISION TO GO FORWARD WITH THIS?
"On your first question, I don't have an opinion one way or the other on that. I don't know enough about those penalties. And second, Mark and Ben had a influence on my decision only by giving me the facts as they had occurred, not in terms of giving an opinion on about whether we should do it, regardless of the facts. I took the facts as I gathered them up, I tested the facts throughout these last several days to see whether or not their point of view would stand up to other opinions and other scrutiny. I concluded that nothing that Ben or Mark told me was altered by anything else that I had heard from any other source, and then looked at the remedies available to us, and felt that we clearly fit within the scope of the appeal recourse."
"As I said before, Geoff Smith is the expert in this area. He's the one that should make the decision."
MARK, YOU SEEM A MAN OF INCREDIBLE RESOLVE, BUT YOU ALSO SEEM BITTER ABOUT THIS. IS THIS A CASE OF WHAT DOESN'T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER? OR ARE LOOKING AT IT LIKE THE TWILIGHT OF YOUR CAREER IS COMING UP AND YOU'RE TIRED OF GETTING THE SHORT END?
"The latter is not accurate, really. I just wish that we weren't having to go through this. It's my hope, obviously, that something wonderful will happen at Homestead, for us, and then if it doesn't, then it doesn't. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished this year, and I don't want it to change the outcome. It doesn't bother me that much, this whole situation doesn't bother me that much, unless we go down to Homestead and something happens and we wind up falling into that area between the 25, where that really makes a difference, then I might really have a problem. But, beyond that, I'm not incredibly bitter. I'm really incredibly grateful, on the other hand, to my team and to the opportunities that I've had."
DO YOU USE ONE PARTICULAR SPRING MANUFACTURER, AND DO YOU ENDORSE ANY ONE IN PARTICULAR?
"Our crew chief-and-driver combinations are allowed to purchase springs from different authorized manufacturers. It's whatever they believe is going to be best for performance. We don't have a spring endorsement, financial arrangement with any party."
"And we do use a number of different manufacturers."
CAN YOU SUMMARIZE YOU FEELINGS, IN GENERAL, ABOUT HEADING INTO THIS WEEKEND'S RACE?
"As I said, I'm really charged up right now. We have had two really great races and under the right circumstances could've won either one. That feels really good. We had a pretty excellent test at Homestead, so did some others, so did Tony, so did Kurt Busch. I'm excited about going down there and racing. I'm excited about it being the last one of the season. It has been a long, hard grind. And I'm real optimistic looking into 2003, knowing what we have. A year ago right now, just over a year ago, we were upside down. Our whole thing had turned upside down and we were starting over, and I feel like we have great starting point right now for next year, and we're working, already, hard on 2003. Sure, I'm excited in looking forward to going into 2003."
Roush Appeals Martin's Point Loss
By Mike Harris
AP Motorsports Writer
November 13, 2002
The appeal of a NASCAR penalty that hurt Mark Martin's bid for his first Winston Cup championship will be heard Saturday.
The 43-year-old driver is 89 points behind leader Tony Stewart entering the season-ending race Sunday in Homestead, Fla. Martin could be 25 points closer had he not been penalized for using an unapproved spring during the race Nov. 3 in Rockingham, N.C.
Stewart can clinch his first title by finishing 22nd, should Martin win the race and lead the most laps. But a restoration of 25 points would force Stewart to finish 13th should Martin have his best possible result.
George Silbermann, chairman of the three-member National Auto Racing Commission, and two commissioners he will appoint will hear the appeal at Miami-Homestead Speedway.
``I just wish we weren't having to go through this,'' Martin said. ``My hope is something wonderful will happen for us at Homestead. If it doesn't, it doesn't.''
If the penalty stands, Martin said he just hopes it won't affect the outcome of the title race.
``I'm not bitter,'' he said. ``It doesn't bother me unless it falls into that area where the 25 points would make a difference in the championship.''
Roush Racing president Geoff Smith said Wednesday it was decided to appeal because the spring had an ``inconsequential deviation'' that had ``absolutely no effect on the fairness of competition.'' He called the 25-point penalty a ``draconian remedy.'''
He waited the maximum 10 days before filing the appeal, saying he wanted to be sure the team was not ``doing anything stupid.''
At its postrace inspection, NASCAR determined that the left front coil spring on Martin's Ford had approximately 4 3/8 turns of coil. The required minimum number is 4 1/2 . A spring with fewer coils would compress more and aid the car's handling.
The Roush team said the coil came out of the box from the manufacturer and was put on the car in good faith.
Besides docking Martin 25 championship points, NASCAR penalized Roush 25 owners points and fined crew chief Ben Leslie $5,000.
``Roush is a big player in NASCAR and we understand why they disagree with this decision,'' NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said. ``That's why we have this appeals process.''
Smith says this case is different from two previous instances this year in which teams were penalized 25 points for altering springs to gain a competitive advantage.
``In fairness, (points) should not be used in these situations where innocent mistakes are made,'' he said. ``The penalty should be smaller than it was.''
Smith said the Roush team did a complete inventory of its springs and found one, still in its box, identical to the one used on the car at North Carolina Speedway. He added there were several others that were found to be ``marginal.''
Smith said there will be no lawsuit against the spring manufacturer because ``litigation and racing do not go hand-in-hand, and we don't want to be dealing with this into 2003 or beyond.''
Hunter said a penalty possibly affecting the championship is ``just another twist, another quirk in what has been a somewhat bizarre year.
``Nobody has been able to take control of this championship all year,'' he said. ``I think this is one of the things that makes our championship so intriguing: every event counts.''
Roush Racing Appeals Rockingham Penalty
November 13, 2002
HUNTERSVILLE, NC --- Roush Racing announced today that Jack Roush and Mark Martin have exercised their right to appeal the 25 point penalty assessed for using an "unapproved" spring at the November 3, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup event in Rockingham, NC.
Said Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing, "According to NASCAR rules (sec.12-4) penalties for violation of NASCAR rules '…are determined by the gravity of the violation and its effects on fairness of competition…' Since the spring in question had an inconsequential deviation from the rule-specified length, since its use had absolutely no effect on the fairness of competition, and since the penalty imposed was harsher that the intent of its own published standards for the imposition of penalties, we have elected to take advantage of the review process NASCAR has provided to us."
"We applaud NASCAR both for laying out rules that confirm its interest in insuring that its managers impose penalties only after due regard is given to the fairness the circumstances require, and applaud them even further for providing us with an appeal mechanism that is unprecedented in professional sports. The existence of this rule and the appeal rights granted to us by NASCAR are powerful statements that NASCAR has established and is committed to upholding and maintaining a policy of fairness in connection with the imposition of penalties for the violation of its rules.
"Fairness, however, can only exist when there is equal punishment for equally situated offenders. That is a concept that is a cornerstone of the entire American experience. It is our firm conviction that Roush Racing was not "equally situated" with the two other teams who suffered penalty points reductions in 2002. NASCAR's examination into the 'gravity of the violation and its effects on the fairness of competition…' of each of the three situations requires that it evaluate the presence or absence of two very significant facts: (1) Did the examination of the part reveal the offender's intention to violate a rule? (2) Was the part's function altered in any way to attempt to improve performance? Both of those factors were conspicuously absent in our case, and both were present in the other two cases. Fairness requires a different penalty result for us.
"We hope that these 25 points have no impact in this year's championship race, and do not enjoy having this issue present itself at this late date, yet we cannot passively submit to a punishment that is so excessive for the offense. We also recognize that the list of successful appellants can fit on the back of a postage stamp, but we remain hopeful that after a sober review of each of the spring related penalty violations, the Commission will confirm NASCAR's written commitment to fairness by reinstating our points."
Roush Racing also announced that it will not seek legal recourse against the manufacturer or seller of the spring in question, regardless of the outcome of the appeal.
"There was little question that we have legitimate, meritorious claims, but, ultimately we concluded that Roush Racing can better serve the sport by terminating any contemplation of litigation. In this business, the words "racing" and "litigation" should never appear in the same paragraph if at all possible," concluded Smith.
NASCAR's Martin Has Scary Plane Ride
November 13, 2002
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Mark Martin's plane blew two tires as it attempted to take off from an Arizona airport, leaving the NASCAR star scared but relieved he was unhurt.
Martin's twin-engine Cessna Citation blew one of its front tires as it was about to leave the runway Sunday night in Goodyear, Ariz., he disclosed Wednesday. Then it skidded, blowing the out the other front tire.
Martin, second in the Winston Cup standings, finished fourth hours earlier in the Checker Auto Parts 500K at Phoenix International Raceway.
``We stopped about halfway down the runway with two flat tires right on the edge of the runway,'' said Martin, whose father was killed four years ago in a plane crash. ``It was a scary ride.''
Martin, pilot Jason Simpson and business manager Benny Ertel were the only people on the plane.
It was the third aircraft mishap involving NASCAR competitors in the past two weeks.
A plane carrying crewmen from Petty Enterprises also blew a tire on takeoff after a test in Phoenix. The plane of points leader Tony Stewart hit a deer while landing to refuel at a rural Texas airport on the way to Phoenix.
There were no injuries in any of the accidents.
Martin said he was sitting in the cockpit with Simpson when he heard a loud thump.
``Jason and I have trained extensively in a simulator for that airplane and had every kind of emergency and malfunction in the air and on the ground,'' Martin said. ``When we stopped, he and I just looked at each other for like, `What happened?' It really happened fast.
At first, Martin thought the left engine had gone out. He and Simpson had trained for that.
``That's typically the most dangerous situation, loss of an engine on takeoff,'' Martin said. ``This was very much like that.''
Martin hitched a ride to his home in Daytona Beach, Fla., in a NASCAR plane while his aircraft was taken for repairs.
``It didn't even really tear up the airplane,'' Martin said. ``But it's been kind of awkward. You forget how reliant you are on your aircraft.
``I had to fly yesterday and (have) got to fly twice on Friday and then fly on Sunday and Monday and Tuesday of next week. I hope we'll have the plane back, at least for next week.''
Martin's father, Julian, the racer's stepmother, Shelley, and the couple's 11-year old daughter, Sarah, died in the crash of a private plane near Ely, Nev., in 1998. The elder Martin was piloting the plane.
Martin trails Stewart by 89 points. They will settle the title Sunday in the season-ending Ford 400 in Homestead, Fla.
Mark Martin, Two Others Avoid Injury In Plane Incident
By Godwin Kelly, Motorsports Editor
November 12, 2002
DAYTONA BEACH -- Mark Martin and two other people escaped serious injury after his private jet blew a tire and skidded off a runway Sunday night in Phoenix.
Kevin Woods, Martin's Winston Cup public relations representative, confirmed the terrifying incident that happened following Sunday's Winston Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
"The takeoff had to be aborted and there was some damage to the plane, but no one was injured," Woods said.
There were a total of three people on the Cessna Citation CJ2, a two-engine jet that holds eight, including two pilots.
Jason Simpson was piloting the plane with Martin, who has a license to fly the craft. The lone passenger was Benny Ertel, Martin's business manager.
The jet, which was taking off from Goodyear Airport in Phoenix, had nearly reached liftoff speed when the plane began to yaw, or move from side to side.
"It was real bad," Ertel said. "Jason didn't know if he had lost an engine or a tire blew out and decided to abort the take off."
Simpson killed the engines and applied the brakes and Ertel said the Citation went into a "Talladega skid."
"We went the length of the runway," he said. "As we were sliding along, the other tire blew out. The skidding lasted forever. We're heading right for this electrical box and we all knew we were gonna hit it but the plane stopped like 10 feet short of it."
Just moments after the plane came to a stop, fire engines and rescue crews were on the scene to offer assistance.
"They had to shut the airport down," Ertel said.
With many of NASCAR's teams and officials leaving the area at the same time, Martin and Ertel were able to catch a ride back here on a NASCAR jet with sanctioning body president Mike Helton.
Martin's jet suffered some damage. The airport needed a crane to move the jet off the runway. Simpson plans to take the plane to Cessna's home base in Wichita, Kan., later this week to isolate the problem with the jet.
"The important thing is that everybody is OK," Ertel said. "This could have been much worse."
Martin finished fourth in Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 in Phoenix. He's 89 points behind leader Tony Stewart in Winston Cup points with one race remaining on the schedule.
Ironically, Stewart's private plane was damaged last week when his jet struck a deer on takeoff from San Antonio, Texas.
Also, earlier this year, Martin's team owner, Jack Roush was critically injured in a plane crash in Alabama. Roush recovered.
Two Winston Cup drivers were killed in air crashes in the early 1990s.
Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 series champion, was killed in 1993 in the crash of a private plane on the way to a race in Bristol, Tenn. Davey Allison died from injuries suffered when he crashed his helicopter on the Talladega Superspeedway property later that year.
Modest Gain For Martin
By Jerry Bonkowski
November 10, 2002
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- In a season that has arguably been one of the most exciting in recent history, the 2002 Winston Cup championship could ultimately become a reflection of the complete antithesis of excitement -- namely, controversy.
As the season draws to a close at next Sunday's finale, the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway, Tony Stewart is on the verge of capturing his first Winston Cup championship. He left Arizona following Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway with an 89-point edge over his lone remaining challenger, Mark Martin.
That 89-point edge is only a matter of opinion, if you ask Jack Roush, the guy who owns Martin's No. 6 Ford Taurus. To Roush, Stewart's real lead should only be 64 points, a more manageable amount for his driver to overcome in a last-ditch effort to steal the crown from Stewart's grasp.
And while Roush remains livid over NASCAR penalizing Martin 25 points following last week's race at Rockingham, N.C., for an unapproved front suspension spring, the team is undecided as to whether an appeal will be filed -- something Roush and team president Geoff Smith have until Wednesday to do.
Appeal possibilities aside, there are right now only three championship scenarios left, all which favor Stewart and are not contingent on whatever Martin does at Homestead.
Stewart will clinch the title if:
He finishes 22nd at Homestead and does not lead a lap.
He finishes 24th or better and leads one lap.
He finishes 25th and leads the most laps in next Sunday's race.
The man in the middle of everything is Martin. He not only has the pressure of trying to overtake Stewart at Homestead-Miami, a place where Stewart has dominated (victories in 1999 and 2000), Martin also has to maintain his calm and cool and not get dejected at being so close, yet so far away, from putting that elusive championship trophy on his mantle.
Martin faces potentially the most significant race of his career in south Florida. That's why Roush will be doing all he can in the coming days to keep Martin's attitude and spirit up and remain focused more on what the team has to accomplish to steal the championship away, rather than worry specifically about Stewart.
In other words, Martin has to run his own race and put Stewart out of mind.
"Mark, from time to time, gets down on himself, to the point of destruction, to the point of not being productive," Roush said. "I'm just trying to keep Mark focused. It would be great if he could win another race. It would be great if he could close on Tony, but Tony definitely has got the edge -- and it's based on NASCAR's action and the way Tony and that team has run all year. They've been the best team and the 25 points wouldn't have reversed the standings right now, it would have just made it closer."
When asked about the championship following Sunday's race, one in which he finished fourth, Martin, normally a very direct respondent when queried, deflected questions posed to him about the championship chase.
"We started off the year pretty darn good, too," Martin said. "We had a lot of bad luck in the summer and that dropped us back, but I'm very pleased with where we're at right now. You could certainly say we didn't fall off at the end. We've been fighting back hard."
About the only thing he would say directly is, when asked about the fact there's just one race left in the grueling 36-race season, Martin responded simply, "Thank goodness."
While the Roush/Martin camp plan their strategy, Stewart is acting like a guy without a care in the world, chuckling that his eighth-place finish at Phoenix was "just another day in paradise."
And although Martin finished ahead of him at Phoenix, the damage to Stewart's lead was minimal: he lost only 23 points from the 112-point edge he held heading into Sunday's event.
But, while his 89-point margin is comfortable, it's not invincible, either.
"We didn't get hurt too bad today," Stewart said. "Now we're going to a place I really like and a track I'm looking forward to. We've ran really good there. I got cheated out of my win there last year (Bill Elliott was the winner). I've got to go back and get my dominance back at my track.
"I want to win that thing (the championship). We went and tested this past week there (at Homestead-Miami) and we were fastest in testing. I feel like we can win that race. We've dominated there in the past and I think it's time we get our crown back."
Two guys who know a little bit about close championships -- Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon -- say the title is more Stewart's to lose than Martin's to win.
"I'd rather be in Tony's seat, no doubt about that," Wallace said. "Trying to make up 89 points, that's a lot. Basically, Mark's got to have a pretty good day. If Tony has a failure, then Mark's got it because you can lose 151 (points) in one race if he wins and you finish dead last. I guarantee you they're both going into that last race with the trigger pulled, the safety off and they're going for it."
Gordon anticipates both title contenders could be extra-jumpy and anxious come race day at Homestead, where the least little things could be magnified one thousand-fold.
"I guess what's going to make you nervous all day (at Homestead) is if you hear a little vibration or feel a little vibration or you hear a different pitch in the motor, you're going to be wondering," Gordon said. "It just comes down to whether or not Tony has a problem or a failure. He runs too good (at Phoenix and Homestead). I think that by just beating him one the track is not going to do it. I think the only way Mark is going to win -- and I think Mark knows that -- is if Tony has some kind of major problem."
With three stout teammates in Sunday's race winner, Matt Kenseth, as well as Kurt Busch and Jeff Burton, Martin could go to Homestead feeling like an NFL quarterback with a strong front line in front of him.
Or, in NASCAR parlance, Martin's teammates could become potential blockers to keep Stewart pinned down and back in the field at Miami. But that's only in theory, not in reality, Roush adamantly said.
"The short answer to that is no (there will be no blocking)," Roush said. "We are one race team that races four cars, but the feeling of fair play does pervade the team.
"If Tony Stewart wins by more than 25 points, we'll certainly celebrate his victory as we should, as being our champion going into next year. The guys (his drivers), I'm sure, without any conversation, will give (Stewart) every consideration to have a clean track and an opportunity to do what he needs to do."
Stewart's crew chief, Greg Zipadelli, appreciates Roush's sense of fair play, but that doesn't make him feel any more comfortable, either, about the potential for unexpected disaster to occur at Homestead that could ultimately make Stewart's championship bid all for naught.
"I won't feel comfortable until (next) Sunday night," Zipadelli said. "89 points is just not a guarantee. If we go down and run as good as we tested there, we should have a strong, top-5 car. But (the points lead) is not enough to have a problem. There is not enough of a points gap, so we've just got to go down, stay out of trouble and just race hard and clean.
"We've got to just go out, run in the top-5 or top-10 next week and (the championship) is ours."
Martin After Strong Finishes
By Jerry Bonkowski
November 6, 2002
PHOENIX -- Of all the regular drivers on the Winston Cup circuit, Mark Martin would be considered one of the series' biggest pragmatists.
He's a deep thinker, likes to ponder before answering questions, and brings a professorial approach to everything he does. He's part analyst, part soothsayer, part prophet and part father figure.
But most importantly, the driver of the No. 6 Ford is a realist. As he prepares for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Martin isn't one to give flowery answers when asked about his chances to catch Tony Stewart for the championship in the season's last two races.
He knows he left Rockingham, N.C., last Sunday 87 points behind Stewart. One day later, Martin had suddenly slipped to 112 points back after NASCAR penalized him, owner Jack Roush and crew chief Ben Leslie for an unapproved spring used at the Rock. Thus far, there's been very little out of the Roush Racing camp on whether the penalty will be appealed.
"I can't comment on the appeal part and my comment on what's fair and not fair is a tough and delicate situation," Martin said. "Obviously, it wasn't something that we had worked on. It wasn't a part that we had altered to try and gain a competitive advantage ... where we did something or built something trying to slip something by. That was never the question. ... It was just the way it was manufactured."
Leslie is also reluctant to speak about whether the team will appeal the penalty.
"I really don't know," Leslie said. "That's probably more of a question for (team president) Geoff Smith or somebody like that, or even Jack. I'm not sure what their take is on all of it as far as what they want to do. I'm just worried about going to Phoenix and Homestead, to be honest with you."
Yet, at the same time, Leslie feels the team may have been taken to task for what was an honest mistake, namely, using a set of springs that were off-the-shelf and had not been as closely scrutinized before being placed on Martin's car as they normally would have been.
"I think (being penalized is) all relative to where you're sitting," Leslie said. "If you're sitting however many points that we are behind the 20 car, yeah, it's unfair to take points. ... That's all in what perspective you're taking it from and I'd rather not pass any judgment on that because I'll be biased."
Being penalized only made Martin's task of trying to catch Stewart that much harder, but the veteran won't sugarcoat what he has to do. Rather, Martin tells it like it is.
"However I answer that question won't feel exactly right to me," Martin said when asked about his chances of catching Stewart. "If I answer it with the word 'slim,' then I feel that it might be misinterpreted as some kind of lack of desire or giving up or relinquishing the fight and that's not accurate.
"But, we are behind and we've got to continue to have great performances like we had last week at Rockingham. In order to win the thing, Tony's got to continue to have performances like he had at Rockingham or worse. We'll see. Racing deals everybody blows at different times. We've received our blows and so has Tony and so have all the guys behind us that are trying to catch us. To be honest with you, I'm real thankful to be contending because I wasn't even contending for a top-10 position last year. I've been blessed with a tremendous season."
Martin won't get many arguments about that last statement. He has put together his best season in four years. And while most media attention has been focused on other drivers such as Stewart, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Sterling Marlin, Martin has motored along quietly and effectively.
And for a guy who doesn't necessarily believe in luck, Martin foresees Sunday's race as ultimately becoming a matter of good luck and bad luck -- good luck for him and bad luck for Stewart.
"A little bit of both," he said. "We look at every week with the intent to make every possible effort to win, so we've done that week in and week out. It's easy to forget that a year ago we were racing for 12th in the points and right now we're racing for first or second."
Yet, at the same time, Martin bristles whenever he's asked why no driver has been able to take a commanding lead this season. He has especially grown weary of questions such as "Doesn't anyone want to win this thing?" He calls those "poor descriptions" of what has arguably been one of the most exciting championship chases in history.
"I understand that's only a set of words that someone threw on top of it because they didn't know how else to describe it, but that's obscene," Martin said. "This has been a year when no one could get away -- no one could break out and get away and the reason for that is two things. Racing is determined sometimes by coincidence and, secondly, it's by design -- NASCAR's design. This is what they want.
"For any given team to win -- I think Gordon won 13 in '98 and I won seven and we finished first and second in the points -- I don't know that that will happen again in NASCAR. If it does, it would surprise me."
Martin would be closer to Stewart heading into this weekend's race not only if it wasn't for the penalty received this week, but the three-race sequence from Kansas to Charlotte recently where mechanical problems forced him to consecutive finishes of 25th, 30th and 16th. That string knocked him out of the points lead and back to third, before he climbed back into second two races ago.
"That took some of the wind out of our sail," Martin said. "We've done everything that we can do all year to minimize those things and we just had a little rash of those kind of things and that happens to everybody. There's always a possibility of the same thing happening to our competition."
With that said, Martin and Leslie come to Phoenix with a simple plan: to run their own race and hope Stewart makes a mistake.
"We approach (Phoenix) like we did at Rockingham, we unload, try to sit on the pole and win the race," Leslie said, knowing that Martin has enjoyed considerable success at PIR, including a win in 1993. "We're hoping to come out of Phoenix with a real good run. Not to put too fine of a point on it, we just want to get everything that's coming to us this weekend and try to come out of there with a top-five. If we find ourselves in a position like we were (at Rockingham), maybe we can try to come out of there with a win."
Martin agrees with his young crew chief.
"We're going to Phoenix with at least as much optimism as we went into Rockingham," he said. "That was a spectacular effort by the whole team to go in there and qualify fifth, which is one of the very few top-five qualifying efforts of the year for us, and to get second in the pit crew competition on Saturday, and then to lead the most laps and contend for the win in the closing laps Sunday was almost everything you could do."
Whether or not Roush or Smith decide to appeal the penalty, Martin intends on going forward at Phoenix. He's not going to dwell on what might have been, or whether the penalty winds up costing him the championship. He'd rather focus on what he can still do; what remains within his control.
"I've been racing for 28 years or something like that," Martin said. "Over that period of time I've developed some tools or skills for survival. In order to be successful at anything as competitive as this is, you have to be really, really thick-skinned and you have to be tough or you won't ever survive -- you will never make it to this level. With that said, it doesn't mean that I don't bleed because I do, but I do the best I can with it."
Roush Racing Responds, Racing Next Topic
November 6, 2002
BY TEAM FORD RACING CORRESPONDENT
Apache Junction, Arizona — After taking a day to collect their thoughts the Roush Racing group responded to the penalty levied by NASCAR with an expected response.
"We used a spring manufactured by an approved NASCAR manufacturer exactly as it came to us out of the box,” explained Ben Leslie, crew chief of Mark Martin’s Ford. “We are being charged with the same penalty as teams that materially altered springs in order to obtain a performance advantage, which is completely unfair."
Team engineer Bob Osborn added, "It is significant to note that the spring was not altered in any way by the team; and that the deviation was so small as to make absolutely no difference in spring travel or rate — the two elements of spring performance that the rules were intended to regulate."
Martin, the man in the driver’s seat chasing his first career championship, points out that the sentence doesn’t fit the crime.
"Twenty-five points for using an unaltered spring that had no performance difference from a spring 1/4-inch longer. I feel like we just got the death sentence for shoplifting.
"Everyone in the garage knows that it was an honest mistake and provided absolutely zero advantage at that track,” continued the man leading Ford’s championship hopes. “I hope the fans understand that and understand that it had nothing to do with the way our car ran on Sunday.
“I just feel really bad for the Viagra Racing Team and everyone who has worked so hard. This is a pretty steep penalty for what is essentially a meaningless violation."
"We are evaluating all avenues of recourse available to us, including invoking the NASCAR appeals process and have asked our outside counsel to assess our options for recourse against the manufacturer and distributor of the spring,” added Roush Racing President Geoff Smith. “We quite naturally are upset that we received exactly the same penalty as that imposed on two other teams that altered springs with the expectation of obtaining a performance advantage."
Jack Roush offered no comment. However, in 1990 when NASCAR found an illegal part on Greg Biffle’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck, Roush went to the point of demanding NASCAR inspectors take polygraphs tests to get to the bottom of a story.
At the time Roush made the claim that the part was approved, and that he’d gotten clearance from several NASCAR inspectors. That part had been run numerous times previous without incident, but with a tightening points battle in the balance NASCAR became the story detracting 120 points from the NCTS driver’s fund as he went on to lose the championship by eight points.
Roush mounted a defense against NASCAR unlike any other in the history of the sport. The car owner had the complete history of the heads under his arm along with polygraph tests from all of his employees when he went to the appeal. However, the appeal process worked as one might expect and Roush’s penalty stood.
“I am surprised. I am disappointed. And I am as frustrated as I’ve ever been in my adult life,” fired Roush after the 1990 appeal process with NASCAR. “The result is not supported by the facts nor the testimony. We took depositions from folks on our side with polygraph where there could be a question ‘is that person telling the truth’. In areas where that wasn’t as likely to be questioned we took affidavits.
“The facts were that the manifold was presented before the racing season started. It was entered numerous times in competition throughout the year. Its twin was inspected, there were two manifolds that were exactly the same, its twin was inspected after the race win at [Michigan International Speedway]. And of course each race in pre-race inspections has got some level of the manifold and carburetor.
“There was no slight of hand, the manifold had been the same all year. It had been presented before the year had started. It was approved by the person who later denied having seen the manifold. And our polygraph and our testimony established that to my satisfaction and to I’m sure to the satisfaction of any reasonable court. But at the end of the day the decision was made that at a point in time after the race the manifold was not acceptable and the fines where levied and the appeal commission upheld the penalties and the fines.
“As I said I was surprised. I was disappointed and frustrated. When I think about frustration and the things that frustration has done to me and does to me, I find I tend to get frustrated whenever my expectation falls too far short of what my prospects are.”
Perhaps accordingly, Roush added, “And I guess if I don’t expect so much from NASCAR in the future maybe I won’t get frustrated. Certainly I won’t be surprised again.”
Roush Racing Considers Recourse Options
Concord, N.C. (Nov. 5, 2002) - Responding to notification that 25 Owner and Driver points were being confiscated by NASCAR for use of an "unapproved" left front spring on Mark Martin's Viagra® Ford Taurus, key Roush Racing personnel made these comments:
Ben Leslie, Crew Chief:
"We used a spring manufactured by an approved NASCAR manufacturer exactly as it came to us out of the box. We are being charged with the same penalty as teams that materially altered springs in order to obtain a performance advantage, which is completely unfair."
Bob Osborne, Team Engineer:
"It is significant to note that the spring was not altered in any way by the team, and that the deviation was so small as to make absolutely no difference in spring travel or rate---the two elements of spring performance that the rules were intended to regulate."
Mark Martin, Driver:
"25 points for using an unaltered spring that had no performance difference from a spring 1/4" longer; I feel like we just got the death sentence for shoplifting.
"Everyone in the garage knows that it was an honest mistake and provided absolutely zero advantage at that track. I hope the fans understand that and understand that it had nothing to do with the way our car ran on Sunday. I just feel really bad for the Viagra Racing Team and everyone who has worked so hard. This is a pretty steep penalty for what is essentially a meaningless violation."
Geoff Smith, President:
"We are evaluating all avenues of recourse available to us, including invoking the NASCAR appeals process and have asked our outside counsel to assess our options for recourse against the manufacturer and distributor of the spring. We quite naturally are upset that we received exactly the same penalty as that imposed on two other teams that altered springs with the expectation of obtaining a performance advantage."
Roush Team Considers Penalty Appeal
By Mike Harris
AP Motorsports Writer
November 5, 2002
CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Roush Racing is considering an appeal of NASCAR's 25-point penalty against Mark Martin and team owner Jack Roush.
Martin finished second Sunday in the Winston Cup race in Rockingham, but his No. 6 Ford failed postrace inspection because the left-front spring did not meet the minimum number of coils.
The driver was docked 25 championship points, Roush lost 25 car owner points and crew chief Ben Leslie was fined $5,000.
Martin, hoping to win his first series championship, is second in the standings with two races remaining and had cut series leader Tony Stewart's points lead to 87. The penalty dropped him 112 points behind heading into Sunday's race in Phoenix.
Geoff Smith, the team president, said Tuesday, ``We are evaluating all avenues of recourse available to us, including invoking the NASCAR appeals process, and have asked our outside counsel to assess our options for recourse against the manufacturer and distributor of the spring.
``We quite naturally are upset that we received exactly the same penalty as that imposed on two other teams that altered springs with the expectation of obtaining a performance advantage.''
The team has until Nov. 13 to appeal the penalties in writing to the National Stock Car Racing Commission.
"Twenty-five points for using an unaltered spring that had no performance difference from a spring a quarter-inch longer; I feel like we just got the death sentence for shoplifting,'' Martin said.
``Everyone in the garage knows that it was an honest mistake and provided absolutely zero advantage at that track. ... This is a pretty steep penalty for what is essentially a meaningless violation.''
Leslie said the team used a spring made by a NASCAR-approved manufacturer exactly as it came out the box in which it was shipped to the Roush race shop.
A NASCAR spokesman said the sanctioning body would have no comment on the possible appeal.
Penalty Sets Martin Back 25 Points
November 4, 2002
BY TEAM FORD RACING CORRESPONDENT
Charlotte, N.C. — Backed into a corner by recent history NASCAR officials docked driver Mark Martin and car owner Jack Roush, 25 championship points for an illegal left-front spring following the Pop Secret 400.
Section 12-4-Q in the NASCAR Winston Cup rule book (“Any determination by NASCAR officials that parts and/or equipment used in the event do not conform to NASCAR rules.”) was the basis for the penalty of using an unapproved front spring. The left front coil spring on the No. 6 car had approximately 4-3/8 coils. The required minimum number of coils is 4-1/2.
Ben Leslie, Martin’s crew chief, was also fined $5,000. Previously the going rate was $10,000 for similar spring related infractions.
Martin’s deficit to point leader Tony Stewart increases from 87 markers to 112.
NASCAR pointed out that this was the third such penalty for spring related penalties in the 2002 season. The first instance of an unapproved spring this season was for Richard Childress’ No. 30 entry following the Sept. 6, Richmond, Va. event. That violation cost both driver and owner 25 points and crew chief $5,000. Next came Frankie Stoddard’s fine of $10,000 as crew chief at Bill Davis Racing while driver Ward Burton and owner Davis were docked 25 points following the Oct. 20, Martinsville, Va. race.
NASCAR Docks Martin's Team 25 Points
By Jenna Fryer
AP Sports Writer
November 4, 2002
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Mark Martin's championship hopes received a setback Monday when NASCAR penalized his team 25 points for a rules violation at North Carolina Speedway.
Martin finished second in Sunday's race in Rockingham, but the No. 6 Ford failed inspection afterward because the left-front springs did not meet the minimum number of coils.
So Martin was docked 25 championship points, Jack Roush was docked 25 car owner points and crew chief Ben Leslie was fined $5,000.
Martin is in second place in the standings, and the penalty drops him 112 points behind series leader Tony Stewart with just two races remaining. He had cut the lead to 87 after Sunday's race, in which Stewart struggled to a 14th-place finish.
The Roush Racing team did not immediately comment.
This is the second time in his career a points deduction could cost Martin a shot at his first Winston Cup title.
Martin was fined 46 driver points in 1990 for an illegal carburetor spacer found on his Roush Racing Ford after a race at Richmond International Raceway. Martin lost the Winston Cup championship that year to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points.
This is the third time this season the No. 6 Ford has been penalized, but the first time points have been taken away.
Leslie was fined $50,000 after Martin's winning car was too low in post-race inspection following the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May. He was also fined $1,000 fine for an unapproved window strap at Talladega in October.
Martin Makes Point-Ed Move
November 3, 2002
BY TEAM FORD RACING CORRESPONDENT
Rockingham, N.C. — Mark Martin missed the pundits’ predictions by just one spot. But his second place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR event coupled with the 5-point bonus for leading the most laps of the event scored him as many points as if he’d won outright.
Martin’s performance here at “The Rock,” when combined with Tony Stewart’s less than stellar day, injected increased excitement into Roush Racing’s efforts to take home their first Winston Cup championship. The point deficit that Martin now spots point leader Stewart is an interesting 87 points, with just two races remaining.
Martin “over-driving the fool out” out of his Taurus put on a show that will leave memories for quite some time as he came within feet of winning his second event of the year. Despite Martin’s best efforts the victory went to first time winner Johnny Benson, in a popular win.
Benson’s victory in many ways was overshadowed by the stellar performance that Martin and his Roush Racing pals put on here, today. Martin along with Crew Chief Ben Leslie decided on a setup that gave the Pfizer Ford consistent lap times over outright speed. This blended setup didn’t lend itself to outright speed needed in qualifying, but allowed Martin to wear his fellow competitors down to the nub on race day.
The race began with hot rodder Ryan Newman on the point, where he stayed for the first 40 laps of the event. Newman, as he so aptly put it, ran well for half the event as his car would run fast on new tires but suffered fall-off about halfway into a fuel run. This setup netted Newman a 23rd place finish.
When Newman ceded the lead it was Martin who took the lead, but just for one lap, as he wanted to secure the five-point bonus for leading a lap.
Martin picked up the lead again on lap 68 and was able to hold the top spot for the next 37 circuits. The lead then cycled through several driver’s hands during the next pit sequence until it cycled back in Martin’s favor, on lap 113. Martin held on to the lead until teammate Kurt Busch put on a show that indicated he might just be a threat for a third victory in a row effort.
The two Roush drivers took turns pacing the field, except when they were in the pits getting tires and fuel for their Ford cars.
Someone in the Roush camp started to work the calculator and discovered that if Busch handed the lead off to Martin that Martin could score the 5 bonus points for leading the most laps in the event. These 5 points were valuable enough to Martin that a deal was struck and the No. 97 eased up a tick to allow Martin’s car into the lead until the bonus was scored. When the threshold was crossed Busch rocketed past Martin for the lead.
Jimmy Fennig, Busch’s crew chief, was asked if a Roush team deal was made. With a grin Fennig said that the No. 97 Taurus was “just a little tight” at the time and that they’d worked through it and were able to lead again.
Busch led the race until lap 365, after which Benson was scored as the leader of the event. Busch faded back to third, opening the door for Martin to get to work on Benson. Martin made several spectacular runs at Benson, and even pulled the car door-to-door to Benson’s with single digit laps left on the board, but Martin never could get the run he needed to get around Benson.
"It was a good show for the fans,” Martin said after scoring in second place finish, after coming out of Turn 4 sideways trying for the win. “It was good to see Johnny get a win. It was long overdue. That was good to see.
“I really knew that I didn't really have the car to beat him with, but I didn't know that I couldn't win because I knew he was gonna be getting pretty nervous with pressure. I laid some pretty good pressure on him and managed to even get beside him, but I couldn't make it stick. His car was as good as mine, if not better. The reason he got in front of me is because it was a little bit better. There at the end I was just kind of throwing everything at it and really taking some crazy chances with the thing to try to put the pressure on him and we did. We made it exciting and second will be OK for today."
"We're on fire and it's great to carry this momentum,” said Busch, who has been the hottest driver on the circuit the past several weeks. “Whether we won today or got a Top-5, it just feels great to have the consistency that we're putting together. It's just a full effort. The guys are steady on pit road, we're steady on the track. I can't wait for 2003."
“I have no idea,” said Martin when quizzed about the team strategy leading to his point bonus. “I can tell you one thing, when Kurt got ready to go, he blew me off. I ran my car really, really hard. I knew we had 100 to go and when we re-started in front of Kurt, I drove my car harder than I wanted to stay in front of Kurt so that we could try to get the most laps. Whether or not Kurt was patient with me or not, when it came time to go, he stepped on the gas and blew me off and drove out front, and so did the [No.] 10. Then they started backing back up, so that's about the gist of it.
“There's only so much messing around you can do on a race track."
Roush Racing had three cars in the Top-5 after Jeff Burton followed Busch across the line for fourth.
"It really was a good run,” said Burton. “This is what we've been seeing the last six or eight weeks. We've really been running better and I'm real proud of all these guys. We had a good day. We weren't quite good enough to run with Johnny or Mark, we were running Kurt down a little bit, but we got real loose the last run.
“We were back and forth being loose and tight, but you've got to be perfect to win these races. I'm real proud of everybody. We worked hard. It's great to see -- second, third and fourth and I know Matt [Kenseth – who finished eighth] ran decent too.
“Roush Racing is working really hard to make our stuff good."
Martin drew within 87 points of the lead after Stewart finished 14th. It could have been much worse for Stewart as he was ran as far back as 31st in the event. Stewart rewarded his crew chief’s, Greg Zipadelli, hard work by Stewart’s saying, “That thing was the worst race car I've ever driven. It was a piece of s--t.”
While there are seven cars still mathematically in the hunt for the 2002 Winston Cup championship the reality is that it is down to just two cars. The next closest point runner to Martin is Jimmy Johnson, who is 219 points out of the lead.
Mark Martin 2002 Season Articles - Page 3.
Mark Martin 2002 Season Articles - Page 1.
Martin celebrates his first win in 2 years
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