Joe Gibbs apologizes to NASCAR

March 29, 2003 at 4:38 PM
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FORT WORTH, Texas, March 29 (UPI) -- Joe Gibbs apologized to NASCAR Saturday and said his team accepted full responsibility for the mistakes that led to the car of defending series champion Tony Stewart being impounded.

"We believe in equal cars for the teams and let the teams make the difference," Gibbs said of NASCAR's intent to make sure all cars fit the new templates. "That's what NASCAR is trying to do and we support that. We want that."

NASCAR officials confiscated Stewart's Chevrolet Monte Carlo on Friday after it did not come close to meeting the templates used in technical inspection.

The rear part of the car was offset, according to NASCAR officials, who also deemed the car was so far off, there was no reason to give the $250,000 machine back to the team. Instead, it will be shipped to NASCAR's Research & Development facility in Concord, N.C. for further evaluation.

"There is kind of an unusual set of circumstances in our construction process here and we're trying to go back and figure out exactly what happened," Gibbs said. "This thing is our fault. There is no excuse, so we apologize to everybody and we're going try to figure out a way now to add a process and make sure that it never happens again. That's generally our feeling."

This is the first time in modern NASCAR history that the sanctioning body has taken away a car from a racing team after it failed to pass inspection. Usually, when a car does not pass tech testing, it is returned to the team so it can be repaired to meet the technical requirements.

"That car has got a lot of stuff on it we'd like to run here," Gibbs said. "It's got a carburetor, an intake manifold -- there is a lot of stuff on that car that we would love to have the chance to run here. But, we understand when you mess up, you've got to face the music."

Gibbs was not at Texas Motor Speedway Friday, but when he found out what happened, he called NASCAR president Mike Helton.

"I said, 'Mike, what's the problem?'" Gibbs said. "He explained it to me. We had a good discussion and I said, 'Hey, I understand.' I apologized for putting all of us in a bind like that."

Gibbs said there are likely three things that could have happened for the mistake to have gotten as far as it did. Two of those scenarios include cheating or incompetence and Gibbs said he does not believe either of those is the case.

The most likely scenario is someone at the fabrication shop made a mistake, Gibbs said.

"What we're trying to do is reconstruct what happened and then try and implement," Gibbs said. "We're building a lot of cars right now, but everybody else out here is, too, and nobody else has gone through this.

"What we're trying to do is get to the bottom of it and then say, 'OK, look - we've got to implement one more procedure here to check our cars because we can't let this happen to us.' It's really just our fault and there is no excuse for it. Now, we're trying to figure out the right way to fix it."

Gibbs team could face additional penalties, including fines.

"That's up to NASCAR," Gibbs said. "I'd say taking the car and taking all those parts we want to run is pretty substantial. But, whatever NASCAR thinks is best, we're going to abide by. When you mess up you've got to pay the price.

"The point is, you shouldn't have this happen."

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