That’s Racing: Roush’s Toyota paranoia fueled

Friday, April 4, 2008 at 1:54am

How about this for the name of Toyota’s new ’09 sedan:The Paranoia.

The Toyota Paranoia is sleek and stylish and gets supurb gas mileage, but the big drawback is that the hood is welded shut at the factory no nobody can look underneath.

The doors have triple-locks and the windows are darkly tinted so all those strangers you know are watching you can’t peek inside.

Pardon Jack Roush if he fails to see the humor.

Roush, one of NASCAR’s most prominent and successful team owners, has never liked the notion of Toyota competing in “his” sport.

Roush adamantly opposed the Japanese auto company’s invasion of what he believes is an All-American sport that should be limited to All-American cars.

Now Roush has accused Toyota of “intellectual espionage.”

A couple of weeks ago he claimed a certain Toyota team swiped a car part that had been engineered specifically for Roush Fenway Racing Fords.

At first everybody figured Roush was just being paranoid.

But then Michael Waltrip – leader of Toyota’s move into Sprint Cup – ‘fessed up. He admitted he was indeed in possession of the pilfered part, a sway bar.

Waltrip said someone on his team picked up the part “by mistake.”

Who among us has never inadvertently walked off with another person’s sway bar?

There couldn’t be a more testy combination for such a “mistake” than Roush and Waltrip.

Waltrip’s team was embarrassed by being caught with an unapproved fuel additive two years ago at Daytona. The consequent fines, suspensions and charges of cheating stung Waltrip and pooped Toyota’s big coming-out party.

Now that same team admits it was in possession of the hot part that caused Roush – the Cat in the Hat – to flip his lid.

While some chuckle at NASCAR’s “Part-gate,” in the high-stakes world of motorsports, garage espionage is no laughing matter. Teams invest millions of dollars in research and development, trying to gain a millisecond on the competition.

A race team’s mechanical secrets are as closely guarded as an NFL team’s playbook. Certain areas at every shop are strictly off-limits to visitors. The cars are kept under guard at the racetrack.

A few years ago an engineer was caught spying in rivals’ pit stalls. He was dressed as a race fan and snapping photos – not of the drivers, but of their machines.

Agent 007, meet Mr. Goodwrench.

Roush’s advice: hide your secrets. Guard your parts. And watch out for shady guys in trench coats carrying tool boxes.

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By: TITAN1 on 12/31/69 at 6:00

Jack(The Cat in the Hat)has become a head case.