Kranefuss And Mayfield Questioned At Richmond

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RICHMOND, Va. -- The Penske-Kranefuss team is still in a state of denial. Sounding very similar to a line recited in an old television sitcom, the crew continues to say, "I saw nothing, I know nothing."

After two weeks and two penalties -- the first involving an illegal fuel additive, the second regarding the height of the roof -- the No. 12 team seemed baffled over the situations.

Both team owner Michael Kranefuss and driver Jeremy Mayfield refused to name the individual responsible for the action and still claim that a single individual acted alone. What’s even more bizarre is that this person is still employed with the team despite a blow to the organization of $50,000 and 151 points.

"If one day you hear the what the real story is and you hear about how naive and amateurish the whole deal had come together, you would not doubt it," said Kranefuss.

"We’ve taken disciplinary action, obviously. We are dealing with the person who was involved, but this is not a black and white issue. This is a team thing, we won’t give out any names."

"That’s what was weird, we didn’t know anything about nothing," Mayfield said. "Sunday night you get a call and it’s a shock. I thought it was a dream, like (St.) Peter was messing with me. It’s a weird deal."

It’s even stranger that the team tested with an illegal substance -- a substance that can be bought on a store shelf -- and after testing it on the track, Kranefuss admits that the additive had no impact.

"There was no impact at all," Kranefuss said, "but, I can tell you that if you want to make this particular deal impact, you would have to mix it 50-50. We didn’t have enough to do
that."

So if there was no effect, why keep the oxygenate around? Why use it in the first place?

"We had an engine that was a little down on power and we wanted to see if we came back to that race track with the right power what the impact would be with respect to the chassis set up. It’s a very quick way to do it, and, obviously, they were sort of curious -- is this stuff working?"

According to sources close to the team, they all knew it was working and the dynamometer proved that the additive increased the horsepower of the engine by 11 horse power with the open motor and 22 hp on the restricted motor.

Kranefuss believes having NASCAR impound the car increased the speculation of the illegalities surrounding both issues that the team was fined for -- the fuel and the roof height.

"First you are accused of something that gets dragged on and on and that changes the whole deal," Kranefuss said. "Finally, the word comes out that were going to get fine and we go out (to California) with the best of our power and win the race. You guys know that if anyone wants to cheat, you certainly don’t cheat after coming off of a big fine. The chances that the car at California was illegal is zero. The car was OK.

"I’ve been in racing 40 years and I’ve never been involved in a thing like this and one maybe we can talk about what really happened and you will understand a little better."

Perhaps the team should divulge what really happened, resolve the issue and move on. Kranefuss insisted the time is not right.

"We all know the total story," Kranefuss said. "But it’s not the right moment. We’re
suffering the penalty. This is a team deal, so we’re not going to single out anybody."

Shop Foreman Buddy Sisco will lead the team during the absence of crew chief Peter Sospenzo. Despite losing Sospenzo for five weeks and getting hit with $75,000 in fines, Kranefuss says he still doesn’t feel like NASCAR’s whipping boy.

"No," Kranefuss said. "We all feel paranoid, but no one can whip me."

The paranoia may be growing with rumors circulating about the strength of the team and the status of Mayfield as the driver.

"I’ve heard all kinds of rumors," Mayfield said. "I’ve been leaving for three or four years
now and I haven’t left yet, so that tells you a lot right there."

Mayfield has yet to talk with co-owner Roger Penske, who Kranefuss admits is "very, very upset" over the situation. Penske did speak with USA Today and was clear that he did not support this sort of action.

"I can't be at every business location we have every day, (and) I've got to count on the people managing the business to run it," Penske said. "In this case, I am extremely disappointed in the people operating the company. I absolutely do not condone circumvention of the rules in any competition. That's not the way we operate."

Kranefuss does not feel his partnership with Penske is in question at this time, nor has he discussed dissolving the team.

"We did not have a discussion about wanting out," Kranefuss said. "We had a discussion where I tried to explain the situation and where he explained his feelings. That was basically it.

"Would I talk to him about leaving? Yeah, but if I do, I would probably not do it in public."

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