Roush accused unknown Toyota team of possessing proprietary part

Jack Roush, co-owner of Ford-based Roush Fenway Racing, leveled another serious accusation at nemesis Toyota at Atlanta Motor Speedway -- one that took nearly three weeks to surface.

No one from either RFR or Toyota was willing to comment on Tuesday, but no one was denying Roush told a reporter from ESPN The Magazine on March 7 that a Toyota team had been in possession of an RFR team part.

"We had a proprietary Roush Fenway part go missing from one of my race teams, and we recovered it from a Toyota team," Roush said then. "I'm not going to say which team it is, but we are considering legal action, or getting NASCAR involved."

Roush made that statement in the garage to one reporter, but did not repeat the accusation an hour later when he addressed a group of reporters in the AMS media center.

Roush did call Toyota officials "ankle-biting Chihuahuas" when he addressed the full media at Atlanta. He was angry about a USA Today story that quoted Toyota Racing Development general manager Lee White saying RFR knowingly violated the rules in Las Vegas one week earlier.

The oil tank reservoir lid was off the No. 99 RFR Ford after Carl Edwards won at Las Vegas. Edwards was docked 100 points by NASCAR and crew chief Bob Osborne was suspended for six races and fined $100,000.

No one at RFR is revealing the specific part involved in the latest accusation to surface or which Toyota team had the part. Roush and RFR president Geoff Smith would not comment about the situation Tuesday.

Joyce Caron-Mercier, RFR's vice president of sponsor operations, said the organization has no additional information at this time.

Toyota officials also weren't commenting Tuesday, but White will be available to talk at Martinsville, Va., site of this week's Sprint Cup race, on Friday.

It could all be just another example of Roush's ongoing war of words with Toyota. He made the unsubstantiated claim at Atlanta that the substance discovered in the intake manifold of Michael Waltrip's car before the 2007 Daytona 500 was "rocket fuel." He's even gone so far as to bring up the specter of Pearl Harbor.

But the implications of a purloined part -- which is what the accusation could mean if true -- could be enormous. It could become NASCAR's version of the Formula One spy-gate controversy last year. McLaren Mercedes was fined $100 million and stripped of its constructors' points for having secret technical documents that belonged to Ferrari.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.