MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jack Roush said on Friday that a Toyota team stole a sway bar made specifically for Roush Fenway Racing from one of his Sprint Cup teams last season at Dover.
"A theft did occur," the co-owner of Roush Fenway said during practice at Martinsville Speedway. "The part was recovered We are still considering what if any legal action to seek."
One of Roush's options is asking for a restraining order to guarantee the team in question does not duplicate the bar, which has been determined legal by NASCAR, for a competitive advantage.
"It's lawyer time," Roush said.
Roush made his first comments since he was quoted in ESPN The Magazine as saying a proprietary part was found missing from his inventory and discovered with a Toyota team.
He discounted comments made by Jim Aust, the president of Toyota Racing Development, that a valve spring was found during a teardown inspection, identified as belonging to Roush and returned.
Roush said the theft occurred in the garage area at Dover in September, where the only Toyota teams in the field belonged to Michael Waltrip Racing and Team Red Bull.
Lee White, the general manager of TRD, said his organization launched a full investigation into the allegation when Roush's allegations were published in ESPN The Magazine.
He said a valve spring that did not belong to Toyota ended up at TRD's California location after the California race, that it was reported to NASCAR and returned.
"Relative to the sway bar issue that Jack Roush referenced, from our perspective this is an issue that appears to be between two race teams and does not involve a manufacturer," White said.
Roush said about 12 sway bars were built for each of his five teams. They were designed specifically for NASCAR's new car. They were bigger than the old bars and unable to fit in the toolbox storage bin.
He said the bar in question was placed under a Roush Fenway toolbox that was backed up against the toolbox of another team.
"The other team, a nondescript Toyota team, went behind the toolbox and took my bar and put it with their bars and took it home," Roush said. "That is a fact."
Roush said he became aware of the theft in early January when the vendor that produced the product for Roush Fenway was contacted by the Toyota team in question about duplicating the bar.
He said his manager then checked inventory and verified that a bar thought to have been misplaced was missing.
Subsequently, Roush said a mechanic hired from the Toyota team verified that he'd seen the bar in a locker at his former shop. Through several inquiries he said it was determined the bar still was there.
"When I found out I wanted to go supersonic," Roush said.
While considering whether to get a search warrant and find the bar Roush said one of his managers called the Toyota team and received confirmation that "somebody had stolen the bar."
He said the manager of the Toyota team then found the bar and returned it at an arranged 6 a.m. meeting. Serial numbers confirmed it was the missing piece.
Roush was considering whether to go public with the information when Carl Edwards' team was fined 100 points and his crew chief was suspended for six races after NASCAR discovered the oil can lid in Edwards' car was off during his win at Las Vegas.
He became infuriated when White suggested in a USA Today article that the violation was intentional.
Admittedly angry over what Roush considered a personal attack, he launched a few bombs at White and Toyota. Among them was the stolen part.
Roush said he's had several discussions with NASCAR officials about the situation. He was alarmed when Robin Pemberton, the vice president of competition for the series, said disappearing parts are a common occurrence and the teams needed to work it out amongst themselves.
"There's a lot of people ready to sweep dirt under the rug," Roush said. "I don't want to embarrass the sponsor. I really don't want to embarrass the team. But I also don't want to be made to look stupid."
Pemberton was insulted that this issue has become newsworthy. He said NASCAR operates in an open work environment and it is up to the teams to police against such incidents.
"We are the governing body," Pemberton said. "We are not the law."
Roush said there is something fundamentally wrong if NASCAR doesn't intercede, reminding the governing body has no problem reacting when somebody uses an illegal part -- on purpose or not.
"But they don't have rules when it's related to theft," he said. "Maybe they should."
Roush, noting he has been in the business 22 years, and said this is the first time he's heard of such a situation. He declined to respond to a question in which Michael Waltrip Racing was insinuated as the Toyota team.
"I don't substantiate," he said.
Waltrip declined to comment until he heard how the question was posed and the way Roush responded.
Others commented freely. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said whoever stole the part should have his hard card -- the identification tag that allows crew members in the garage -- revoked.
Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon hopes Roush isn't taking this issue seriously, because "he shouldn't."
"I talked to some of my guys on my team," Gordon said. "They said you'd be surprised. You're cleaning up or in postrace inspection and stuff gets laid around. You can take it. You cannot take it. You can tell a NASCAR official it's just lying around.
"It happens all the time. If they don't claim it I think it's kind of yours. The difference is Roush wanted it back."
The situation was so "silly" to Gordon that he declined to speak on whether NASCAR needs a rule against theft.
"I think they should investigate," he said sarcastically. "I think the FBI should get involved."
Pemberton said it is impossible to police such actions and that teams should be responsible for not leaving pieces where they can be taken, on purpose or accidentally.
"We're not going to do anything," he said. "If there is somebody out there that stole a piece or part then shame on that team for having a guy like that."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.