MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Michael Waltrip acknowledged on Saturday that his team had the sway bar that team owner Jack Roush accused a Toyota team of stealing last season.
But Waltrip insisted that it wasn't a theft, that the bar accidentally wound up at his shop after the September race at Dover and that nobody realized it belonged to Roush Fenway Racing until that organization called to inquire about it in January.
"Accidents happen, mistakes happen," Waltrip said. "If you look inside this garage area today there's over 70 racing vehicles in here and stuff gets slung everywhere ... I could see why he would be upset. He feels like he was wronged and he's mad about it."
Roush said the sway bar was specially designed by Roush Fenway for his cars. He said they were larger than the old bars, unable to fit in the toolbox slot and were put underneath the box instead.
Roush said a member of a Toyota team -- which turned out to be David Reutimann's No. 00 car -- parked next to him at Dover, then walked over and took the piece.
"I don't know what makes him tick," Waltrip said of Roush. "But I do know that no one went to his toolbox and swiped his bar."
Waltrip said he had no knowledge that the piece was sandblasted to hide its identity and that somebody from his team called a vendor to have it duplicated as Roush alleged.
"I don't have knowledge of any of that," he said. "I heard it was painted blue and when we figured out that it wasn't ours then it was set off to the side and eventually returned."
Waltrip, whose team came under fire at the start of last season when an illegal substance was found in his engine before qualifying for the Daytona 500, hopes the issue is over and that Roush doesn't pursue legal action as he is considering.
"I've always had two rules in business and one is not to do something that would get me shot or beat up and another is not to do anything that would get me thrown in jail," Waltrip said. "I had a third one that was not to do anything that would get me sued, but [my partner, Rob Kaufmann] told me to forget that because people come up with their own agendas.
"Whether you're guilty or innocent you need to deal with it."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.