This Week in Ford Racing March 25, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Jack Roush , car owner of the five Roush Racing Tauruses driven by Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle, was a guest on this week's NASCAR Winston Cup ...
This Week in Ford Racing
March 25, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Jack Roush , car owner of the five Roush Racing Tauruses driven by Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle, was a guest on this week's NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. Among the topics Roush addressed were the start to the 2003 season, engines and his recovery since an airplane accident nearly one year ago.
Part 1 of 2
Jack Roush , Car Owner - Roush Racing Tauruses:
WOULD YOU SAY IT'S A GOOD START TO THE SEASON WITH THE TOP TWO IN POINTS?
"I think it's been a good start to the season. I'm really excited about what's gonna happen as we move along. I was really anxious to start with that the Chevrolet and the Pontiac - I basically feel that we're racing 1997 Fords against 2003 Pontiacs, Chevrolets and Dodges. The Dodge got a significant revision to their nose when we got strictly a cosmetic thing on the part that was below the bumper and without a functional opportunity at all.
Of course, Chevrolet and Pontiac have gotten new cars, so the Ford is a first-generation NASCAR look at a four-door car and said, 'What does it take to adapt a four-door, front-wheeled drive sedan to fit a NASCAR chassis?' As they did that, they gave us a lot of leeway and then, of course, Dodge came along and worked with the Fords that Bill Elliott made available as he made his change over to the Dodge, and they had a chance to work with that for 18 months to improve it as much as they could and NASCAR wouldn't allow them to. And then the Chevrolet and Pontiac are yet another fresh look, so I was really feeling uncertain about what we had in front of us. We're not qualfying as well as we did last year and we're not leading as many laps as we did last year, but the results have not been bad. So maybe my anxiety was for nothing, we'll see."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PASSION YOU HAVE FOR YOUR ENGINES?
"I try to put that in context. People that watch me close find out that I have a passion in a lot of areas. There are 2,200 people who work for me and I still spend my days getting up in the morning thinking about my race teams and thinking about the things I can do to inspire my people, to help them grow, to solve mechanical problems. I try to lead my race teams as a crew chief-led democracy and let them make the decisions on what they'd like to have and only interject my experience when they fail and it takes them too long to get to a solution that's acceptable.
The engine thing, today I've got a lot of good folks that help in all kinds of ways and, again, like with the crew chiefs, let them go as far as they can in an area. Then with the 35 years that I've been involved, which is senior to everybody that's around me today, I come back and recall a piece of history or make a suggestion based on some instinct that I've got because things that have gone right or gone wrong in the past. I don't love engines more than I love any other part of my program, but if somebody winds up saying things that are divisive or aren't constructive in trying to express their frustration, whoever it might be and Kurt is certainly not the only person that's done that in recent years, then that becomes a problem that we've got to deal with in order to really get to the heart of the issue and move forward."
WILL YOU WELCOME TOYOTA TO NASCAR OR DO YOU THINK IT'S A PROBLEM TO BRING IN AN OVERSEAS MANUFACTURER?
"It's gonna be good and it's gonna be bad and it's gonna be good. It's gonna be good because it's gonna bring some sponsors that will have products that will enrich the teams and the series and make the racing a bit more exciting for the fans based on the quality of effort they'll be able to put out there. More teams will be able to be adequately funded because there will be more sponsors to come in and that has been an issue. The level of sponsorship has affected some teams in this down economy, not mine but it has affected some. So that's gonna be good.
It's gonna be good because there are folks that enjoy NASCAR racing, many do because there is the association with something that they touch in their daily lives, and as unhappy as I am about it, there is a significant part of the population that does drive foreign cars and Japanese cars, and Toyotas are really popular among the foreign cars that come in. That's good for them because they maybe won't feel as left out. I don't think it's good for our economy.
I've enjoyed the fact that NASCAR has been a place where the red, white and blue Americans could show preference over the products produced by their peers. Even though these Japanese companies, Toyota in particular, may have factories in the United States that use American workers, it's Japanese capital and the returns on the investment and all those things that wind up building the economy and building the country and building companies - all of that winds up serving an overseas interest and not our own. There will be a significant backlash between fans that will say Toyota shouldn't be here because it's bad for our economy and feel like myself that are more nationalistic than some of our population and some of our fans.
That will create yet one more source of contention, the effort around which generates a lot of the interest that NASCAR has. The fight that Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison and Donnie Allison had on the backstretch at Daytona is still remembered and revered by both sides of the argument and by the fans that watched it. All of the manufacturer conflicts and the various conflicts over the rules and other things that affect one manufactured brand or another all create interest, so there will be a little more heightened interest based on having the Japanese in there."
WHY HAS YOUR RESTRICTOR PLATE PROGRAM IMPROVED SO MUCH THE LAST THREE YEARS, AND WHY DO YOU THINK KURT BUSCH HAS BEEN SO GOOD ON THOSE TRACKS?
"Everybody's resources are limited. Prior to 2003, we may not have proportioned as many of our resources - and that's the days in people's lives like the hours on dynomometers for testing and the dollars that we would spend in looking for small amounts of improvement in performance that may never materialize - we may not have ratioed ourselves and prioritized ourselves as well as we should have in 2001 and 2002. In 2003, it was an absolute maximum effort with anything that any guy brought to the table. We didn't have a list that was left over when we were ready to go to Daytona this year of things we might like to try.
The problem was figuring out what we'd put on the list to get ready to back to Talladega, so that had some bearing. All the guys in the engineering department made a Herculean effort to reduce the drag and to find the necessary aerodynamic performance that we were looking for in the cars and, at the same time, we looked real carefully at the chassis of the cars with the opportunities we had to at Daytona and Talladega in order to optimize the chassis function. So we've gotten another year more mature and maybe we hurt our short-track programs a little bit by the total number of days we spent in the wind tunnel and on the engine dynomometers and chassis dynomometers in trying to really make our best effort. As far as Kurt is concerned, he has just really been everywhere.
I made a list last night of the young people in my 35 years that I had offered an opportunity to really become involved with motorsports at a professional level with good equipment in a situation where they didn't have a sponsorship or the name recognition or the credentials to go compete with somebody that was already there for their seat. There are 25 of them in the last 35 years that I can identify, and Kurt is one of those. Of the 25, Kurt has been the quickest to adapt to new situations, to new cars, to new race tracks, to things that would frustrate a person who didn't have experience. He has been the quickest to adapt to those things and I think his adaptability and his passion and enthusiasm are the things that have really given him the jump and start he's had at being instantly competitive at restrictor plate tracks."