Jack Roush, of Roush Fenway Racing, spoke with the media at Michigan International Speedway this morning about his organization's chance to get a win at Michigan International Speedway, his thoughts on getting the company down to four teams, and...
Jack Roush, of Roush Fenway Racing, spoke with the media at Michigan International Speedway this morning about his organization's chance to get a win at Michigan International Speedway, his thoughts on getting the company down to four teams, and the Car of Tomorrow. Roush is the most successful team owner at Michigan International Speedway, collecting 10 victories.
DO YOU PREDICT A WIN FOR THIS WEEKEND, AND WHICH OF YOUR DRIVERS DO YOU THINK WILL DO IT? "Well, I never bet on a horse race or an automobile race. I certainly wouldn't predict a win. I feel that things are likely to every job over a period of time. However, you could look and say that we've been real lucky. But, the harder you work sometimes and the better people, or the more able people you are surrounded with, the better your prospects are. If I looked back at our success over the years and said 'Okay, how is that accomplished?' I think Mark Martin had a lot to do with it, it's not missed that this is my home track. Coming from the Detroit area, I always feel like I am coming home up here. I think that the guys and the girls in the shop and the drivers rally a little bit for me. We've got a couple thousand employees in the Detroit area that certainly pay attention, and we've got a lot of customers in our automotive side and consumer products side that will be here in our suites and things. We've had great cars based on Mark Martin's legacy and the pressure is always on. If you ask me who could win here, I think that David Ragan might be a long shot based on the fact that he's a rookie. But, everybody else has either recently won or is very hungry and anxious to win. I would not bet against Greg Biffle or Matt (Kenseth) or Jamie (McMurray), and certainly Carl (Edwards) is real hot right now."
DO YOU HAVE A PLAN TO GET YOUR COMPANY DOWN TO FOUR TEAMS? "We're looking at a number of different options. We're looking at the prospect of an investor group that might be willing to come in and start another four-team program. We'd like not to relive success or lack of success that some recent entrants that have come in with outside money and started their own their own thing. I think we could help somebody come in and the fifth team that will become available for me in 2010 will be a seed corn, potentially, for that. It shouldn't go without notice that we are unabated in our effort to find and identify new drivers and to build our crews and teams with outsiders to the extent that we can and advance them through the programs as they get experience. We're on a track to be able to help somebody come in and provide the technology and the man-power to get them started."
INAUDIBLE QUESTION. "Well, I'm open to ideas, I could obviously collapse. I might go bankrupt; I could crash at your feet and some people might find some joy in that. I've been in the racing business since 1965; I've been traveling since 1970. I was racing over 22 years before I started stock-car racing -- I don't intend to fail. I see a path for recovering the investment that we've got in our fifth team to maybe seed corn for somebody else's program, and that's what I'll do if I can."
COULD THE NEW INVESTOR COME IN AS EARLY AS NEXT YEAR? "I don't see it as early as next year. It might be the case that the investor group might decide to come in and start with a program that wasn't one of my existing five and could build it's way into the second and third team to take one of my five when I divest myself of it, ready to give it up. But, the idea of me going down to four teams without some external force in 2008 is certainly not on my mind."
ONE OF THE BIG POINTS THE CAR OF TOMORROW WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE WAS THAT TEAMS WOULD BE ABLE TO RUN FEWER CARS. HAS THAT BEEN YOUR EXPERIENCE AND IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU THINK WILL HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE? "The Car of Tomorrow, I think, will have a result in the reduction of the number of cars that are required to run a program. You didn't ask the key question: Do I think that the cars will be enough less expensive to be a net save to the teams? I absolutely feel that there will not be a net save to the teams based on the amount of money that goes into the cars to get the chassis the way that NASCAR wants it for it's inspection; then past the initial inspection, the amount of sheet metal that has to be replaced to fix a relatively small problem. The time would have been that we could have replaced the front snout and a front end of a car or a rear snout and a quarter panel, depending on the lick. Most of the relatively minor damage that the cars have had is going to retire a complete body because when you get the kind of shot into the body that causes a snout to bend, you almost always have some amount of distress that is put into the rest of the car. And when we had reasonably wide-open, or relatively wide-open tolerances, you were able to let that tolerance be taken out by the effects of the crash. You can't do that now. It would be okay with me if somebody would stamp a complete steal body and you could just weld it on to your chassis and go. The amount of precision that's required to get the sheet metal in order to pass the tech line is unprecedented in terms of what we've had. For the time being, we anticipate at least a 70% to an 80% increase in labor that's required to keep these cars ready to go from one race to the next. I see a 20% reduction in the number of cars that's likely to be used and 80 to 100% more labor required, first of all to build the car and then get it through inspection in the first place, and then to repair it after it has the inevitable problem on the race track.
"As far as what's happened in the race with the cars of tomorrow, as seen by me -- I think the people that have had the best test programs, that were in variance and difference with NASCAR's stated policy as regarding what they wanted done, the people that have the best test programs had the best result. As we started to catch up to, that one-third of the way into the season, our prospects are dramatically improved. Our first concentrated effort, as we went outside the bounds of what was stated that everybody was supposed to be doing, we've started our test program and said, 'Alright where are we going to start first,' we concentrated on the two road races. We tested numerous times, as other folks had, in getting ready for the road races and we've had very competitive road race cars for both Watkins Glen and Sear's Point. As we looked at the dampers and the way that we limit the travel in the Car of Tomorrow versus the car of today, in order to see the effect of heat and temperature on the rubber and see the effect of the car moving around on the race track in difference to the seven-posters, that are used for shock testing, base testing, we find that you learn many new things that are worthwhile.
"I think that our stated goal from the beginning was to have to be ready with regard to what our understanding of what the rules were and with regard to the preparation of our hardware for peaking in races that start in Loudon after the Richmond fall race. I think we'll attract with that. I'm very happy with our progress in the last three occasions when we've raced the Car of Tomorrow and was aghast at how far we were behind with regard to the things that other people about the car from the test that they'd done in a non-NASCAR sanctioned test."
WITH AS MANY BUSCH CARS AS YOU HAVE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE BUSCH SERIES DO SOME SORT OF FORM OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW OR WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE IT GO TO AN OPPOSITE TYPE OF CAR? "I'll make a categorical statement and say, 'Son, I'm a racing dog.' I'm a NASCAR racer, NASCAR is certainly the side where I put the emphasis at this point in my life. If they decided that would race from the second day in January to two days before Christmas and fill all those weekends, I'd be signed up with my cars, five or 10 or as many cars as I have at a point in time, I'd be signed up to be there and to support them and go out and race for the sponsors and race in front of the fans that have the interest in it. I am committed to whatever NASCAR comes up with for rules to be there and to support it with what I think will be the most effective programs.
"The Car of Tomorrow, for the Busch Series, is going to be a travesty for a lot of the teams that are relatively low funded and have got marginal economic models. If they manage to save as much money for the Busch guys that I see them saving for the Cup guys, in the long term the field will be a third of its size. If they do the Car of Tomorrow for the Busch Series, I'm in and I'll run as many cars as I can find sponsors for and I'll make it work somehow."
SOME TEAMS KEEP THEIR CREWS IN SHAPE WITH PHYSICAL FITNESS TRAINERS. ARE YOUR CREWS REQUIRED TO DO ANYTHING IN PARTICULAR AS FAR AS WORKOUTS AND DO YOU BRING ANY TRAINERS IN? "Regarding the crew members, we've looked at what other teams are doing and looked at the problems that we've got in some of our team programs for pit crews and, certainly measured the strengths of others. We tried to emulate the things that we're doing for the things that have worked best in all of the programs and diminished the things that haven't worked as well. If you've got too much for a person to do, the pit operation and the physical training and the focus on the testing or the practice that guys do at the shop seems to be the first thing that suffers. As much as we've tried not to have pure athletes come in and change our tires and do our pit work we have to be very careful to not have them too vital to too many operations or there's a conflict for their time.
"We do have trainers, physical trainers and sports trainers, as well as people that are expert in choreographing pit stops, not the muscle set group training of the physical side of it, but also how you choreograph a pit stop. So we've got those different specialties that we apply. I've looked at the prospect of having a person to come in and think about motivations and a psychologist come in and help us with our deal. One of the things you find is that there's a lot of people that have got the motivation and the need and the physical promise to do what they need to do but they are limited emotionally or mentally in being able to perform under the extreme stress that we've got on pit road. They can do it in the shop and they can do it in practice, but they have trouble doing it under the right circumstance. So, there's that other piece that I don't think that we've got the measure of yet to really understand what to do. I think the pit crews, the people that change the tires or fuel the cars and do the minor repairs on the cars are extraordinarily important to the programs and there's several different looks of that that different groups are doing based on the fact that they have got different resources and different accumulations.
"When Henry came in years ago with the sports athletes that really didn't have any mechanical aptitude and made a pit crew out of them I was afraid that that was going to be a departure that would going to be very sad for me. I'd like to have a pit crew involved with the car in the shop, either for the body preparation of the chassis preparation or a component preparation part, so that as they pass through period in their lives where they can no longer sprint across the pit wall and in record time jack the car up or change a tire that there'd be something else for them to do on the team. It looks like that's still okay. We haven't had to give up on the prospect of having the people have a job in the shop. But, if they have too many jobs, it looks like it's not good."
HAS YOUR MERGER AS ROUSH FENWAY GONE BETTER THAN WHAT YOU ANTICIPATED IT WOULD? "Roush Racing was not in a panic to find a partner to either bring an influx of money or talent or a sponsor marketing program. We did not have a problem that required us to be a motivated seller to go find an investor in the program. When John Henry called me initially and I referred him to Evan Lyle, my CEO, and Geoff Smith, the President of Roush Racing, to have a discussion. When he called, I couldn't have been any less interested in the prospect of having somebody else that I'd have to answers questions for or to potentially compromise with to run my race teams. But, as we looked at what was there in the Boston Red Sox organization and what the Fenway Sports Group has done with golf and with some of the other interests around baseball, we said, 'Wow.' There's more than 12,000 dedicated sports fans in the Northeast that are by-in-large not interested in NASCAR's brand of stock car racing. They haven't been exposed with it adequately. So, we had the prospect of picking up some energy for our sponsors and some fans that would support our drivers with all of their memorabilia and things. So, we looked at that and said, 'That could be very interesting,' not knowing where NASCAR is gonna go in the post Bill France Jr. era of time and the manner in which they might decide to franchise or to put a value a on the operation of the teams that would require and investment on the part of the teams. Everything I've made is backing race cars and race teams or equipment for my engineering company. I want a cash-rich company that has the wherewithal to raise large sums of cash if the need would be there based on some change in policy from NASCAR. The idea of giving me the confidence when I go to sleep at night that I can survive virtually any change that doesn't only destroy the viability of the relationship of the financial model between buying a ticket and owning a race track and running a race team, as long that balance, the viability of all those units, stays where it is, regardless of what the capital investment might be in the short term, I'm now able to survive. I was worried about that before. The idea of saying that I didn't drivers, I didn't have sponsors or I was destitute in some way was not the reason I took investment money. A number of other people that have taken investors and looked into divest themselves and some of their race teams have had some very serious problems with their viability.
"We haven't had a huge change in our operation. I've got a board meeting that I've attended I think twice in the five months that we've been partners and it's been very amicable, where there's been many new ideas brought that I was not the initiator of based on the perspective that the Fenway Sports people have had. Operational control of the team still rests within me and the structure that I have in place. We have got an operating agreement that doesn't interfere with the ongoing exercise of management judgments that we have. It's wonderful. In my 45 years of being in business, most of which has been around racing, I've had four partnerships, two of which I could not have accomplished, one which was a waste of time and one which was very bad. I have every reason to believe that the relationship I've got with John Henry will be very good in the long term. It's going to be good for our employees, it's going to be good for our fans and for our sponsors."
-credit: ford racing