Ford - Jack Roush press conference, Part II

Jack Roush , Car Owner - Roush Racing Tauruses: Part 2 of 2 HOW MANY ENGINE FAILURES HAVE BEEN TUNING ISSUES? HOW MANY HAVE BEEN PART FAILURES? IS THE COMPETITIVENESS OF THE SPORT MAKE IT A CASE WHERE YOU HAVE TO PUSH THE TUNING ENVELOPE AS...

Jack Roush , Car Owner - Roush Racing Tauruses:

Part 2 of 2

HOW MANY ENGINE FAILURES HAVE BEEN TUNING ISSUES? HOW MANY HAVE BEEN PART FAILURES? IS THE COMPETITIVENESS OF THE SPORT MAKE IT A CASE WHERE YOU HAVE TO PUSH THE TUNING ENVELOPE AS FAR AS YOU CAN?

"I'm gonna make a general statement before I answer that question. The first thing is I was frustrated some at Bristol because in spite of the good race we had and the good finish we had, the folks that approached wanted to focus on things that we'd struggled with, which had been some of the problems with our engines. I'm gonna answer your question, but certainly those are not the things that would seem to me to be the things I'm most interested to talk about based on our success all year and our most recent success at Bristol. As far as our failures are concerned, at Atlanta we had an issue with three of our engines that scuffed pistons due to being too hot. That was a result of a part throttle lean condition that was not understood, that was out of adjustment on the carburetor - something that we set up on the flow stand in Detroit, something that wasn't being normally changed at the race track, that we didn't understand how much part throttle we were running.

We had three seconds per corner, which is six seconds per lap, that the driver's agreed that they had part throttle - over 8,000 at Atlanta - and some of the guys thought they had as much as four seconds per corner at part throttle over 8,000. We hadn't tuned for that. I hadn't thought about it and didn't understand it, so the carburetors weren't right for it.

Like anything else that goes wrong, it falls at my doorstep because I'm ultimately responsible. So I didn't manage to get that right, even though we had a great piston that didn't have a problem and we had all the other things that did what they needed to do. Matt Kenseth's failed a bearing at Homestead last year and Jeff Burton's failed a bearing at Darlington. Initially, I thought because we were using a smaller diameter bearing that came out of another series - it was actually an IRL bearing that most people use in the Winston Cup engines for the connecting rods. It's very small and it's in the direction of minimizing the weight and the friction and all those things that help improve the performance.

But it also doesn't have a lot of surface. We have been using for friction improvements and reductions in the engine, a coating process on the bearing for about 10 years. As we've increased the RPM and increased the power, we figured out that the coating was breaking down, much like one-inch of asphalt would break down on a road carrying heavy trucks that didn't have the proper amount of basis underneath. So we were breaking this coating down and causing it to form a draining compound and that was causing the bearings to fail. I misjudged that and we misjudged that as we looked at the failure that Matt had and the other failures that went with that. We thought we just had an area problem on the size of the bearing, so, anyway, we ordered new bearings from Dana Corporation in November and they're still not in yet.

We've continued to use the same bearing, but, subsequent to Jeff's problem, we came back and wondered if that coating was the problem. What if the coating could be breaking down? It hadn't occurred to us until then. I had actually mentioned it once, but because we had been using it for so long, we decided it couldn't be that. We did a dynomometer test with an engine on a Michigan-type cycle for 500 miles and had bearings come out that looked perfect, where all the bearings that we'd run with the varying oil pressures and varying clearances and varying viscosity of oil, all of those things had showed that we had a serious problem with a bearing that we thought we could only fix when we got the larger bearing. In the meantime, I think we've fixed the problem by understanding that the coating was the issue. We've got new bearings coming that are gonna be wider and we've got new rods and new bearings and new crankshafts coming that are gonna be even larger in diameter.

All that stuff takes months and months to get, so the things we ordered some time ago we'll have soon. The crankshafts and the connecting rods with an even larger diameter variance are still in the future for us. The other thing that happened to us in Atlanta was, in addition to burning three pistons as a result of being too lean for our part throttle circumstance, we had an issue where we had an oil pan that was worth eight horsepower. It turns out that the oil pan wasn't recognized to be trapping oil by not letting it drain down into the top of the engine. That combined with the fact that the crew chiefs had worked their way in the direction of smaller oil tanks - less than four gallons per engine, where we used to use five and some teams today use as much as seven - but the least amount of oil you've got in the car, the more comfortable it is for the driver and with less high weight you've got and all those things that you try to do to optimize the car point in the direction of not carrying extra oil.

So we were trapping oil overhead and we failed Burton's car at Atlanta due to having the oil pan trap oil overhead. They all had the same problem. Greg Biffle complained of his oil pressure fluctuation in the corners for most of the race. When we went back and duplicated the duty cycle that we had - not just to make a power run but the Atlanta duty cycle on the dynomometer - we were able to figure that out. So we burnt three pistons, we hurt two bearings this year and Mark Martin broke a crankshaft. The crankshaft was recognized as being a problem last year as we increased the RPM and made additional gas pressure which made more power. We figured out that our crankshafts last year wouldn't last 3,000 miles. We failed one at 1,600 miles and one at 2,000 miles.

The alarms went off, but it takes four or five months to get crankshafts, so we re-designed the cranks and ordered new cranks. The new cranks we had that reflected that were available to us at Atlanta. In the meantime, Mark broke a crankshaft with 1,000 miles on it at Las Vegas, so I was too late on getting my access to the crankshaft to avoid that even though we recognized that last year. We have not broken a valve. We have not broken a piston. We have not broken a connecting rod, a lifter, a valve spring, a rocker arm - all of those things that normally madden teams as they try to make their engines better. We've got all those parts and they aren't causing us trouble.

It was the tuning issue, it was the coating issue, it was the effort to improve the performance through the oil pan that caused our trouble. We take to every race our very best effort with the judgements that we have tempered to our experience, we take the very best pieces that we've got to support our drivers and our sponsors and encourage our fans and to have a prospect of winning. Because we're out there with our chin out doing the best we can all the time, we're occasionally gonna get caught in some things we hadn't expected. We had expected the issue with the bearing because we haven't fixed it and we had not expected the deal with the piston. I hope that answers your question."

MICHAEL WALTRIP SUGGESTED THAT TO MAKE RACING BETTER AERODYNAMICALLY, INSTEAD OF MAKING ANY CHANGES WITH TIRES OR REAR SPOILERS THAT NASCAR RAISE THE FRONT VALANCE FROM 3-1/2 INCHES TO 8 OR 10 INCHES. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU AND WOULD IT HELP THE FORDS?

"I don't know if it would help the Fords or the Chevrolets, but it would dramatically unbalance the car from where they are today. There would be winners and losers there. We have gone through a scenario where we had reasonably high front air dams and reasonably short rear spoilers back a few years ago when we had that going and everybody thought that was the answer. Dale Earnhardt and a number of the Chevrolet folks, with what were the strengths and weaknesses of their car at that point, lobbied for lower air dams and higher spoilers.

It goes up and down depending on what a manufacturer or a driver or a team might think would be a strength or weakness. To go lobby for a change that would help that would be a totally natural thing to do. I don't have a feeling that's gonna make the racing any better. I think we're real close to something that's just almost perfect right now, except for the problems associated with restrictor plate races, where you run wide-open at Daytona at Talladega and have to use the restrictors. I'm not happy with that, but the rest of it certainly looks to me like NASCAR is on the right track."

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH HOW MUCH KURT SPEAKS HIS MIND?

"Kurt is 24 years old. As far as I know he's got a high school education and he's had success come on him in a hurry. That combination of experience and education may be wearing a little thin. He needs to do the things he needs to do to support his sponsor and to recognize the good efforts of the people that are supporting him. If he manages to do those things in a constructive way that inspires people and motivates them, then the things he says and the things he'll do will wind up improving his effort. If they create diversity and tension as a result of what he's doing, then they're probably bad.

Depending on what he said and when he said and what the context was, and, by the way, how it gets reported and written, whether it's in context or out of context, things wind up many times being distorted and misrepresented. Many times Kurt says things right now that are in his heart, that he means, that he feels to be true, that either I or other folks around wouldn't have a problem with or don't have a problem with. But if prying or the efforts made by the media to create a contentious situation that could cause an argument or cause people to have a debate on something that really should be the domain of the team in trying to make their effort better, then there's an influence there that's unwanted and unnecessary and unproductive."

IT'S ALMOST ONE YEAR SINCE YOUR ACCIDENT. HOW HAS YOUR OUTLOOK ON LIFE CHANGED SINCE THEN?

"I thank God and thank Larry Hicks for giving me my extra days. It's been wonderful to have a chance to get back at this thing. Of course, the folks at the University of Alabama Medical Center and the folks at the Troy Alabama Hospital and all the police folks and the emergency folks all saved my life and got me going in a way that didn't result in neural damage or any other infections that would have slowed me down. I had a miraculous recovery. I come away from that with really two things in my mind.

I step back and as I laid back and waited to get my leg healed so I could be mobile again in a normal fashion, I thought about whether or not I'm spending my life correctly. 'Am I doing worthwhile things? Should I be doing these things?' I thought back about the chance I've had to work with so many young people, the chance I've had to have so many business enterprises that had proven viable, even though they were untraditional. As I looked at all that, I said, 'You know, I just want to keep going and doing the things I'm doing as well as I can and as long as I can.' I realize the age thing will eventually catch up to me, so, with that, I committed to make every day count as much as I had before or more and to not slow down - to go as hard as I could for as long as I could.

After I spent 12 days in Alabama and was off antibiotics, I never took any discretionary pain killer, I had a walker, a wheelchair and crutches as my options. They checked me into the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor for physical therapy to make sure I wouldn't run over some bystander with my wheelchair or wouldn't fall on some toddler with my crutches. Anyway, they gave me seven days of that and while I was doing that I was exposed to two 24-year-old young men. Both of them were paraplegic as a result of accidents - one of them was just out of college and getting his life started and the other was just about to graduate within a couple months.

One had a motorcycle wreck and the other had some sort of four-wheeler, recreational wreck. Their lives were dramatically altered based on their injuries. There was a young woman there, less than 30 years old. She didn't have her children yet, but she had an accident and lost both of her hands above her wrists and both of her feet below her ankles. She had four stubs and they were teaching her how to walk. She was educated, she was articulate, she had her life in front of her. I was 60 years old. I had celebrated a 60th birthday, I'd raised three kids, I'd had a lovely wife, I'd had just a great chance to do many things I couldn't have dreamed that would make up my life as a youngster.

But if I could have given those two young men their legs back and that young woman her hands and feet, they could have left Jack in the water. I would have been just fine. Anyway, those are the things that have affected me. Except for that, I've got as much zeal for life everyday as I ever had - without any urgency but with the determination just to make it all worthwhile."

FOLLOWING UP ON THE TOYOTA ISSUE. DO YOU THINK IF TOYOTA COMES IN IT OPENS UP THE DOOR FOR MANUFACTUERS LIKE NISSAN? WOULD THAT BE GOOD FOR THE SPORT?

"In the short-term, it's good for all the same reasons I said the Toyota thing would be good. But we're in a fight in this country to preserve our resources, to preserve our jobs and to preserve the security and our standard of living. Everytime we get upside-down with our balance of payments, everytime we wind up leaving the American worker sitting on the side while we buy products from overseas, everytime we wind up putting our dollars in foreign bank accounts or with foreign companies that can come back and find ways to compete with our American institutions and win, then we've made ourselves weaker. I worry, not only about what's happening with NASCAR, but what's happening in our broader economy as it relates to what my grandchildren and their children and their grandchildren will have left here."

Part I

-ford-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Jack Roush , Mark Martin