Jack Roush, car owner of five Roush Racing Ford Fusions, was part of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teleconference this afternoon. Roush, who has two series championships in 2003 and 2004 to his credit, will be hoping for his third as Matt Kenseth...
Jack Roush, car owner of five Roush Racing Ford Fusions, was part of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teleconference this afternoon. Roush, who has two series championships in 2003 and 2004 to his credit, will be hoping for his third as Matt Kenseth tries to make up a 63-point deficit on leader Jimmie Johnson in Sunday's Ford 400.
JACK ROUSH , Car Owner -- Roush Racing Ford Fusions
YOU MUST BE ANTICIPATING SUNDAY?
"We're certainly looking forward to Sunday. The way the Jimmie Johnson car has run this year, or at least in the recent number of races here in the chase, he certainly deserves to be the champion and the only way he won't be will be if he has some mechanical problem or gets involved in a wreck where he can't finish the race. If I was told correctly, he only has to finish 12th or 13th. The thing is, if he finishes 12th and Matt would qualify and lead the most laps and win the race, that he would still be the champion. Given the fact that he's finished first or second in the last half-dozen races, he's certainly the odds-on-favorite to win and I hope that he can. I hope that his year is not frustrated with somebody running into him or with a broken part. Now, on the other hand, if he would be beset by the kind of grief and disbelief that we've had in recent races, where the cars that we'd run previously well with, the car that we took to Phoenix we finished third with in the spring there. Of course it didn't have the same characteristic as it did before and we protected that car to come back because it was such a great car. I think something happened or we might have won the race at Phoenix, I don't recall, but they certainly thought it was a competitive car and it could have won. But if the things that have caused us to lose our mark, if those things are beyond a team's control, if they move around, I would be happy if what's been chasing us went someplace else, but I'm not wishing that on Jimmie. I hope that he can close the deal and win his championship, his first one. He's been very close several times and it won't be complicated by something that would frustrate him further."
WHAT KIND OF A PEP TALK TO YOU GIVE MATT AND ARE YOU LOOKING FOR DRIVERS IN OTHER FORMS OF RACING TO POSSIBLY JOIN YOUR ORGANIZATION?
"Matt Kenseth is as mature as any driver I've ever worked with. He's confident in himself. He's wise in that he's not easily rattled in a circumstance when something happens which frustrates him on the race track. He's not gonna beat himself. We've just missed something on the car. There's some kinematic thing that's going on with his suspension with the tires that we've got the last two or three races that just hasn't worked out. It's something that we'll find an answer to eventually. We've got enough engineers working on it to eventually figure it out, but it's strange, given the circumstances, that Matt probably had the car that handled the worst of our five cars in the race and that's just not typical. That's a strong team that's been together. Chip Bowen, the engineer, has got a grasp of things, provides leadership for the entire team, and it's just an aberration that they're running that way. As far as Matt's concerned, the thing that I told him is not to question himself and to maintain our pace and our strategies and hope it will turn. We could have made a lunge for life and borrowed a car from one of the other programs that Matt was not familiar with. Cars are very, very similar, but they are a little bit different because of the preference in the aero-map configuration and the preference the drivers have for where they would like to have things optimized and where they're willing to take a compromise that would make them a challenge to drive. Matt has his own cars and his best cars lined up and has had what we believe were his best cars based on what he'd done historically this year for the last half-dozen races. There's not been a need for me to pick Matt up and to boost his spirits. He understands what's going on and this is a tough business. This is a really tough business and right now we're having the brunt of it. In 2003, we had things going our way with everybody else having trouble that was there to challenge to us and with having iced the championship with several races to go. It's just not that way this year, but we do have a chance and we'll see what happens. I hope that Jimmie can run clean. I hope we can beat him by enough to have the issue resolved satisfactorily in our regard. As far as the Champ Car and the motorcyclists coming in, I believe the best stock car racers are the people that have been most familiar with it for most of their time in terms of gaining experience. You can come off sprint cars and you can come off from any form of racing and obviously do a good job, but my preference is to look around to people that have been mostly committed to stock cars if they've been involved and liking that. The sprint car guys that would come off of dirt at a young age, Tony Stewart obviously did that and a number of the guys have done that. Carl Edwards did that and made the transition, but I for one have no interest in motorcyclists or Champ Car guys that have camped there and made that their primary career and now they want to come back and do stock car racing. I think that's probably a bridge too far."
IS THERE ANY WAY TO GET YOUR TEAM UP FOR THIS?
"That team itself has a very good grasp of the situation. They know that they can't beat themselves and that it's out of their hands. If misfortune befalls the 48 and they lay it down that we want to be standing by to pick it up, but it's their's to lose. They've done a great job. They deserve to win a championship. We're not gonna be downtrodden or down on ourselves. We've had a great year with the 17 team, and not as great with some of our other programs that we're working to rebuild, but the thing we're trying to do for the 17 going into 2007 is just to get ready for the car of tomorrow and find whatever demon that's beset us with our cars the last several weeks. We may be missing something with the tire information we're getting. I'm not sure that we've got a problem with our cars. I'm not sure that we don't have something that we're just overlooking that's real close to us that we're not taking into proper account."
IT'S ONLY HAPPENED TWICE WHERE THE GUY LEADING HAS BEEN OVERTAKEN IN THE LAST 30 YEARS. DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU?
"I know at least once that happened with me and Mark Martin in 1990. He was leading going into the final race at Atlanta and we gave it up. I wasn't aware that there was another hapless program that had that happen to him, but by the time you've gone this far, regardless of whether it was a chase scenario or the full season competition which we had prior to the onset of the chase, generally the people that have done the best job throughout the year, if they've arrived first in the last race, then the guy in second has been hard-pressed to beat him all year or for that matter in the previous nine races. In the case of the 48 they had some bad luck early, like their qualifying position. It wasn't great at Phoenix and they overcome it by making up the shortfall points that they had early in the chase. They've just done a great job. Although with the 17 we were very, very good earlier, we haven't had the same result that we had earlier even though everybody is still in place and it is the same team."
COULD YOU EVALUATE THE 2006 SEASON WITH THE FUSION AND FORD'S INTERACTION WITH YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION, PARTICULARLY IN THE FACE OF CHEVROLET'S STRENGTH THIS SEASON? AND WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE IN THE MANUFACTURER'S RACE IN '07?
"The Fusion, this is our second year with the Fusion, which is as much improved car over the Taurus that preceded it as NASCAR will allow. They paid close attention to the performance, the aero performance of the cars that you present whenever you have a model change. The Fusion was just a smidgen better than the Taurus and anything more than that would have been too much for their sense of humor and they would not have approved it, so we had as much improved of a car as we could. I don't think we're handicapped by our car at all. I think our car is very competitive from an aerodynamic point of view and a drag point of view. I think it's just fine. Chevrolet, from the appearance of it, sent some task force of people from Michigan down to the hinterland here to prop up their teams. I know they had a team of engine engineers over at Childresses for a period of time and that certainly has borne a good result for them. I know that they've got a good number of engineers moving around among the teams, committed to each one of them not only in the race against Ford and Dodge, but also race against the other Chevrolet teams. So they've got enough people to provide a lot of technical help to the individual teams for their individual benefit. Ford doesn't have that many people. They've got great people, but they rely more on me and on Robert and on the Wood Brothers to really assimilate the information they need and to apply it and to ask for help when we need it. There has not been a case when we've asked for help when Ford hasn't been there for us, but, as an example, one of the things Chevrolet has done, that they did very well and it worked out not to my favor but to my detriment, was NASCAR told all the manufactures in 2006 that they could get approved for 2007 a new cylinder block. They saw some disparity in the cylinder blocks and they said, 'but don't do a cylinder head because we're gonna make up some new rules for a cylinder head in the year that follows and we don't know exactly where we're gonna go with cylinder heads, so don't give us a new cylinder head proposal, just give us a block.' And Ford didn't work toward a new cylinder head. Robert Yates and Doug Yates and I didn't work toward a new cylinder head. We took NASCAR at their word. After Daytona they came back and told us. NASCAR told us there's pressure from people that want a new cylinder head and they said, 'but we're not gonna yield to it. You guys are doing what we want because a block is all we want.' And then in late July they come back and say, 'You know, we're getting this pressure for this new cylinder head and we're likely to approve it. If you've got a cylinder head, put it on the table and we'll consider it. We'll probably give you a cylinder head to go with your block.' Well, the problem was that we hadn't been working on a cylinder head and it's a six or nine month task, and based on the fact that we hadn't had enough money and had enough people to do things that weren't seeming to be immediately worthwhile, we didn't make that investment. Well, Chevrolet did. They looked at the prospect of getting something that NASCAR said they weren't gonna let them have, made the investment, negotiated for it and got it. That's gonna bode poorly for the engine parity going into 2007 because the cylinder head that they've got is yet another improvement over the package they've had, which has been very competitive, and leaves us one more iteration behind. Now we're gonna have a chance to submit a new cylinder head with a new block in 2007 for 2008, but that scenario speaks to the way that Chevrolet does their deal. They've had adequate people and made investment in things that did not appear to be absolutely necessary and then from time to time they've gotten an advantage by getting something from being ready to take advantage when NASCAR gives some relief that we haven't because we haven't worked without knowing for sure where things were gonna go. I've been told that virtually every year Chevrolet designs a new engine with the hope that some component would either be useful for the engine they have or would put them in line to make an appeal for a consideration and we haven't simply done that. We're not staffed for it."
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE FISCAL UNCERTAINTY OF THE AUTOMOTIVE MARKET, IF FORD CANNOT STEP UP AND EITHER COMMIT MORE PEOPLE OR MORE FUNDING ARE YOU LOOKING AT A BLEAK '07?
"Right now '07 is pretty much committed. They've given us everything we've asked for. We're anxious to have some more test fixtures given the fact that NASCAR doesn't allow the track testing that would be cost-efficient in that regard where, of course, to go to predictive and fixtures that would allow you to simulate things that aren't being realized on the race track. That requires more expensive people and more expensive equipment than just actually buying tires and going to the race track, but that's the box NASCAR has put us in. Anyway, Ford has agreed to support me and help me get these fixtures and avail myself of the engineering talent that's required for that. All of our programs are funded as they should be and historically have been by Ford. Now we've yet to see what the long-term impact is of Toyota's involvement. There is an expectation that they'll try to buy up not only the best people, but also people that when they leave would pose the greatest problem to the people that they compete against. If I have a good person or one of the Chevrolet teams has a good person, and Toyota comes and takes him, they not only gain that person, they create a hole in the team that lost him. So what that winds up doing to the model is yet to be seen, but as far as the manufacturer is concerned and what they've historically done for support, by all appearances Chevrolet hasn't backed away and I know Ford hasn't. They've given me every encouragement that they're gonna stay the course and meet the challenge that Toyota brings, but we just don't know how big that challenge is gonna be."
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE CHASE FORMAT AND IS THERE ENOUGH EMPHASIS ON A DRIVER TAKING RISKS AND BEING REWARDED FOR THAT?
"I don't have a criticism of the chase. I think NASCAR and Brian France has done a great job with it. It has created a playoff kind of a format and excitement that has followed the last 10 races here. I was heartened to find that the sponsors and teams that weren't in the chase have gotten ample coverage and have maintained their interest in spite of the fact that they weren't actually gonna be in competition for the championship. There is the prospect, unlike was the case with the prior format for determining the championship and not having a chase, there is a prospect for having it resolved at Homestead among any one of five teams depending on what happens to the other four. I think that's the kind of interest and excitement that they want for the fans and for the TV audience to be able to celebrate with the champion. I for one really don't care as long as my sponsor is getting value based on the excitement that's generated I don't care what the rules are for determining the champion. I told Robin Pemberton at Phoenix, I said if you wanted to come back, there was all this question of how you can make the thing better, for me, I don't care if you took every race. He said the same thing you did after 26 races was establishing more than 50 points between first and 10th -- 45 points between first and 10th -- I don't care if you do that nine times -- do it for the ninth race and all the way through the final race. That would allow you to have 10 cars that could be in the position that five are here. The idea of saying is there enough emphasis on winning, the emphasis has been, was historically with Bill Sr., was on making sure that as many drivers and as many teams would go to all the races. That was the basis for saying how important it was to be durable and be consistent and to have good average performance. Whether there's an opportunity to get more people to follow the sport by having drivers that would be willing to take more risk on moves that they would make at races that would impact their championship prospects, I can't say. As a for instance, if you made twice the number of points for winning a race as it did to finish second, well then you could win a race and every third race you could crash as you're trying to win and you'd be ahead for it. As it is right now, if you took a lunge for life, even on the last lap and wound up finishing the last car on the lead lap because you couldn't get on around, you would pay a price there that you couldn't recover from if you made a practice of that. The nature of the racing and how much risk the drivers take and would that have resulted in more fan interest and sponsor interest is unknown by me, but certainly I'm happy to be part of NASCAR's program and willing to accept any role that they give me as long as it's published and it's applied consistent, we'll organize a strategy to let us compete for a championship or individual wins with dispatch."
ONLY ONE OF THE LAST DOZEN TITLES HAVE NOT BEEN WON BY HENDRICK, ROUSH R OGIBBS. HOW HARD IS IT TO FIELD A CONTENDER EVERY YEAR?
"I thought it was a piece of cake after putting five of them in there last year. I said, 'All I've got to do is just a little tweak on this thing.' Last year was the first year for our new Fusion and usually the car after an introduction like that in the second year you'll figure out how to do a better job with it than you did the year before. We had more engineers around and more fixtures around to do simulation testing in the shop, so I was very confident. We had all of our crew chiefs in place. We hadn't lost a key person in any position, but it just didn't work out for us this year. We had the strategies we used the year before. The hardware transit we were on proved to not be what we needed as the year developed. There were people that made more aggressive moves in going to previously unknown strategies with emphasis on components. Some of the dynamics of the front suspension and some of the dynamics of the rear suspension that were not seen before as being an area that was worth pursuing. Anyway, we got behind because we were in front, I think. That wound up and the first thing you know you've lost a little of your chemistry and your crew chief isn't able to help your driver as much and your driver doesn't maybe interact as effectively because it's in a field or an area where his experience doesn't help much, and the first thing you know the people that you had before, and I'm talking about the support group for the driver, and the technology you had which had taken you very close, which we did last year having two drivers finish tied for second in terms of the number of points. That issue between Greg and Carl was resolved by the fact that Greg had won one more race than Carl had and that gave him second place rather than third. I thought that we were all set, that we didn't need to do much in terms of looking at people and saying, 'Alright, we need an engineer with a different skill set,' and you needed to have an arrangement with a team to go do some testing for you that would give you information back that you couldn't get for yourself based on NASCAR policy. We just didn't see the kind of conflict or the kind of challenge that we had this year and, based on that, we were slow to make the adjustments. Next year, I think that Hendrick or Evernham or Childress or Gibbs or myself are likely to, and I'm not trying to make somebody mad by leaving them out. I hope I've mentioned everyone that's got the momentum to go forward, but I think that those guys will be championship contenders and it would be hard for a start-up team, regardless of who the manufacturer is, to get in there and in a short order. Of course the same thing is true of teams that are established and not multi-entry teams that don't have the momentum and don't have the people again to extract."
-credit: ford racing