JACK ROUSH "The first thing I'll do is apologize to two or three of you guys that ambushed me this morning. The question that apparently is being raised through some meeting that some of you had with NASCAR this morning is so serious and so ...
"The first thing I'll do is apologize to two or three of you guys that ambushed me this morning. The question that apparently is being raised through some meeting that some of you had with NASCAR this morning is so serious and so important to the future of this business and the people that made an investment in it that you won't get a hip-shot from Jack. I'm not gonna give anybody a sound bite and I'm not gonna respond to a meeting that I didn't know about with whatever the agenda was for it, but I'm not going there. So responding to a meeting or anything that you might have been told is not something I can do because I'm ignorant of what happened, and the reason I'm ignorant in this case is that I was given neither the consideration or the courtesy of either being consulted or informed of what they'll do or what they might do or what they're considering doing. The thing that I would say to all of our fans and all of our sponsors and all of the drivers and all of the media people that report it is that we are committed to this business. We've made a huge investment in it. I've raised myself to do what I'm doing today, just like many of the people that have put their charge and their trust in me and we won't let them down. Having said that, we will cooperate and participate with NASCAR at any level, with any part that they'll let us have to have rules and process and morays that are understandable and defensable and are in the best interest of the sport and the business. So whatever rules they ultimately come up with, we're in. You're not gonna get a sound bite from me or anybody in our organization that says, 'Man, this might be the last straw.' They've put a lot of loads of pig iron on my back before and we'll truck this one just fine, too. With that, I won't respond to the meeting nor will I all weekend. We'll have to see what their intention is, if it is a trial balloon or if it's something cast in cement and see what that means to us and our investment and our investors. We've got individual as well as corporate investors in our business and we've got commitments going both ways and we're gonna work to make all those things work on our program."
WOULD YOU GO ALONG WITH A RULE THAT ALLOWED FEWER CARS THAN YOU HAVE NOW?
"I am committed to participate in this business and in this sport as long as I live and to carry forward the trust that my sponsors and my employees and my partners have put in me to provide some leadership and my best energies in that regard. For the foreseeable future, until we come to a determination that the business is not viable, I'm committed to abide with whatever convention, whatever rule, whatever circumstance that NASCAR puts on us and that's open ended."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR COULD LIMIT THE NUMBER OF CARS AND DRIVERS PER TEAM AND STILL WORK WITHIN THEIR SO-CALLED INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR BUSINESS MODEL?
"I'm not sure. I'd have to hear more about what their intention is and what the background is and then we'd have time to mull that. I am not the guy that does the financial analysis of whether we're viable or not. I'm one of the point and grunt guys, 'this is what we need to do,' and I'd like to ask the first question. What's the right thing to do? Then I don't really like asking that next question. Geoff Smith or Evan Mile or some of those folks keep me restrained so that I don't give them a task that's too big."
THE REASON GIVEN TO THE MEDIA ABOUT THIS WAS THAT MULTI-CAR TEAMS HAVE BECOME AN OBSTACLE TO GETTING NEW TEAMS IN THE SPORT. HOW WOULD YOU RESPOND TO THAT?
"I won't respond to that as I indicated. I won't respond to the meeting. I haven't had a brief on what NASCAR intended, nor have I read anything. Anything that I respond to is based on hearsay and I won't go there."
DO YOU FEEL THIS STRETCH IS A CHANCE FOR ONE OR TWO OF YOUR GUYS TO JUMP INTO THE BATTLE?
"If you look at what Jimmie Johnson was able to do last year. He had the misfortune of having two bad races early in the 10 and came back very, very close and certainly had the best performing program throughout the 10, it was just a matter that the bad finishes from the parts that broke took him out of contention for the points for those races. So I think that we're very much in there. Obviously, if Tony and Ryan don't have any problem, it's gonna be hard for anybody to make up from 100 points out on back - from 100 to 170 or whatever it is out. It's gonna be hard to make that up, so if somebody has the kind of luck that Matt Kenseth had in 2003 or Kurt Busch had in the stretch of 2004, it's gonna be awfully hard to overcome that, but chances are that won't be the case. We're certainly expecting that we're gonna run well. This is the best year that Roush Racing has ever had in terms of our level of performance. We obviously didn't distinguish ourselves at road courses and we haven't at restrictor tracks, but we've been game on just about every place else and, of course, that's where we place our emphasis from a testing point of view and from a hardware analysis point of view. We figure that down the stretch at those tracks would be most important to us. I consider Talladega to be a race that, regardless of how much time I spend on it; regardless of how much we invested in it, I wouldn't have the likelihood of being able to determine my outcome, so we carried back to Talladega pretty much the same car we had in the Firecracker 400, which we worked harder for - the individual restricted races than proportionally we have for any other race track, but I was not surprised that we didn't do well at Talladega. I certainly knew that we had great risk there and there was nothing the crew chiefs or the drivers could do to avoid the prospect of losing points. It was just a crapshoot. On the mile-and-a-half tracks and going to Phoenix and Martinsville, we'll be in control of what happens to us and it will be a matter of if somebody else doesn't break a part. We had four flat tires from debris and trash at Dover. Now, that was probably half of the flat tires that occurred there as a result of the condition of the track, but if NASCAR doesn't make a revision in the way they clean the tracks to get it up, well then the next time somebody else will have those four tires - some other teams are more likely to have it the next time than us. But we've been extraordinarily lucky and fortunate in the things that we couldn't control and the way it's broke for us. Except for that we wouldn't have won the two championships we've had. We haven't dazzled anybody with blinding speed. We've got the speed this year, but my prediction is that we have to give back the luck that's been behind us the last two years and that will be our undoing."
HAVE THERE BEEN SOME CHANGES FOR 2007? WHAT ARE THEY?
"I'm not sure what's been announced in terms of sponsors and I won't respond to that. Geoff and the folks in the marketing office, with the sponsors, will have to decide the timing for that if it hasn't already been made clear, but our short-term plan is that Todd Kluever will be in the 6 car in 2007. Mark will be in the car in 2006 and Todd will run a Busch Grand National program full-time in 2006 and, most likely, in 2007 he'll do the same sort of thing that Carl did this year in 2005 - we'll do that in 2006. So we've made that change with what Kurt wants to do. I certainly respect his right to say he didn't want to take a position and he didn't want to negotiate with me going forward. That's his prerogative. This is America and that's what he needs to do if that's what he wants to do, but for 2007 it's my expectation that Jamie McMurray will be in the 97 with the sponsors that are there at that time."
MATT WON THE TITLE IN 2003 AND THEN THEY CHANGED THE POINT SYSTEM. NOW WITH THIS MEETING TODAY, ARE YOU STARTING TO FEEL A LITTLE SINGLED OUT?
"It feels like Get Shorty to me (laughing). I can't do short jokes (laughing). But that's the stuff of editorials you guys should write at the appropriate time - on slow news days you amuse yourselves and a lot of people read your stuff - so go get you some (laughing)."
SO YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN CONSULTED BY NASCAR IN REGARDS TO FUTURE CAR OWNERSHIP AND ANY TYPE OF LIMITS, WHETHER IT'S BEEN ANYTIME RECENTLY OR ANY TIME IN THE PAST?
"That's not what I said. Let me tell you what I said. What I said was I did not know about the meeting. I was not given the respect nor the consideration of being informed or questioned as to what they had in mind, and if there is a policy that has been made, I don't know about it and they haven't asked me about it. The thing that they have told me consistently is they did respect the investment I had made. They did understand the commitments that I made and that they would not do harm to those. That I have been told on numerous occasions by numerous people and that's what I expect."
HOW MUCH OF A CONCERN IS IT TO YOU THAT THEY ARE SPEAKING TO THE MEDIA ABOUT THIS SUBJECT BEFORE GOING TO SOMEONE LIKE YOURSELF?
"This is NASCAR. I've been down here with you for 18 years. I mean, we all know what the rules are and how it works. The rules are flexible when it comes to what NASCAR does and the way they interact with the media and the way they interact with the drivers and the way they interact with the owners. I think we all know what to expect. It's NASCAR."
THOUGHTS ON THE CAR OF THE FUTURE?
"Well, it's pretty incredible that one of the first things they did was shorten the nose up. I don't know which part of engineering brilliance decided they were gonna make a safer car with regards to its crashworthiness by shortening the nose up, but they first made the nose shorter and I guess they're gonna make it back to the same length that it is now. They've got a number of things in the car that are certainly desirable. Richard Childress and most of the owners believe the things they want are, by and large, achievable in the existing car, but they've decided not to do that. Whatever they decide to do, if it's affordable and if it's possible, I'm sure that myself as well as the other owners will satisfy their wants, if not their needs."
DO YOU FIND TODAY'S EVENTS CURIOUS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHASE?
"I was thinking, 'If you were trying to do something that might put some more blood in the water and create some more excitement, what would you do?' This is one of the things you might do."
YOU EXPRESSED CONCERNS ABOUT THE COST OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW. DO YOU STILL HAVE THE SAME CONCERN?
"The answer is, for the time being, I'm guardedly optimistic. They did in fact call a second meeting that I and a number of the other owners were asked to participate in and they did ask our input as far as scheduling and some other things that wasn't on the table - at least it wasn't on the table for me previously. If they can move the dates out, so that we're able to balance out our existing hardware, and be able to make the changes they want with the present staff, it'll be a seamless transition at a modest cost to the teams. If they compress that to where you have to dig a hole and bury your existing cars, you haven't got value out of them regardless of whether you might have a strategy with the IRS or a strategy with investment folks, whoever they would be, that says that you're able to amortize your car by using it the amount of time that you expected when you built it, well then there's a loss. Given the number of cars that are potentially involved, the loss could be huge. It could be catastrophic. At one point I gave somebody a soundbite. I said it was a disaster, well some unmentioned people within NASCAR wouldn't talk to me for a race or two because they thought I was not showing the right kind of support, but I am in support of anything we can do for safety and I certainly am not resistant to anything that we could do to make the cars easier to regulate and litigate and safer for the drivers. We want all of that. The car of today is not the same as the car of yesterday at any point in time in the reasonable past, so looking forward, if they'll come back and relent to the timing that was proposed by the owners - the change to this car is something that certainly can be achieved without dire consequences to the viability of the teams nor the quality of the racing, I think."
SO WHAT IF THEY SAID IT WOULD HAVE TO BE DONE IN 2007?
"That is not the schedule that we talked about and we asked them to go back and look at it. That would be a problem. One of the things that winds up being a problem here is if you look, say in my world a team can built about a car a month. If you've got four teams, let's say it's five cars a month, but a car a month. If you're racing and you figure out that you need to have a car a month, that means in a year you can only build six cars that were towards something with the same people. Now if you say, 'I need to build twice that many cars,' then I need to go get Chip Ganassi's people to work for me, or Rick's people to work for me, or Ray's people to work for me. So the owners wind up being in a situation where they don't have the capacity - not withstanding the philosophy investment of their cars - they wind up not having the capacity to respond to that, and that was the thing that we begged for. I'll be curious to see if they're willing to go there or not. I know that's not the schedule that they had their mind set on before we had our meeting and they may not go there. They may go back and say, 'Guys, we hate it for you, but it's 2007. Build your cars and go fight among yourselves and decide how you're gonna do it and we don't care.' That would be NASCAR, too, you know."