Phoenix II: Jack Roush - Ford Friday interview

Jack Roush, owner of five racing Ford Fusions in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, is planning a number of changes for 2007. He spoke about what those changes will be prior to practice Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway. JACK ROUSH, Car...

Jack Roush, owner of five racing Ford Fusions in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, is planning a number of changes for 2007. He spoke about what those changes will be prior to practice Friday morning at Phoenix International Raceway.

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner - Roush Racing Ford Fusions

YOU'RE MAKING SOME CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THOSE? "We're looking at what we can do to get stronger and one scenario is that it has been the case that we've waited until after the last race and said, 'Alright, this year is finished, let's open a new chapter on next year.' Then you face the dilemma of having people that have vacation that need to go take their vacation and a lot of folks that need to be doing once a year kind of things that keep them out of the shop, either testing-wise or medical or health-wise or whatever, so it's hard to get a quorum together between Thanksgiving and Christmas to really decide what you're gonna do for personnel and for strategies for next year, and then you start in January and you've got your Daytona test and all of your final preparations for getting the year started, not only this year for the car of today, but we've got the car of tomorrow in the mix that makes two whole sets of hardware, so I moved that backed about four months and said, 'Alright, I'm gonna start my discussion about what we can do to make our teams and programs stronger for 2007, I'm gonna move it back from mid-December, mid-January to mid-September.'

"So for more than a month now I've been having discussions with the drivers about what they think they would need to be better next year than they are this year, or with the case of the 17 to maintain their competitive posture. As I worked my way through that, it's become clear that there was an opportunity to do some personnel changes around Greg (Biffle).

"The truth of the matter is we're gonna take Pat Tryson and his choice of people - between the people that were with the 16 and the people that were with the 6 -- we're gonna let him build a strong team to put Greg in championship form next year. He was off a little this year in terms of the technical side and certainly we had some engine problems and we had some crashes, but, technically, if we'd been as competitive as we had been in 2005, I believe that some of the issues that we had - hitting the wall and doing some other things where he's trying to get more out of the car than it could do - I think we would have avoided those.

"So Pat Tryson is gonna go to the 16 and build a new team - maintain as many of the 16 people the suits his purpose, but he's gonna rebuild and redefine the 16 team for Greg Biffle for next year.

"Jimmy Fennig is coming over from the Busch shop and the Truck shop. Jimmy provided leadership for all the crew chiefs - both Truck and Busch - all the junior guys over there. He and Mike Beam gave stability and provided an anchor to be able to base all those programs, so that was great, but I need for him to follow David Ragan over to the 6 car and build a strong program for AAA and for David. I'm sure he'll be able to do that as he did with Kurt Busch. I think the potential is very much the same in terms of what we expect in 2007 from David.

"We've got Matt Kenseth in championship form and, of course, the goal is to not let that drop off next year but to keep that where it is. Robbie Reiser has indicated his interest in going forward. Matt is happy with that. I'm happy with that. It's not all that clear that we won't make some changes, but most of that team will stay intact. They have had very few missteps and very few missed opportunities there. We're off just a little bit in the way we're running the last handful of races, but as you expand technologies and accept new doctrine, you'll occasionally get a little confused about what it all means and the result may not be as anticipated. Anyway, we haven't run quite as good the last handful of races, but we're still in the chase. We're in a virtual tie for the championship with two races to go and I hope to not lose that going into next year.

"As far as the 99, Carl Edwards and the Office Depot program. We were at the end of Wally Brown's commitment to me, the end of his contract, and he made a decision that he didn't want to be the 99 crew chief going forward and he was going to seek opportunities elsewhere. I'm not sure I totally understand what his motivations are, but clearly he had the prerogative and I respect his right to go do whatever he wants, so he's not going to be with us. Since we've had both Bob Osborne and Wally as Carl's crew chief, and they've both done a great job at it, we'll just step back and Bob Osborne will be Carl's crew chief. With Bob taking the helm again, that should at least maintain where Carl is.

"Carl hasn't run quite as good, like Greg hasn't run quite as good as he should this year, but I don't fault anybody from the technical side for a missed step. There haven't been any errors made, it's just a case where we had a year that was unbelievable last year and for Carl the year he's had this year has been believable, so you'd like to get back to having another unbelievable year, and I think Bob can be the architect for that as long as the stars will line up for us.

"We had two looks at a crew chief for Jamie this year with two entirely different approaches to it. One was science-based, based on Bob Osborne and the first one was conservative-based, based on traditional wisdom with Jimmy and neither one of those things in our cars managed to get Jamie happy with the way the car felt. We're looking for somebody that can be a crew chief for that program that will provide the kind of chemistry and the comfortable communication relationship that Jamie has had and is so important to him, at the same time be able to keep track of and to apply our technologies as it makes sense.

"We've got four of our positions really defined and the only one that is open is making a decision for Jamie. We've still got two races to go, so I think I'm still at least a month ahead of where I would have been a year ago and we'll have a good resolution for a determination for Jamie and put the 26 team where it needs to be in 2007 as well."

A YEAR AGO YOU HAD FIVE TEAMS IN THE CHASE AND HERE WE ARE A YEAR LATER HAVING TO RESHUFFLE EVERYTHING. "A year ago we had five cars in the chase and that certainly wasn't reflective of the way we had run. We had run well, but not well enough to have all five in with comparison to the strength and the capability of all the other teams. But many of the other teams were at the bottom of their cycle and they've rebounded with a vengeance this year. Of course, if you're on top, which we were, the conservative nature and the conventional wisdom here is that you want to be slow to make changes because if you fix something that's not broke, it may not work as well as it was before you fixed it. So for that reason, we've been somewhat hesitant to make massive changes and I don't think massive changes throughout the year have been warranted. We have two cars in the chase. We had three the first year, five last year and two this year, so that's three-and-a-half out of five and that's certainly more than the number of our teams in the series would justify or dictate."

DO THESE CHANGES SORT OF RE-ENERGIZE EVERYBODY AND PUT A SPRING IN EVERYONE'S STEP BECAUSE IT WILL BE SOMETHING NEW AND DIFFERENT? "I think there's an opportunity to get some spring in the step of nearly everybody through the changes we're making. We don't need a spring in the step of the 17 obviously, and if Mark were still here for the 6, we would just hope to carry that forward in 2007 to what that was in 2006 and 2005, which he made the chase each year. The cycle that you go through with a crew chief-driver relationship, I believe, is you spend some period of time getting to know one another if you haven't worked together. Then there's a honeymoon period when everything works really well and you're challenged and motivated and you've got all this positive result coming from the combination. The total winds up being greater than the sum of the parts - the arithmetic sum, the results you get, is better than the skill sets and the experience of the individuals would otherwise dictate and predict. I believe these crew chief-driver relationships are a five-year maximum to get the absolute most out of it, and then if you've got a program the size or ours with the skills sets and the perspectives and the attitudes of say the crew chiefs being a little different, then you move those around where there is still compatibility and people don't dislike one another, I think you've got the prospect of making these adjustments and having a win-win situation where everybody wins and nobody loses."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush , David Ragan