Roush - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jack Roush June 8, 2010 An Interview With: JACK ROUSH DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR Cam video teleconference ahead of this weekend's event at Michigan International...

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Jack Roush
June 8, 2010

An Interview With:

DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR Cam video teleconference ahead of this weekend's event at Michigan International Speedway. Our guest today is Jack Roush, owner of Roush-Fenway Racing. Welcome, Jack.

JACK ROUSH: Hello, Denise. I'm glad to be here.

DENISE MALOOF: We're glad to have you. Jack is tied with the legendary Wood Brothers for the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner wins at Michigan. That's 11 to date, and as a Michigan native and resident, that's an especially important accomplishment for him.

Heading to Michigan, Jack had three of his four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams in the top 12 of the standings. Matt Kenseth is fourth, Carl Edwards is ninth and Greg Biffle is tenth. Also important this weekend, the new Ford engine, the FR9, which is manufactured by Roush-Yates Engines, will be used in nine cars, all four Roush-Fenway vehicles, all four Richard Petty Motorsport cars, and the #21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford driven by Bill Elliott. I'm sure a victory this weekend would be extra special.

JACK ROUSH: Well, all of our wins at MIS have been special. It's in front of a home crowd, it's in front of my Roush industries affiliates, associates. It's in front of Ford Motor Company and Chrysler and General Motors. Detroit is still the Motor City in spite of rumors otherwise, but it's good to race in front of the home crowd where all of our friends and the people that we'd like to have support are there paying attention.

DENISE MALOOF: As we do with most of these teleconferences we're going to open up with a fan question from our NASCAR Twitter account. John from New Jersey wants to know where you get your hats; he especially likes them.

JACK ROUSH: Well, my hats came from a Canadian source. I started buying the hats, exactly the same hat, about 1994 and had multiple road race cars at the time and multiple NASCAR cars at the time, and I had so many sponsors -- I was like the old woman that lived in a shoe; I had so many sponsors I didn't know which hat to wear. So I decided I'd get a straw hat and whatever I wore would be personal, and so I've worn a straw hat ever since.

When I left Pocono last weekend, I made the decision to leave my hat on the truck, on the transporter because I hadn't anticipated this. I didn't realize I had this obligation and that it would be filmed. Otherwise I would have had a hat here, but I'm in North Carolina without my traditional hat.

Q: I guess sort of for you and the other four guys going home to make a stand in a tough season, to try to put this in kind of a multifaceted question, what are your observations -- being winless in all three series, what are your observations about what has happened to Ford's competitiveness, why it happened, what you have to do to catch up, and whether catching up is in sight?

JACK ROUSH: Well, first of all, we're only competing in two series, so I won't take a rap for not winning in all three series because we haven't competed in the Truck Series this year. As far as the Nationwide and the Cup side, we were very competitive last weekend at Nashville with our Nationwide car, and we were missing something in the suspension of the car all year, and we found -- actually found last week that there had been an unintended change made in some of the front suspension components. And we rectified that, went to Nashville, had six drivers in our cars.

The problem that had been there primarily, the wooden turn in the metal and loose off problem went away for all six drivers that drove the four cars throughout the weekend, and I'm sure we're on our way to reestablishing ourselves in that series.

I think that stay tuned, there's good news, very good to come, and that with Carl Edwards finishing second and Paul Menard finishing third, and neither one of them had a chance to sim on their cars before the race because they elected not to make the trip down on Friday for practice, so the cars were practiced by -- the cars were first driven by both Paul and Carl for qualifying on Saturday afternoon, and they were off just a little bit.

So I think the difference for Brad Keselowski, he had made the trip and had wisely practiced. I think we missed a little something, left a little something on the table there. But the interest was in putting the focus on the Sprint Cup effort and to make sure that the drivers were rested, and that was a decision and the reason they made the decision not to go.

If you look at my Sprint Cup programs, and those of Richard Petty Motorsports and Wood Brothers, all three, you say what is wrong with the Fords; the teams aren't getting it done. Ford support has been as good as it's ever been, monetary support has been equal to prior years, the technical support has improved, and a greater commitment was made over the winter to support the teams than has been made in the past.

We started off 2010 with certainly hopeful results at Daytona, not as good as last year when we ran, but good results at Daytona, Fontana and Las Vegas. We were certainly very encouraged by that. NASCAR has got a new testing policy this year at the racetracks that is not different than the year previous, but it put a great premium on the software that's used to do the predictive things, the simulation things, and the data of programs to resolute [sic] the data and to make conclusions around the data, the data analysis part.

We've got third-party vendors, not Ford and not Roush-Fenway, that were engaged in our data analysis and in our simulations, and quite frankly we haven't got the results this year that we had expected. Certainly the results aren't as good from the simulation data, that analysis point of view, as we had in 2008, and given the fact that we don't have testing that has been a handicap.

We're looking at additional third-party vendors. We're taking more things inside and taking them on ourselves as Roush-Fenway, and the Petty organization is looking to Roush-Fenway and doing some things on their own. They've added staff. So we're trying to fill that void that we had not expected.

If you say, okay, but whatever meets the road is what happens on race day, on the race weekend, we have this year arrived at the racetrack, unloaded with simulated strategies for setups that have not been as good as our competitors', and that's what brought us to the point of looking at what we were getting and looked for the correlations and found that we didn't have the correlations that we'd expected on many of the simulations.

So we're starting off with not as good a setup in the car based on simulations as we've had in the past and as we've expected. We're working to fill that void. I hope that we'll break through at MIS and be able to win again and rack up Ford's 12th win there for this first Michigan race because hopefully we could win twice there. We've done that in the past sometimes.

Really excited to go to MIS. I fly one of my World War II airplanes over it at least twice a month, and I've watched the reconstruction of the area for the hospitality, for the hospitality area on the inside of the track, and that's certainly come along, and it's going to be great to go out there and see what it looks like on the ground.

Q: So you don't think power has been an issue, the FR9 engine? Has that been more of a struggle than you and Ford anticipated?

JACK ROUSH: No, the FR9 engine has been wonderful. We haven't broken an FR9 engine part. We've had marginally better performance out of the engine, than the 452 spec engine that preceded it, and it's all encouraging. We hadn't had a new engine for several decades, and Ford took the time to make sure they had it right. Doug Yates and the guys up at the engine shop took the time to make sure they had their part of it right. We had to qualify many new vendors for castings and various internal components. We had to qualify the vendors, had to go through the prototype parts, work our way into the production series of parts which are now done.

We had four cars with the engines at Pocono; we performed well. We had all four cars at Talladega with the engines; they performed well. And the Wood Brothers have run the engine I think every time that they've raced this year, which has been a limited schedule. The engine is without a flaw; it makes marginally more power; it has a very efficient cooling system, has a very efficient combustion process; it will get marginally better fuel economy, is more tolerant of trash on the grill and is stable in its valve train.

There is certainly nothing about the FR9 engine that has slowed us down this year in terms of ability to win a race or to be competitive. We've had maybe not our share but close to our share of Top 10 finishes, and we've got three cars in the Chase out of my four. So it has not been a bad year. We haven't won yet; that's the thing that we lack is actually winning that first race.

I think that as we continue to make our simulations better, as we continue to take more responsibility for the data analysis that goes with that internally, I think that we will gradually see the state at which the cars are able to race be drastically improved and we will have less stressful racing weekends as the year unfolds.

Q: Felix Sabates will be at Michigan this weekend. He had some unsavory things to say about Detroit and the MIS races. But getting to the point, do you think MIS does deserve the two races a year, and your opinion on the Motor City.

JACK ROUSH: Well, Detroit is on the rebound. Ford certainly has turned the corner and didn't have to go into bankruptcy and has been able to stand on their own two feet and negotiate without a government hammer with the UAW for the labor costs and things. Ford has done just a great job. General Motors has got sales that are on the improvement, and Chrysler is doing remarkably well in the marketplace.

So I think that all three of the Detroit -- typically Detroit-based car companies are doing as well as they might given the circumstance. The production lines are building more cars and trucks than a year ago, and there is more employment, and even though it isn't on the rapid rate of increased employment that we'd like to see, it certainly is -- things are stabilized.

And past the automotive side of it, Detroit has got a lot of new technologies they're expanding. Roush Industries in particular has got the life sciences area. We make some tools for the pharmaceutical industry, and all over town there's robotics, there's high-tech thing that are outside of what you'd normally consider the trades of the automobile industry that are employing people, and their growth for Detroit's and for that matter broader Michigan's future. So I'm real excited about all that.

As far as Felix Sabates and the comments he made six months or a year ago, whatever it was, he made the derogatory comments about Detroit and about the MIS racetrack, I'd hope that he was a little too much in the spirits that day and that he said things he regretted. He hasn't indicated to me he regretted saying those things, but I think certainly under any circumstance they're ill-advised. I don't know what prompted him or caused him to make those statements, but I doubt that Felix feels as he indicated about MIS or Detroit or Michigan, either one.

MIS I think has been one of the best racetracks, certainly in the north central part of the United States here, and I think it deserves two races. Don't have a bigger problem selling tickets than we do anyplace else in our troubled economy, and it's certainly a place I enjoy racing because it's where I call home.

Q: You're in the stretch of the schedule with a couple Nationwide races that need a little travel for your double-duty purposes. I know you've had some success doing that, but I don't know if you've ever had to give up a whole day at a Cup track like you will next weekend. Can you describe the logistics of Sonoma and Elkhart Lake and what you give up with Carl at each because of the travel and the schedules?

JACK ROUSH: Well, first of all, I won't give up a whole day at the Cup track, at Sonoma, where the schedule is Sonoma to Elkhart Lake this year. Carl will make that. I understand that Paul Menard's father's Citation X is going to be used, which is the fastest means of public civilian transportation as possible. They're going to make that trip together. I'll hunker down in Sears Point and help the guys there as much as I can.

Weekends like we had last weekend where you can -- where the drivers can physically participate in a major part of both programs, if I am close enough and if my Premier -- Hawker Beechcraft Premier is fast enough, I'm anxious to be in both places as I can where I did on Saturday night.

I was ready to go to Nashville; I was ready to go on Friday if I could have talked the drivers into it, but they thought they needed to stay in Pocono and prepare themselves for the Cup race on Friday and not lose two nights of sleep -- a full night's sleep before they'd have the Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Pocono.

So they made a good decision. We would have made the trip if it suited their purpose, and the result was certainly a good one.

Q: What do you give up at each racetrack? I mean, you're going to give up Saturday at Sonoma and Friday at Elkhart Lake. What do you give up by Carl not being there?

JACK ROUSH: Well, Carl will do what he can. He'll miss not only the practice on Saturday but some of it. My recollection is, and I haven't looked at the two schedules, I didn't look at it a couple weeks ago and I've forgotten exactly what I saw, but my recollection is he'll give up happy hour but he'll get the morning practice at Sonoma. And if they arrive with a car that is set up ideally and we have -- the road racing is different than the normal mile and a half and the short tracks that we've got on the schedule; you can practice at VIR in Virginia and you can practice at Road Atlanta near Atlanta in Georgia.

We've been to both places with our cars in preparation for going to Sears Point, and I think that we'll be in better shape than we would be at a normal mile and a half track given the fact that nobody else has had a chance to practice at Sears Point and everybody is taking relatively new cars that they've tested other places other than Sears Point.

So I don't think -- the result may be that the amount of qualifying practice that's done on Friday will probably will less for Carl than his focus on the setup. He may wind up not making qualifying attempts on Saturday and that may impact his qualifying time a little bit, but certainly I think that will not have a serious handicap we'll have to overcome. I'm real excited about our road race cars. I think our Ford Fusions are going to be very competitive. They tested well at Road Atlanta for recent tests, and I can't wait to get to Sears Point, and I think Carl will make a good effort to win the race in spite of his double duty.

Q: Could you speak to the Nationwide program -- there's been a lot of ups and downs, driver changes, crew chief changes that are ongoing right through this week. Could you review each team briefly, where they are and short-term where they're going to be, please?

JACK ROUSH: Well, we've got two things going on, maybe three things going on in the Nationwide program. First of all we've got Carl running for a championship, and he's had a consistent criticism of the car throughout the year. The cars don't turn well enough in the middle, and they're too loose off. The cars didn't have -- all four cars did not have that problem to the degree that they'd had it at Nashville, and we changed something in the car that we think will fix that.

So we think that Carl is going to be able to get back on track. He's racing for a championship, and Drew Blickensderfer is his crew chief that's very solid. Very happy with where that is going forward.

Paul Menard is racing in the Nationwide Series as a full-time guy for the benefit of his Cup program. He felt and his father felt as we sat and talked about the program that he would -- the experience he would get, the opportunity he would have, particularly on times when the Nationwide and the Cup race is on the same weekend on the same racetrack, on those locations it gives you more time on the tire to get experience with that, more time and practice for the lap and for the line. So his effort has -- it would be nice for him to win a championship. He's run all the races, but his effort is primarily to build the experience that's going to make him capitalize on his opportunities in the Sprint Cup program.

Colin Braun and Ricky Stenhouse are both guys, both youngsters in their young 20s that don't have a lot of experience that have got great potential, and we're really excited about their future. You never know with a young person what they're going to need to experience before they've got the maturity to be able to go on and do what they might. Colin and Ricky have both had more wrecks this year and more problems this year that were self-induced that were associated with their lack of experience. So we've had them in the cars, out of the cars, we've tried different crew chiefs as we've tried to figure out what we could do to accelerate the maturing process, and I think that we're on track with both.

It was unfortunate that Ricky spun out qualifying at Nashville and wasn't able to capitalize on the speed that he demonstrated in his car and race setup. He was probably better than he's been all year, as all four cars were I think better as a group than they've been all year, and it was a shame that he missed that and didn't qualify based on the fact he was outside the top three in points.

But the reason he was there was because he'd had so many wrecks. We've had a lot of skull sessions, we've had a lot of rapping our knuckles on the tabletops, we've had a lot of things to do to try to encourage the guys to mature at the absolute fastest race so we can finish the races, so we can let the crews have a chance to work on the cars, have the crew chiefs develop strategies that are not based on trying to finish the race but be able to compete effectively with the cars.

We're going to see a totally different result in the second half of the year for both those guys than we've seen in the first year, I guarantee you. Stay tuned, it's going to get better.

Q: You mentioned earlier about the new engine and the fact that it's been so long since there has been one. Talk about the roll-out of that this year. Would it have been possible to have more cars run the engine earlier in the year? Was that a question of inventory, or did you guys just want to test a few early? Talk about that process.

JACK ROUSH: Well, you know, as we've developed the engine, and I'm saying we, I played a relatively small part of in that, it was primarily Doug Yates and Dave Simon and the support group back in Dearborn. Dave Simon, the Ford engineer, is on-site here at the engine shop, but he's got a support group back in Michigan that helps purchase parts and helps to design parts and some of the research side of it, as well.

So anyway, they did a nice job defining the engine. The last test that NASCAR did of where the engines were in relation to one another was last fall, and they took -- that isn't true. It was this spring. They took engines after Atlanta and they tested them in the research center in Concord here, and they found that the Ford engine was as good as, if not the best engine that had been considered of all the engines that were being competed in the Sprint Cup Series.

So the engine did a nice job. Certainly it was durable. It was an opportunity to get better fuel economy and an opportunity to get better performance in the cooling area that the old engine didn't have in terms of its components, but it did an okay job.

As we went for the new engine of being, okay, here's the design, it meets NASCAR's parameters, it includes a science that we can bring to bear, finite data analysis and CFD for water flow and for airflow. A lot of the engineering tools that were used for the engine didn't exist when the engine was developed 25, 30 years ago.

Anyway, we worked on it. Here's the package, it's a nice package, it's what we want to have going forward for Ford. It's got all the parameters that NASCAR wants, and all these things need to be the same among all the manufacturers' engines, did the prototype parts, had some problems with the prototype parts with porosity and castings and with shifting some of the cores and some other things, and addressed those in the production tools, which are different than the tools you'd make a few parts out of to prove feasibility. And then of course you've got a different set of problems, a different set of porosity problems, a different set of wall thickness and consistency problems that occurs with the second set of tools. You've got to work your way through that, modify those tools, and then you've got to go back so that you've got enough miles on them to say that we're sure we didn't miss it, there's not a stress riser here that we lost track of, there's not a fastener that's undersized, there's not a gasket that will give us a problem.

So that's a reason they rolled it out slow as far as volunteering to say, hey, we're running a limited program, we'd like to have the new engine first, we think it should and could be better. Let us prove feasibility on it and go from there.

Once we started to get positive results from there, which came from the information coming from the Wood Brothers' use of the engine, then we started to speed up the production for the various components so that we could have substantial and significant quantities of things to be able to make a roll-out of the thing for all the teams.

And after MIS to the best of my knowledge the only time that we plan to run the 452 engine, which is the prior engine, is at Sears Point, possibly Watkins Glen, and I'm not for sure about Watkins Glen, but for sure the Sears Point will have the old engine. From that point on we think we've got sufficient quantities. Certainly we have the success and all the testing to indicate that that is the engine for us to run the balance of the year and under any scenario -- I cannot imagine a scenario when it comes time, Chase time, where we've got three, four, five, six Fords that we can have in the Chase that we'll have certainly ample quantities of engines. We've got great confidence with the new FR9 to go compete for a championship.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Drivers Bill Elliott , Matt Kenseth , Greg Biffle , Colin Braun , Richard Petty , Paul Menard , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush , Brad Keselowski , Felix Sabates
Teams Wood Brothers Racing