Continued from part 1 Q: I've got a couple here for you. You said that you'd flown over Michigan Speedway. Are you still actively involved in flying right now? JACK ROUSH: You know, I had a wreck in my airplane, an airplane accident in 2002,...
Continued from part 1
Q: I've got a couple here for you. You said that you'd flown over Michigan Speedway. Are you still actively involved in flying right now?
JACK ROUSH: You know, I had a wreck in my airplane, an airplane accident in 2002, on my 60th birthday, and people asked me how I recovered from that. Well, I've recovered fully. They ask me, do you fly, and I say, well I don't fly any more but I don't fly any less, either.
It's the only time I have a chance to get in an airplane and go experience the miracle of flight. I do that. But I flew -- last Thursday I flew over MIS in my 1943 P51B model, and at about 5:00 o'clock not everybody was gone but I could see that the seats were pretty much completed and the final preparations were being made in the racetrack for the upcoming MIS race.
But I fly over the racetrack. It's part of my normal tour of looking the countryside over and checking on some of my friends, some of the grass strips around. I do that once a week in the summertime and twice a week if I'm lucky and try to do it a couple times a month in the wintertime.
Q: Is that sort of like your playing golf or going bowling or whatever, is that your relaxation time?
JACK ROUSH: Well, I've got a detached rotator cuff in my right shoulder and they pretty much don't want to do surgery on me again. I've had it fixed once before, so that pretty much took care of my bowling. I don't know if I could swing a golf club with good effect, but since I haven't done that, in my advanced age I'm pretty sure I'd be worse at that than the other things I've tried to do in my life from a sports point of view.
I've done a lot of fishing. My father was a fisherman. We've done a lot of fishing.
My avocation, my recreation, is aviation. My company has a repair station for the Rolls Royce built, Rolls Royce designed, Packard built P-51 Merlin engine of the '40s, so an FAA-approved repair station for that. I work closely with the other enthusiasts. There's about 150 of the airplanes that fly in air shows and things, and I work supporting that group, and I enjoy being a pilot and a test pilot.
A lot of the times -- I flew over Lake Norman last evening here out of Concord, and it was a test flight for my P-51. It was off to an air show with somebody else flying it in Reading, Pennsylvania. On the weekend there was a reported radio problem and I had to go check all my radios out and make sure I didn't have any avionics issue that needed to be addressed so gave me my excuse to got flying at sunset over Lake Norman. It was wonderful.
Q: Turning the corner really fast here, when you guys get to Daytona for the Coke Zero 400, it's going to be the last race on the old racing surface. Do you have a sentimental bone in your body about stuff like this because you've won a lot of races at Daytona on that pavement?
JACK ROUSH: Well, we haven't won as many as we'd like to. In NASCAR I've won only three times down there, once at the 500 and two at the Coke 400-mile in July. But I did win 14 times in road race cars. So I've enjoyed the racetrack, both the road racetrack as well as the high banks.
The thing that I get from my drivers, which I've never driven a car at Daytona at speed, but the thing I get from the drivers is they like the racetrack when it doesn't have a lot of grip. They like it when you go down in the corner and you have to fight traction on the car and tire adhesion and it does some slipping and sliding because it gives them a chance to better themselves in relation to everybody else.
If the racetrack has got a lot of grip, if a tire has got a lot of grip, then you can be off on your setup, you can be braver than Dick Tracy, and there's not as much that separates you from the entire field.
I think that most people don't look forward to the new surface. They would rather have an old surface to race on. But it's certainly no fun to have the surface deteriorate as it did in February when we had to stop the race and patch part of it and had maybe the result of some of the cars even impacted by having a problem either running through the bumps with their suspension or having the asphalt come up and actually do damage to the car from an aerodynamics point of view.
On the one hand you'd like to have the racetrack not be a problem and the surface to be smooth, and that's great. On the other hand, you'd like for it to have enough challenge to it from a slipping and sliding point of view that the drivers could display their wares and their skill and their strategies of their crew chiefs to their advantage and separate themselves from everybody else in the field or most of the cars in the field.
The next race we have, if the racetrack doesn't come apart again, will be one of the best races in recent memory that we'll have at Daytona because it will be hot and the tires will slip based on the time of the year.
And as we go to a new surface, it'll be smoother. There will be great apprehension on Goodyear's part on what the track is going to require for tires and what will it put up with, and it'll be a concern that the drivers have that the cars even when they miss a setup a little bit will still be able to be right there with them on their corner and be hard to pass.
Q: Would you like to have a piece of the old surface?
JACK ROUSH: That would be interesting, yeah, a piece of the old surface would be good. If somebody would cube it up and put it in a piece of plastic for me, I'd find a place for it on my wall of treasures. That would be interesting. I don't know that I would enjoy it or it would have as much interest as a brick out of the original Indy 500 track, which I didn't get that. But yeah, a piece of asphalt off the Daytona Speedway would be good.
Q: And then the other question is when you guys get back here in February, it's basically a new track.
JACK ROUSH: Yeah, it's going to be a new track. I don't know what Goodyear has planned for tires. I'd be surprised if they don't bring a harder tire that's got a different construction. My guess is -- I feel rather certain that we'll have an opportunity to test at Daytona, and it may be before or after they've made the tire choice. It may be in advance of even knowing what tire it's going to be.
But there's certainly question marks that you normally don't have, at least in a year like this when there has been very little change in the car for the last several years.
But I guess come to think of it, we're going to have our first run at the car with the spoiler at Daytona, so that's also going to make that a little different. I think most people like the spoiler over the wing for some of the characteristics of the car as well as the fact that the car looks more conventional, more traditional.
Q: You know, I've been sort of impressed with Carl Edwards because I know how aggressive and competitive he is, and yet he seems on behalf of the whole team not to have gone crazy over this whole thing of performance, and I think for a driver, especially a young guy, that's really hard. I wonder if that's a seed that you sowed in him or if you've noticed that, but through the not winning and whatnot he seems to be the one kind of holding everyone from getting too frustrated.
JACK ROUSH: I think everybody has pretty much done a good job not getting frustrated. Carl has obviously matured in the last four or five years that he's been with our program, four years I guess it's been. He's gone from being brash and if not ruthless, certainly overenthusiastic in some of his actions on the track, and he's matured into being a card-carrying senior guy now.
Anybody that stays in this business very long understands that you can't be in the top all the time. What you do is you have a problem. If you anticipate a problem, you fix it before it becomes serious. If you don't anticipate it when it comes up, you fix it. And you have to have confidence in the people that you're with and with the organizations that support you that you're doing the right thing, and I think he does that. Matt has certainly been a good soldier, Greg Biffle has done a nice job. David Ragan has done a nice job, and Carl all have done a nice job. But they look forward to winning races and look forward to maintaining their position or getting in the Chase as the case might be.
Q: When you struggle there is that fine line between making changes that are needed and while you're looking for the answers being patient, and that is such a hard thing to try to figure out. When do you change? When do you leave it alone and search for the answers? How do you figure that out?
JACK ROUSH: Well, let me tell you what my schedule was in happier times and easier times. I would spend one day in North Carolina doing administrative things that I had to do and two days in Michigan, either bouncing grandbabies or getting my battery charged and getting ready to go to the next race.
My schedule now is a solid two days in North Carolina. This week I'll be three days in North Carolina just as I'm looking the guys in the eyes and said, okay, are we missing something here, has anybody seen something that they think is different or revolutionary. We've reviewed spy pictures off satellites from Pocono of other cars at various places on the racetrack. We saw some things. Those things will be reflected in our cars at Michigan.
But the thing that we need, the thing that the guys are being patient for is for us to get our simulations organized to the point that we can arrive at the racetrack with a setup in the car that is going to be close, and the extent to which our setups have not been close as we arrived based on the lack of testing and the uncompetitiveness of our simulations has resulted in the frustration that everybody has had. But we think we see light at the end of the tunnel.
One of the other things I had discussions with NASCAR about last weekend was the idea of letting some of the testing come back. Right now if you don't have a simulation that's as good as the next man's simulation, it doesn't matter how good your driver is or how able your crew chief is or how good your engine is; you just can't get around the racetrack. And until you sort out what you need at that racetrack, you're playing from a position of disadvantage.
I encouraged NASCAR. They're certainly listening. I think that we'd have less reliance on our simulations and on the technicians that are behind the scenes if we were able to go to some of the racetracks and be able to test on the tire at the track in close proximity to the race, that this sensitivity to and this importance of all the simulations will be diminished.
Q: And finally, how much testing would you want to see? I mean, what do you propose?
JACK ROUSH: I would propose something between eight and time times per team. If a team had between eight and ten vouchers, that would give you a chance to test at all the racetracks, at all the different kinds of tracks, the short tracks, the intermediates, the restrictor tracks, and the road race tracks, that would give you a chance to test at all those with every driver and every car enough so that every crew chief would have for himself his idea of what he needed and not just have to rely on the simulations that the engineers would propose.
Q: From a distance it certainly seems like there's been a lot of incidents on the track and certainly a lot of drivers confronting each other in the garage after races. The question I wanted to ask you if there is more edgy racing this season, if it's a more edgy season, or if this is just par for the NASCAR course during a season?
JACK ROUSH: Well, what NASCAR wants to do and what the fans want to see is the absolute most contentious circumstance between people that have got passion and ability and motivation to be able to get the prize, to be able to either make the Chase, to be able to win a championship, to be able to win a race, to get a pole, to be able to do all those things. And when people care enough and they're involved enough and it's contentious enough, there's hurt feelings and there's aggression displayed.
One of the things that happens is that when somebody puts a foot wrong, there's always consequences, or many times there's consequences beyond that person's expectation and beyond their imagination. And as a for instance, had A.J. Allmendinger realized by blocking Kasey Kahne at Pocono he was going to cause Kasey to wreck and then wreck half the field behind him, he certainly would not have done that. But because he cared so much, because he wanted to have that eighth place or ninth place finish versus finishing 10th or 11th, he went down and blocked and something bad happened.
Happily they didn't wind up in a hairball and Foster Gillette did not wind up in the NASCAR trailer, but there were other instances where people did get frustrated.
But it makes it interesting. It's real, it's not staged. This is not World Wrestling Association. It's real, and when people care as much as they care and try as hard as they try, emotions spill over, and I think it makes interesting entertainment as well as it's real competition.
Q: So that have-at-it philosophy is a good thing for NASCAR?
JACK ROUSH: When NASCAR looked at what they needed to do to stimulate more interest in the fans, to sell more tickets, to have better TV viewership, they thought they should let the drivers take the gloves off, not that they should roll around on the ground but they should be more free to express themselves, they should be more willing or more able to make a decision on the racetrack that might result in something that's questionable than if they made a questionable move, put a wheel on and caused somebody else to have to wreck and have to sit a race out, as one scenario; then you lose your sponsor and you lose your ride and you lose your interest in doing that at that level.
So they wanted to take the commercial aspect out of it. They wanted to take the oversight aspect off of it and say as true sportsmen what would you guys do to be able to win, and we're going to let you have an opportunity to do that based on not telling you you can or can't do these things in advance.
Certainly NASCAR racing and the competition that goes with it has got to be good, wholesome family entertainment. We're not going to make a brawl out of it. But to have people express their emotions and show their frustration is not something that I think is a bad thing. I think it's okay.
Q: About David Ragan and his team, your other three guys are in the top 10. David finished 13th two years ago, almost made the Chase. Do you see him making progress or are things kind of stalled?
JACK ROUSH: Well, David certainly showed great opportunity, great ability early on. I actually after the race at Pocono on Sunday, David flew with me in the copilot seat beside me as we traversed the thunderstorms coming back into the Charlotte area on Sunday night. So I had a couple of hours with David in the car and in the airplane to really talk about what his frustrations were and what his hopes were for the year.
David is extraordinarily skilled. He's patient, he's mature beyond his years, and he deserves better, and we will achieve better success for him than he's had.
He has not yet been able to pass Carl or Greg or Matt, but he's still junior in experience, and when you have a problem with our cars or we've got a problem with something in our program, as we do with our simulations right now, David is more susceptible to that than the others. But as we get ourselves straightened out, as we get that aspect of our program stronger, I am very hopeful that David can compete for a spot in the Chase as he did two years ago and win a race this year.
DENISE MALOOF: Jack, thanks so much for your time today. We appreciate it, and good luck this weekend.