Roush Racing Charlotte Media Tour, part 2

Continued from part 1 WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY WITH CHANGES TO YOUR TEAMS? JACK ROUSH: "If I understood the question for the matter of making changes within a team am I the ultimate, I try to be a consensus builder. There are times when I'll say...

Continued from part 1

WHO HAS THE FINAL SAY WITH CHANGES TO YOUR TEAMS?

JACK ROUSH: "If I understood the question for the matter of making changes within a team am I the ultimate, I try to be a consensus builder. There are times when I'll say things that will make somebody mad or that will challenge them, so they'll really tell me what they think and we look for strength of argument and we look for a consensus among the people that are closer to it than I am most days. I just need to try to figure out what the crew chiefs as a group and the general managers individually think needs to be done, and as long as I don't see something wrong with it. The senior guy here (Biffle) is gonna have a lot to say (laughing). If you're a driver like David Ragan and is just getting started or you're a driver like Carl Edwards, I want to say something about Carl here and he may throw his microphone at me, but in 2005, Carl didn't have a lot of room to make decisions on his own. In 2006 I stepped back and the team stepped back and Carl, as he got his legs under him, he was able to go out and do things that he wouldn't have undertaken in 2005. So part of that business of growing up is a matter of figuring out for yourself what the boundaries are and what the limits are and the difference between what you know is right and what you can justify as being the right thing at that time. So there's a combination of say Greg as a for instance, had final say on what his team was as did Jamie and the circumstance we were in with him, but there are all levels of different involvement for me. But the easiest thing for me is to not have to make a decision, but to let the decision be made by the people that are close and, of course, the drivers, once they get the experience to understand the consequences and the benefit of the things they might do, then to line up behind them and just give them what they need."

ARE YOU SATISIFIED WITH TOYOTA THAT NASCAR CAN KEEP THE PLAYING FIELD LEVEL FROM A TECHNICAL STANDPOINT?

JACK ROUSH: "They certainly recognize that as a problem -- the technological capabilities and the amount of challenge they're gonna see. I regard the car of tomorrow as being primarily NASCAR's initiative to limit the amount of dollars that can be spent on technology and the benefit that will come from it. The cars are centerline cars right now. You can't offset the front end. A lot of the adjustment that could be made to the car of today, and I'll just pick on two of my guys, Greg and Jamie McMurray have demonstrated to me that they don't want to drive the same car. They want different offsets in their front ends. They want different aerodynamic functional characteristics of the car. The cars are not gonna have that variability and there's gonna be winners and losers among the drivers. There are gonna be drivers saying, 'Man, this car is just fine. I can do my business with it,' and there are gonna be others that say, 'Boy, I just need to have more torque in the aerodynamic aspect of it as I enter the corner, or less,' and they're all gonna be within a very narrow range. They're all gonna be the same and the ability we've had to change those things, to suit the preference of the driver, we're not gonna have. But at the same time that I think that's a real detriment, the difficulty of saying what can you go spend your money with on rolling ground plane, wind tunnels and four-tenth-scale wind tunnels and all that, the benefit from that is gonna be less. So NASCAR is gonna be in a position, say if it's a five-car, multiple-car team, there are some obvious advantages that we've got over a one-car team and those advantages will be diminished by the car of today. But as far as the size staff they've got, gosh, I wouldn't look forward to having more inspectors looking at me and the guys and our cars."

ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH THE HORSEPOWER OF THE ENGINES?

JACK ROUSH: "We've got a great relationship with Robert and Doug Yates with putting our engines together. The reason we did that was anticipating the problem of the challenge that Toyota would bring or Honda would bring or whoever the next manufacturer would come in and try to buy their way into the sport, either with technology or with money that they've made elsewhere. The horsepower business -- the engine Toyota had initially in trucks, they can't take Cup racing. It's a diminished engine as they do that. And on the heels of the car of tomorrow, everybody is gonna have to change their engine again. We've got an engine change that's gonna occur in the next 24 months that's gonna obsolete all of our engines. By the way, our engines are gonna have parameters that will let them make more power based on the fact that our engine design really has not changed significantly from the deck height and the bore centers and the camshaft position and the cooling, it hasn't changed since back in the late seventies or early eighties. The engine that Chevrolet has today. The engine that Toyota has today. The engine that Chrysler has today are all engines that have been generated from a clean sheet of paper within very broad, wide-open parameters that NASCAR has given. So they're gonna pull that back the same as they're doing the limitations in the car with the car of tomorrow, they're gonna do the same thing with the engine and it's gonna result in a lot of obsolescence, but with the friends I've got on the other side and the talent of Robert and Doug, I'm not at all terrified on what we're gonna be able to do engine-wise."

DOES IT FEEL WEIRD NOT TO HAVE MARK AROUND?

MATT KENSETH: "I was just talking to Greg actually when we sat down. I was looking at the pictures on the wall behind all you guys and I was looking at the one from 2000 and I told Greg, I said, 'We're the only ones left here as drivers.' When you look at that picture, so with Jeff and Kurt and Mark being gone certainly, we've done great things. I think Mark and Jeff have really helped -- Jack will even tell you that Mark is a huge part of Roush Racing. Roush Racing probably wouldn't be exactly what it is today without him, so it's definitely different without him here, but yet we knew sooner or later he was gonna step back. We thought it was gonna be a lot sooner than what it actually was and he had the opportunity to go do something he wanted to do on a part-time basis, so, yeah, it's gonna be weird without him here, but yet we're gonna see him around the garage all the time and I think he's always gonna feel like a teammate even if he's not racing here.

GREG BIFFLE: "Yeah, it's definitely different not having Mark and certainly we were sort of halfway prepared for it because we thought he was gonna be missing in action a year before he actually ended stepping back some, so it was kind of nice actually getting the extra year to race with him, but, like Matt said, he's in a part-time program, which maybe he's looking forward to spending some more time doing other things, but we'll still get to see him around the garage and I think that's the main thing. We'll see him some, so it's definitely gonna be different."

JACK ROUSH: "Mark is a dear friend and if he hadn't have brought his enthusiasm and the judgments that he had on what he thought he needed back in the late eighties and early nineties, we certainly wouldn't have progressed to the point that we are today. Jeff Burton, who isn't here anymore also, had a lot to do with laying the groundwork in the things I was able to do for and with him and had a great determination on what we are today, but with Greg coming and Matt coming and, of course, Carl and Jamie and everybody that's gonna follow them, there's a great future for us and I couldn't be happier or more proud of the history we've had with Mark. Mark made it clear to me as he let me know what he wanted to do that he wanted to remain my friend and he would take a phone call from me anytime, day or night, on any subject that suited my purpose -- technical or personal. The first call that I got at New Year's was from Mark Martin wishing me and the team luck as we went forward. Of course, it was a surprise to me. I didn't realize that negotiations were occurring, but I think it was a 30-second discussion between Torrey and Geoff Smith and Robin (Johnson) and the guys with Mark to discuss his coming back and running a couple of Busch races. He was excited about that and he has told me that if I had room for him in a truck, that he'd like to drive a truck again too. He's real excited about what he's gonna do with Bobby Ginn and with the MB2 guys as they look at building their program, and he thinks he can be beneficial to that to a great extent than he could have additional effect on our program. I would be happier if I would have had a chance to negotiate for that same circumstance myself. I don't know that I could have done for him what he's having done in his other part-time program, but certainly the personal relationship has not diminished. We're gonna miss him, but he won't be far away and we can reach out and touch him if we need to."

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU CLICK WITH A CREW CHIEF?

GREG BIFFLE: "I've watched Pat (Tryson) for some time. I paid attention to what he was doing and I like Pat's style -- the way he works on the race cars, always watching them through the wind tunnel. They're the first ones in line for practice every week. His team is organized and I liked the way that Pat operated. It was a crew chief inside our company already that made it a lot easier transition and it was one I was happy with. Pat and I have hit it off fairly well and I'm looking forward to getting the season start. One thing that I felt was real positive is the brand new car we built and took to the wind tunnel for Las Vegas, he was completely disappointed about. He said it was terrible and, 'I'm not gonna take that race car.' So he hustled and got another one finished up and got it to the wind tunnel and the numbers were within his standards, he was happy with it and that's the car we're gonna take to Las Vegas -- the second car -- to test with and that kind of dedication to not being satisfied with something -- wanting to have the best -- that's the kind of person I like to work with and I think we're gonna have a good season together."

CAN YOU PAINT THE FINANCIAL PICTURE OF A RACE TEAM AT THIS POINT AND IS IT TOYOTA FORCING YOU TO LOOK FOR AN OUTSIDE INVESTOR TO HELP TAKE THINGS UP TO THE NEXT LEVEL?

JACK ROUSH: "Anticipating the challenges that Toyota was gonna bring with regard to the financial structure -- the way the business works -- I think that things will stabilize and neutralize over a period of time. NASCAR will not let things stay out of whack for very long. They'll find ways to diminish the effect of money that is spent as time goes on, but if they do take an initiative and if it is something that hasn't been anticipated or the extent to which they do it may be beyond expectation, it's gonna take some time for things to adjust and considering a partner that brings in some more energy. The one thing about, of course the partner we're talking to is the Fenway Sports Group and John Henry, and they've got millions of sports fans in the northeast that are not a hotbed for NASCAR interest. We've got the opportunity to attract the attention now for our sponsors and for our drivers and, for that matter, for all of NASCAR, a lot more energy to the things we're doing. That could offset some of the financial energy that a company like Toyota could bring as they bring the resources that they have not garnered from the sport, but from the success of their automobile business elsewhere. John Henry is a great guy. Of course anybody that has watched the Red Sox has been, I think, impressed with their tenacity and the way they've dealt with their frustration over a period of time and they have been eventually prevail. Well, he's behind that. He understands how hard it is. How hard you have to try to do something that's really difficult in sport and he's real unique in that regard. For me to have a chance to be able to bounce the ideas that we'd have and the strategies we might be considering -- to bounce them off Greg and Matt and Carl and Jamie and everybody else, that's super to do that, but to have somebody else that has got more skin in the game in terms of their financial interest, and to get their perspective, is gonna be comforting to me. Sometimes I'm just not sure what to do. You ask the business managers and the financial people and do a survey of the sponsors and it's just not clear, and to have another guy I'm standing shoulder to shoulder with that can give me his perspective from another point of view will be great fun."

WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY AS AN OWNER?

JACK ROUSH: "What I would do as a manufacturer, of course, is different than what I would do as an owner, but as an owner my strategy -- I came here in '88 -- was to identify some vertically mobile and exceptionally competitive and enable people with the right skill sets. Of course those people were Mark Martin to drive the car. He was frustrated and he was able and he was motivated and, of course, Robin Pemberton, who had grown up in the Petty organization to be a crew chief and he came from DiGard and was at odds there or at least had prerogatives there, and Steve Hmiel, who of course now is an important part of the Earnhardt organization. But I identified people that I thought had the skill sets and the judgment to not only help me make decisions that would be technically correct, but were also politically astute and knowledgeable with the rhythms of NASCAR racing. I really hadn't been close enough. That was just my judgment that's that what I needed to do. And, of course in addition to that, there was the money. I made a nest egg. As I started, I had enough money that I had garnered away from my engineering business that I could race for two years without sponsorship based on the spending levels that I'd expected. There's no way for somebody to come in that says, 'I've got all this ambition, motivation, and commitment and personal energy to do this thing.' You've got to have great people that are knowledgeable and you've got to have enough money on your own to get the thing started. I look at drivers that come in. Pete Shepherd, down at the other end there, we took him last year down to Martinsville and he did just an awesome job. He was 19 years old with almost no experience and he was in the top of the 25 people we had there, he was in the top two or three right on the track. I asked him, I said, 'Pete, have you been around a track like this? Have you been to Martinsville?' And Pete said, 'No, I'd never been there.' I said, 'What have you done?' He says, 'Well, this is the biggest race track I've ever been on.' So my next question was, 'OK, Pete. Who has been buying your tires?' He said, 'We've got a deal with Canadian Tire,' and this and that. I said, 'No, no, no. Before you started getting your legs under you, who bought your tires,' and he said, 'My grand dad did.' As an owner, you've got to have money that you made some place else, that you're willing to put at risk, and as a driver getting started you've got to have somebody that makes an investment in you. Just wanting to do it is necessary, but it's certainly not sufficient. In terms of a manufacturer and what I'd recommend to somebody like Toyota that would come in, I'm naturally supportive of Chevrolet and Dodge and Ford and the people that have been traditionally been there. If a new manufacturer comes in and has the prospect of decreasing the viability of their traditional involvement, and NASCAR would let that happen, I think that's a mistake for our sport and it's not good for everybody that's involved. But for Toyota to come and Honda to come and Nissan, and for GM to open up their product lines and let Buick and Oldsmobile and Pontiac to race with us again, all of that is just great stuff. If it's done in a manner that doesn't upset the financial business, where the businesses still work for the sponsors and work for the teams and work for the drivers and everybody at work -- if that balance is upset, then there's chaos. If a manufacturer is able to bring that on us, then it'll be some time before we're able to re-establish an equilibrium and let things really be predictable."

TOYOTA HAS COME INTO SOME OTHER FORMS OF RACING AND SPENT A GREAT DEAL OF MONEY LIKE IN FORMULA ONE AND STILL HASN'T WON A RACE, SO WHY ARE YOU SO SCARED OF WHAT THEY'LL DO HERE?

JACK ROUSH: "Did I say I was scared? I'm long on the feud and I don't back away from a good fight if it's for a good reason. Why am I so worried? If they want to come back and at the end of Greg's or Matt's contract with me and if they want to offer them twice as much money, which they've got the ability to do, then I've got to go back and say that my business, on the very best scenario, is a three to five percent profitable business. So if I've got to come back and have an influx of money coming from another direction that causes me to operate in the red in terms of what I have to spend versus what I'm able to raise, if I have to go 20 percent upside-down, then I'm faced with the same scenario that I did when I came in in 1988 -- how long can I stay and what's my confidence it's gonna turn around? So the competitive side, the technical side or even the matter of the human side. Greg or Matt or Jamie or Carl going forward are not gonna want to be part of this unless I do things to support them. I know when John Reiser was alive and we were up to our last contract with Matt and thinking about what Robbie wanted to do, the reason they made their decision as they told me was that I would get for them whatever they needed. Well, I may not be able to do that if the stakes raise beyond my means. If there's some anxiety, that's the only anxiety I've got. The fact that they have doubled what other teams have traditionally spent in Formula One. What does that mean to me in the short-term? That means it's gonna be potentially different, but the idea of having me work as hard as the guy that's got my job in one of the ownerships of the other team, they're not gonna outwork me on things that I recognize as important. The effort that we will make to keep our drivers happy and to avail ourselves with the technologies, nobody is gonna make a greater effort than that. I expect to hand Toyota their head over the short-term, and then it's just a matter of what happens in the long-term as it relates to where they spend their money and the kind of upset it makes in the way we do our business."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jamie McMurray , David Ragan , Mark Martin