Roush Racing Has Early Season Success

Plenty to be proud of at Roush Racing By Shawn A. Akers MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 31, 1999) Jack Roush has plenty to be proud of with the early-season success of his Roush Racing drivers. Jack Roush isn't one to rest on his laurels, but the...

Plenty to be proud of at Roush Racing By Shawn A. Akers

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 31, 1999) Jack Roush has plenty to be proud of with the early-season success of his Roush Racing drivers. Jack Roush isn't one to rest on his laurels, but the Roush Racing owner sure has had a lot to smile about in the first few weeks of the 1999 NASCAR campaign. Through the first six races of the NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, Roush's drivers have already totalled three victories. And four Roush pilots own spots in the top-20 in the standings -- Jeff Burton, Mark Martin, Chad Little and Johnny Benson. Roush's other driver, Kevin Lepage, is 28th.

Hendrick Motorsports is the only other team that has won in the series this season (Jeff Gordon twice and Terry Labonte once).

If that wasn't enough, Burton and Martin, under the Roush Racing banner, have combined for three victories in the first six races of the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division season as well. And to show how dominant Burton has been in both venues, the South Boston, Va., native leads the point standings after six races -- in both divisions.

Providing the icing on the season for Roush so far was his 200th victory as a team owner in a career that has encompassed everything from drag racing to sports cars -- with stock cars and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series vehicles thrown in most recently.

"Obviously, we are really pleased with most of what's happened this year," said Burton, the driver of the No. 99 Exide Batteries Taurus, whose NASCAR Winston Cup Series victories have come at Las Vegas and at Darlington. "My problem is I tend to focus on where we need to improve.

"(Crew chief) Frank (Stoddard), (team manager) Buddy (Parrott), and I are working hard with the team to improve on our three main goals, which are improve our pit stops, improve our qualifying and to run more consistently. If we can continue to improve in those areas than we should have a successful season. We can't win a championship this early but we can lose one."

Burton leads the NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings by a mere two points over Bobby Labonte. He began the season with a disappointing 35th-place run in the Daytona 500, but has since finished 4th, 1st, 4th, 1st and 7th in the subsequent five events.

Incredible as it sounds, too, is the fact that Burton heads up the NASCAR Busch Series standings by eight points over Matt Kenseth, despite Burton not even participating in the Yellow Freight 300 at Atlanta.

Martin has been to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series once in 1999, at Rockingham. He has, however, hit a couple of bumps in the road and is currently 6th in the standings.

After a 31st-place finish to start the season at Daytona due to an accident, he earned four straight top-10 finishes before getting involved in an accident and finishing 34th last weekend at Texas.

"I didn't want to get wrecked at Daytona, but on the flip side, I certainly didn't expect to win Rockingham," said Martin, the driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Taurus. "We couldn't run with Jeff Burton at Las Vegas where I thought I would have a shot to win. Then we had the mystery seven-cylinder problem that we never figured out what happened.

"That cost us about 25 points. I was thrilled at Atlanta with a third-place finish after we almost went a lap down early in the race due to handling problems. So far we've had some good surprises and bad surprises. I would give the Valvoline/Cummins team an 'A for their effort, and I would give our results a 'B.'"

Martin's success in the NASCAR Busch Series over his career certainly hasn't wavered in 1999. He has driven to Victory Lane at Las Vegas and most recently last weekend at Texas. He's only 11 points behind Burton in the standings, but will most likely, along with Burton, fall behind after not running this Saturday's race at Nashville.

Little has also shown, for the most part, a great deal of consistency for Roush early in 1999. The driver of the No. 97 John Deere Taurus is currently 12th in the standings with two top-10 finishes and four top-15 runs.

"We came into this season with high expectations," Little said. "We felt after last year's 15th-place finish in the points, we were a legitimate contender for a top-10 finish this year. We've approached each race this season with that attitude and it's made a big difference in our performance.

"We fell out of the top-10 two weeks ago, but we feel that consistency will allow us to climb right back in the thick of things. We're only five points out of 10th place, and if we can step it up a notch at the end of every race, we will be able to separate ourselves from the middle of the pack."

Benson, driver of the No. 26 Cheerios Taurus, has encountered problems with qualifying early, with the exception of Darlington, when he qualified second for the TranSouth Financial 400. Benson is currently 18th in the standings, with a season-high finish of 11th in the PRIMESTAR 500 at Texas last Sunday.

Things have been a bit tougher for Lepage in the early going. The driver of the No. 16 PRIMESTAR Taurus began the season with an encouraging 13th-place run at Daytona, but has had only one top-20 finish since (19th at Atlanta). Lepage has finished 40th or lower twice already this season (42nd at Rockingham and 41st at Texas).

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Johnny Benson , Chad Little , Jack Roush , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports