Roush Team Make Historic Statement

Roush Teams Make Historic Statement By Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 2, 1998) - Any questions concerning the wisdom of Jack Roush's decision to expand his NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing empire to five teams for the 1998...

Roush Teams Make Historic Statement By Dave Rodman - NASCAR Online

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (March 2, 1998) - Any questions concerning the wisdom of Jack Roush's decision to expand his NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing empire to five teams for the 1998 season were answered Sunday in the inaugural Las Vegas 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Roush's five drivers -- led by race winner Mark Martin -- all finished in the top-10, equaling a mark that historians believe was last achieved more than 40 years ago by car owner Peter Depaolo.

Roush's scorecard at Las Vegas' 1.5-mile oval counted Martin's No. 6 Valvoline Taurus in first, Jeff Burton's No. 99 Exide Batteries car in second, Johnny Benson's No. 26 Cheerios ride in fourth, Ted Musgrave's No. 16 PRIMESTAR car in sixth and Chad Little's No. 97 John Deer Ford -- a back-up car after the primary was wrecked in practice Saturday -- in 10th, the last car on the lead lap.

In 1956, DePaolo's juggernaut, which was the forerunner of the awesome Holman-Moody combination, placed five cars in the top-10 in a Nov. 18 race at Wilson (N.C.) Speedway. Joe Weatherly finished second, Fireball Roberts was fourth, Bill Amick fifth, Billy Carden seventh and Ralph Moody eighth.

The performance of his cars, as well as the Taurus' sweep of the top-seven positions and 13 of the top 14 spots, makes it realistic that Roush could equal another mark DePaolo's team established, when Roberts, Curtis Turner, Marvin Panch and Moody swept the top-four spots at Titusville, Fla., in December of the same year.

Roush said there was no question in his mind about doing the five-car operation, or about juggling the make-up of the three teams he had in his arsenal a year ago.

"We worked ourselves into that (five teams) by looking at the individual opportunities and saying this is something we had to do. We have the capacity so there was a reasonable reason to believe we could do it. We made more changes (moving Martin's and Burton's team into the same facility) because Mark and Jeff work so well together.

"There is some risk involved, too, but this certainly is a relief to him (Martin) to be able to win this race now and not have to answer any more questions about that. To have all five cars running well gives me the same relief."

Among the changes Roush made were putting Steve Hmiel in a general manager's role in one phase of his operation rather than working primarily with Martin. Buddy Parrott was elevated into the same position overseeing Martin's and Burton's cars.

"After three years of working with that (previous) format we had kind of maxed-out," Roush said. "Steve Hmiel is not out of the picture. In fact, the car Mark raced at Daytona was a complete Steve Hmiel car. What Mark and Steve have done has made the 99 car's a case of more energy being brought into the whole situation."

As well as they finished in the race, the final results were not always a sure thing for the Roush entourage. Little crashed in morning practice Saturday after getting tangled up with Bobby Hamilton, and Benson lost a lap when he pitted on lap 80 to change all four tires, including one that had been cut.

On the restart following a lap 89 caution, Benson immediately jumped ahead of leader Ward Burton to get back on the same lap. Martin clawed into the lead a couple laps later, but never passed Benson and, when the second and final caution came out on lap 114, Benson was back on the lead lap. Benson survived a spin entering the pits on lap 228 for his fourth-place finish.

"What Mark said was that if he passed Johnny and Johnny didn't hold him up he'd give him his lap back if a caution came out," Roush said, describing what he called a typical occurrence, and not just among teammates. "But don't forget, Johnny had already led the race, so he had a strong car."

The turn of events recalled last year's DeVilbiss 400 at Michigan Speedway, in which Burton slowed to allow Martin to get back on the lead lap coming to a caution. Martin went on to win that race.

"This is why we joined up, to run one-two," Burton said. "I think we got all five cars in the top-10 -- that's a helluva feat. It's hard to finish in the top-20 with five cars, much less the top-10. I'm real proud of everybody."

Little was nearly beside himself after the event. "I've had three top-10s in my career," he said, "and now I've had two in the last three races with Roush!"

Martin, meanwhile, may have to fight Benson off in the future rather than cutting him courtesies.

"Johnny Benson is gonna win a race this season," the driver of the No. 6 said emphatically.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Ward Burton , Bobby Hamilton , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Chad Little , Marvin Panch , Jack Roush , Mark Martin