The Ford Five - Week 6 of the Chase

The Ford Five - Week 6 of the Chase for the Championship October 17, 2005 Jack Roush has recorded 86 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins since joining the ranks of car owners in 1988. Roush, who has consecutive series championships and all five of...

The Ford Five - Week 6 of the Chase for the Championship
October 17, 2005

Jack Roush has recorded 86 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins since joining the ranks of car owners in 1988. Roush, who has consecutive series championships and all five of his drivers in this year's Chase for the Nextel Cup, was Monday's guest on the Ford Five teleconference.

JACK ROUSH , Car Owner - Roush Racing Tauruses

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW YOU STAND IN THE CHASE RIGHT NOW? "We were extraordinarily fortunate in the way things broke for us in 2003 and 2004. I've expected to have a turn of fortunes that would not be good for my team and I was right on that, and I just hope it evens out now and we can get back on track. If we cannot have more than our share of broken parts and of wrecks that we can avoid, I think my drivers and the race track venues that we've got in front of us will be very good for us and we stand a very good chance."

DO YOU BELIEVE A SPONSOR LIKE DEWALT OR OFFICE DEPOT, WILL IT BE ATTRACTIVE FOR THEM TO GO TO A ONE-CAR OR TWO-CAR BECAUSE IT WILL COST LESS MONEY OR TO STAY WITH A SUCCESSFUL OPERATION LIKE YOURS? "I don't believe it's gonna be attractive to them based on the fact that John Deere, back years ago when we saved their sponsorship and acquired the 97 team for our fifth team, the reason we did that was John Deere came to us and said the team that they were with wasn't getting the job done and if I would take the sponsorship and the driver and the organization under my umbrella that they were gonna leave NASCAR. That was the situation there. We had Exide Batteries when they came on was with part of a one-team operation prior to Jeff Burton joining us in the early '90s and their position was much the same. We had two teams that were doing reasonably well at that time and they were part of a one-team operation, which was not. They said they would like for me to start a third team and that was the genesis of my third team. The Diaggio and Crown Royal people have come to us and talked about the spirits sector sponsor interest and they specifically were interested in the size of our operation and its depth. Pfizer and Viagra were with a single-car team, but their prospects weren't great and they looked at the synergism and the things that they could glean from the larger operation and the interaction with the other sponsors cooperatively in the organization and they said they wanted some. There may be an example where somebody has moved from a big team organization to a small team, but I can't think of who it was. All of my experience is in the other direction."

SO YOU THINK NASCAR'S REASONING IS WRONG-HEADED? "I think it's wrong-headed. I think that what we saw with what Brian said was a trial balloon based on maybe - I haven't had a meeting with Brian so I shouldn't explore this very far - but right now there are some issues with Formula One owners and the organization and what they're gonna do next year, so there is some anxiety in that organization. In Bill France Sr.'s time, he had an issue at one time where the drivers tried to organize themselves into a union and that was a real threat. There seems to be some anxiety over the people that, as my friend Rick Hendrick says, have got skin in the game that we could roll over or that we might do something contrary to the long-term interest of the sport and the fans and the sponsors in NASCAR, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Hendrick and I and Joe Gibbs and all the other teams that could potentially present a threat, we're NASCAR's biggest fans and advocates and we're determined to make it work - through debate if necessary - but we're determined to make it work for everybody."

WHO IS PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE TIRE PROBLEMS WE SAW OVER THE WEEKEND? "You could say the truck drivers because they unloaded the cars (laughing). The fans came and bought tickets. The drivers sat up in the seat and they stood down on the gas pedal. I obviously bought the tires and put the cars there. We're all complicit. Everybody that has stood around this thing is complicit in the problem, and I don't think that it was a horrible problem. If you looked at the race, you had nobody hurt, nobody injured, nobody close to being injured. You had a very contentious race where there were several ways that could lose and only one way that you could win, and the way that you could win was not the most satisfying way. You couldn't go as fast as you could go from a driver's point of view for an entire tire run, but to the lesser extent that's always the case - where you have to pace yourself and you have to keep track of when you're taking the good limited performance out of the tire within a fuel run, you have to pay attention to where you get that but it was different here. I think the thing about this race track that was most surprising in Humpy's effort to make it smoother and deal with the ravages of time with the bumps and things, they wound up creating a surface that, first of all, didn't wear tires because it was so smooth, and had great grip in an area where it was clean, but once the grip started to give up it went away dramatically. That was a bigger swing from a track that had great grip to one that had no grip. That's the reason, I think, that the 38 car wound up having his problem and the 20 car had his problem. I think the car just got out from underneath of him because they didn't properly judge how hard they could push on the pedal at that point and I don't know if that's not what a race is all about - being able to make those judgments."

DOES SOMETHING NEED TO CHANGE IN THE WAKE OF WHAT WE SAW SATURDAY? "Certainly I've got no criticism of it. I knew that there would be winners and losers, there would be people that would adapt to the different circumstance on the race track and the risk and the peril - some would adapt to it different than others or be luckier than others with it, and there would be winners and losers that otherwise might not have occurred. The outcome of the race was more in doubt due to the factor of the track condition than a normal circumstance and I don't know that that's inherently bad. On the face of it, I'll say that it wasn't what Humpy had in mind and the management at Charlotte, and they've committed to repave the race track and that will carry with it another set of new variables. The race track will be different again and it will be a question mark the same as it was this time."

HOW ARE YOU DEALING WITH HAVING FIVE GUYS IN THE CHASE? "It all starts with my relationship with my sponsors. For 40 years I've been in the business operating race cars for either appearance for showmanship in match racing with my drag racing for a period of time, or in real competition for one prize for a large field like drag racing for national events and for road racing and for stock car racing with NASCAR. I make and I'm as serious as I could be about making a commitment to my sponsor or every sponsor that I've got to make my best effort to have him be successful. That means in our model we've got the same number of mechanics, the same number of cars are built, the same number of hours in terms of management resource are dedicated to every program. I just stand up on the edge of the pit wall like everybody else watching to see which one of the guys or girls could potentially come around turn four for the checkered flag on the last lap. I know that I've been cornered on this issue a number of times and I can't wait for the day when two of my guys will roll themselves up in a ball at the head of the line and let whoever is in third, who would not be one of my guys, come through and win a race. That would give me the kind of credibility that I think I deserve in terms of the way that we've done our programs. As we started doing multiple cars back in the early '90s, the critics were just sure that we were gonna have one car be an R&D program for Mark Martin or for whoever had the biggest sponsor or had the most time with us, and, of course, we've proven that's not the case now. Nobody is raising the question, 'Do you get the right number of cars? Do you get the right number of tires? Do you get the right number of resources?' Our word is our bond on that. I'm just thrilled to be able to be there standing with the five guys and the five sponsors and the sponsors behind the primary sponsors that are doing this thing together and to have gotten the credibility of having all of them be able to make the chase. I don't know what more I can say. Mark Martin would be a great choice, a great result. Kurt Busch in his next-to-last or last year with us would be great for that to be a conclusion to that era. Matt Kenseth for his second. Greg Biffle for his first. What a Cinderella story it would be for Carl Edwards to win in his first full year. There's just no way that I can have bad news with one of my guys winning. I would cheer any one of them and it doesn't matter to me."

PAT TRYSON AND BOB OSBORNE ARE BOTH FROM THE PHILADELPHIA AREA. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE JOB BOTH OF THEM DO FOR YOU? "The thing about both of them is they both have basic engineering technical kind of educations. I think that Pat's was two years of specialization in engineering topics and, of course, Bob is a card-carrying mechanical engineer. I enjoy the thought process that goes with their education. They've got tools that can take you apart if you're a mechanical problem or if you're a system that's in dire straits. To be able to work with those guys on the mechanical things is just great. They're very pragmatic about their strategies for where they test and how they test and what they test, and they've both got the grass roots and down-to-earth experience on the race tracks and around racing to not let too much science outsmart them. So it's a really good combination of basic common sense and experience and motivation to build their careers in this direction and the education that prepared them for it."

BOB SEEMS TO BE MORE SERIOUS THAN PAT. IS THAT ACCURATE? "Bob is more similar to my size and with little guys you've got to be careful about jumping in the air and throwing their fist sometimes because someone might call you on it (laughing). Pat loses the demon more than Bob or I do, but Bob is very calculating. If you've noticed, in spite of all the tire problems people have had due to the excesses of geometry and tire pressure and all, Carl Edwards - in spite of being rookie - has not succumbed to any of that. He has kept him out there. When he's a chance to do his business in a car that had the right springs and right shocks on it, he's been able to close the deal and not fail a tire for some reason that would be the crew chief's choice or the driver's determination on what they would like to have under it. So Bob understands what the limitations of the hardware is or at least as well as anybody else and he respects the suggestions that Carl might have that would put it in jeopardy, or even look at the example of others that were closer to the tip of the flame than he wants to be."

THE LAST FEW CUP TEAMS TO COME INTO THE SPORT HAVE HAD AFFILIATIONS OF SOME SORT WITH EXISTING TEAMS EITHER THROUGH ENGINE LEASE PROGRAMS OR SOMETHING OF THAT SORT. DO YOU SEE FROM NASCAR'S POINT OF VIEW HOW LIMITING OWNERSHIP COULD POSSIBLY INCREASE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR NEW OWNERS AND SPONSORS? "It sure looks like it would be counter to it, to me, for everything that we see. You look at Rick Hendrick, in particular. He was instrumental in putting the Joe Gibbs organization together. He provided them cars, engineering and engines - all three - initially. They went out and hired people within the NASCAR community that staffed and crewed the car. Tony Stewart's crew chief was a car chief at one time for Jeff Burton. They didn't bring people from the outside. They went and found the people that existed and they got technology that was there, and, of course, people are in the marketplace. If you put a shingle out and let folks know what your rate is and the folks sit down and have a conversation with you and see an opportunity based on the things you might do, well then you've got a crew and you could have a very able crew even though you didn't have the experience to have built that crew as an owner. But in today's world, the fact that Ford Motor Company has given me encouragement to help the Ford teams that would like to get started - Chevrolet has obviously encouraged Hendrick to help teams get started. The MB2 team that Scott Riggs was with this year and that Joe Nemechek was with - that's the same thing. Hendrick engines and Hendrick cars and much of Hendrick technology - wind tunnel information and that sort of thing - has benefited those guys dramatically. As a for instance, if you had 43 separate teams all struggling just to hang onto the bottom step of a ladder that was three stories high, it would be awful hard to get somebody concerned about standing back and holding the ladder so it wouldn't tip over."

THIS WEEKEND WILL MARK THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE HENDRICK PLANE CRASH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE RESILIENCY THAT ORGANIZATION HAS SHOWN SINCE THEN? "Losing his people within the organization certainly was just tragic and potentially devastating beyond your imagination, but the resilience that Rick and Linda and the entire family have had for the tragic personal loss that they had was something that speaks to the strength of their character and their belief in God and all the other things that they had to draw energy from to be able to get through this thing. But they've maintained their poise; they've maintained their commitment to NASCAR; they've maintained their commitment to their sponsors and their fans; and they've maintained the trust that the people within the family that were lost in this process had put in them. They're an example of a great family and a great business doing a great job under and adverse circumstance, and my heart as well as my admiration is out to them for the way they withstood that tragedy."

WAS THERE A PART OF YOU KIND OF PULLING FOR THAT TEAM TO BOUNCE BACK FROM THAT? "I didn't characterize in my mind that they bounce back, what they did was maintain what they had on the race track. What they had to do was reconstruct their lives from a personal point of view, and the fact that they were able to maintain the focus and the poise and the effectiveness on the race track in competition at the same time they were trying to deal with this horrible remorse and loss really speaks to their character and to the depth of their personalities and their mores. It doesn't surprise me, but the thing I'd say - and I hope I never have to go through that - but I'm not sure I could have done as well."

IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU'RE GOING DOWN WITH A BIG FIGHT BEFORE YOU'LL GIVE UP YOUR FIVE TEAMS. IS THAT ACCURATE AND, IF SO, HAVE YOU TALKED WITH RICK OR ANY OTHERS ABOUT WHAT CAN BE DONE TO MAINTAIN YOUR TEAM AT THE SIZE IT IS NOW? "I'm not gonna give you a head knot, to the fact that I'm ready for a big fight. The thing that I would say is, first of all, I have talked to Rick. We've probably had more conversation in the last 10 days than we've had in the last 10 years, and I don't know if that's good or bad for the rest of the competition and for what Brian and/or NASCAR would otherwise be trying to accomplish, but we certainly share an interest and a stake in the result of the question that's in front of us. As far as what remedies we might have or how much we might choose to contest, we're in the process now of reviewing some relevant case law and some other things that are precedents in our national economy and in this sport marketing business to understand where we stand and I look forward beyond that - in deference to that - I look forward to having a chance to sit down with Brian and to sit down with Jim France and to sit down with Lesa Kennedy and Mike Helton all together and with Rick and with Joe Gibbs at the same time and say, 'What is the issue here? What is it we're trying to accomplish that we can do and not jeopardize the investments of years and time that the multi-team owners have got?' Having 10 at present certainly puts me on the peak of the iceberg here, but there are a lot of folks with teams that have looked at what we're doing and certainly see us as an example of what you could do to build equity and value in a team and to have that in the absence of franchising one of the things that you could rely on at a point where you might be forced to dissolve or sell your team where you'd be able to get more for it and for your investment than just the salvage value on the potentially obsolete cars and engines that might be left over as well as the real estate that would be dedicated strictly to the racing operation. So there are many deep issues that we've got to work our way through. I need to have a better understanding. As I said, I didn't know about the press conference that Brian had. I only got minutes from it, but I didn't understand what was behind it and I don't know what the end game is yet. NASCAR runs trial balloons up sometimes to see what kind of debate they can stimulate and whether this is something they've got resolve toward and an issue, or a policy has been established that they intend to enforce and it's just a matter of implementation, or whether they're just wanting a debate, I'm not sure."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ELEVATION OF THE HOMESTEAD RACE THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS AND FORD CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND? "With the chase format having the conclusion there it has certainly had increased in relevance and prominence from what I see by at least 100 percent. There were questions to start with on whether or not the race track was what it needed to be and, of course, they changed the configuration of the race track. It is on the tip of Florida. You've got to come from northwest or north cental to get there, so it's a little harder to work your way in there, but it's a great destination. There is a lot going on in Miami. South Florida at this time of the year is gorgeous from a weather point of view and I think people are discovering that. People that have gone to the race to watch and the fans and sponsors monitoring the impression of the fans see that there is great potential here to build this event over a period of time. They'll build more grandstands and to ultimately get better ratings from TV for it and to increase the aura that goes with the Homestead event. I've raced in Miami with my road race cars and with the Hispanic population down there I've found a totally different feel to and dimension to the enthusiast part of our population than I have in other parts of the country and we certainly need to play to that at the same time that we're playing to what goes on in the northeast or the southwest or even the Midwest."

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Jimmy Fennig has one NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series win at Martinsville with his current driver, Kurt Busch. He recently spoke about the FIVE keys to having a good day at the half-mile short track.

Keep the fenders on - "Even though aerodynamics aren't as important at Martinsville as the big tracks, you still need to take care of your car, especially the radiator. There's a lot of beating and banging that can take place, but the winner is usually the one that stays out of trouble all day."

Take care of the brakes - "Don't overwork your brakes early in the race. Take care of them until the final 100 laps when it's really time to go."

Pit under cautions only - "You usually have a lot of cautions at Martinsville, so you really want to avoid pitting under green if at all possible. The pit road there is so long and tight that if you pit under green and then a caution comes out, you could easily be two or three laps down."

Don't every give up - "That's a long race, so even if you go a lap or two down early, you can't give up. You know there are gonna be a lot of cautions and a lot of opportunities to get that lucky dog, so even if you're a lap or two down you have to stay with it. I've seen it happen a lot of times where somebody spins out early, but comes back and finishes in the top five or top 10."

Miss the wrecks - "That's important everywhere, but there's not a lot of room at Martinsville, so being able to avoid a spinning car or dodge a multi-car wreck is even harder."

"THE FORD FIVE" Quick Fact:

There are only FIVE races remaining in the Chase for the Nextel Cup and a case could be made that all FIVE Ford drivers still have a chance at winning the championship. The main reason is that all FIVE have at least one win at one of the remaining tracks on the schedule (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami).

Mark Martin has six career wins at the FIVE tracks and has won everywhere except Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth combined to win four of the final FIVE events in 2002 with Busch winning at Martinsville, Atlanta and Homestead-Miami, and Kenseth winning at Phoenix. Besides that win, Kenseth also has one victory at Texas in 2002.

Greg Biffle has two wins (Homestead-Miami in 2004 and Texas earlier this year) while Carl Edwards posted a victory at Atlanta in March.


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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Matt Kenseth , Joe Nemechek , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Scott Riggs , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush , Mike Helton , Mark Martin