Roush's race-day intensity is reflected in his face as he strolls theNASCAR garages on wee
The engines are still. The grandstands are emptying. Jeff Gordon's voiceis filling the infield with yet another description of how he just wonhis third Daytona 500. It's all just white noise to Jack Roush.
Roush arrived here more than 10 days earlier with five cars specificallydeveloped to help Ford match the success of the dominating Chevrolets inNASCAR's premier race.
Now he marches through the garage area, surveying the damage and talkingto the survivors of the Daytona 500 like a general assessing battlefieldlosses.
Matt Kenseth was the first to fall when the engine in his No. 17expired. Greg Biffle's No. 16 car was strong until he got caught up in amulti-car wreck that left it with both front fenders peeled off andlooking like a short-track Modified.
Carl Edwards salvaged a 12th place finish in the No. 99 Taurus. He saidit actually ran better after he hit teammate Mark Martin in the rear,making the bodywork narrower.
Martin, the sentimental favorite who is beginning his final season inNASCAR's top series, soldiered on to Sixth in a car that probably shouldhave been rolled into the attic of the team hauler after being wreckedduring a Thursday qualifying race.
Kurt Busch, the defending Nextel Cup champion, nearly stole the win outfrom underneath Gordon after dueling with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for SecondPlace.
For Roush, it is just another routine day at the office.
Nearly four hours earlier, he climbed the ladder to the top of the "warwagon" behind Martin's pit box and settled in for work. He adjusted hisever-present hat, opened his notebook, and engaged the mind of NASCAR'sconsummate mathematician.
From atop Martin's pit box he monitored the progress of all five RoushRacing teams for the entire 500 miles, eavesdropping on drivers andcrews making hundreds of decisions that can spell success or failure onthe track. They are all there as part of the Roush brigade because of adecision Roush himself made decades earlier.
"This is something I wanted to do when I was in my twenties," he says."It took me 15 years to put together the finances to do it, but it wasalways a goal."
There have been lots of goals along the way and no shortage ofchallenges and successes. That's especially true at Daytona's uniqueracing marathon.
A year ago, Roush was still very much a hands-on car owner, but now hesays he's taken a ba
It is Friday morning on the final week of Daytona Speedweeks. Roush iswalking through the Nextel Cup garages like a drill sergeant with a dutyroster. There's so much work to do and so little time to get it alldone. He already called for reinforcements in the form of body men andfabricators from his headquarters in Charlotte to help with the work.
The cars for Martin and Edwards took heavy body blows in Thursday's60-lap qualifying races at the 2.5-mile oval. Edwards' Ford is well onthe way to being ready for afternoon practice.
Roush looks up at the overcast sky and sniffs the moisture-laden oceanair.
"You rejet? You go up two?" he asks a crewmember who is tightening thefinal bolts on the carburetor.
Only a few years ago it would have been Jack installing new jets.
"I used to do all the carb jetting," he says with a shrug. "Then wehired some certified, ordained carb jet experts, and they won't let metouch them.
"Either they figured I was losing it, or they got better," he adds witha smile.
In spite of his self-deprecating humor, Roush remains a team ownerequally comfortable in the engine room or the boardroom. He fashionedhis racing empire by scraping knuckles and lancing fingers, buildingFord engines into race-winning powerplants and teams into champions.Along the way, he created the largest racing organization in NASCAR.
Roush still reads plugs and offers advice on fuel settings to teams.
Before leaving the garage of the No. 99, Roush slides his hand over theright front fender of the Taurus, feeling tiny ripples in the bodywork.He frowns and shakes his head. The fender repair might be OK for aSaturday night shootout on a short track, but this isn't a Saturdaynight, and Edwards won't be racing it on some obscure short track withfans collecting splinters from wooden bleachers.
This is the Nextel Cup at Daytona, and a win here in February is the oneracing prize that has eluded Roush for 17 years. This is where the term"close enough" will never be.
That attitude made Roush one of the most successful team owners inracing, with titles in drag racing, sports cars, endurance cars, and inNASCAR's Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series. His unrelenting drivefor perfection and focus on long-term goals earned him the final WinstonCup title in 2003 with Kenseth and the first Nextel Cup last year withBusch.
"Jack's incredibly focused," says Scott Pruett, who won three sports carchampionships for Roush Racing in the '80s.
"He's completely involved in racing 24-7-365," he says. "And to besuccessful with Jack, you have to have that same type of focus. I knowthat some people have a hard time sustaining that level of commitment."
"He is the most analytical car owner I've ever met," adds Gary Nelson,once among the most respected crewchiefs in NASCAR. Nelson later went onto be the series' director of competition and now heads the NASCARResearch and Development Center.
"He would just never take 'That's Racing' as an answer," Nelson says."Jack always wanted to go deeper. He always asked one more question andpushed us for just one more answer."
It is what makes Jack, Jack.
"It's the way I am," Roush says. "I don't think I could be anydifferent."
Jack's Closest Call
His headquarters just outside the Concord (North Carolina) RegionalAirport near Lowe's Motor Speedway is "The House That Jack Built." It isa showplace of technology, efficiency, and style. The modern, landscapedcomplex of buildings would look at home in any high-tech campus in thenation.
The glass-walled entrance leads to a series of shops where everything isdone in-house, from welding the first pieces of steel that forms achassis to testing engines before they are installed. His fingerprintsare on every part of a car's evolution.
"He's still a very intense racer," says Doug Richert, Biffle'screwchief. "He's still very much a hands-on owner. He doesn't get in theway, but he's there for you if you need him."
That's what he's doing this Friday morning at Daytona--being there ifthey need him. There was a moment when he was in danger of not beingthere at all.
It was in April 2002, on his 60th birthday, and Roush was on a soloflight to Talladega Superspeedway in a borrowed airplane. Roush, aveteran pilot, clipped some unmarked power lines and crashed into a lakein nearby Troy.
Roush was trapped inside the plane, upside down, still belted in. He hadinjuries to both legs, a concussion, and was unconscious.
Larry Hicks witnessed the crash, and the former Marine jumped into aboat and sped to the rescue. Hicks, trained in underwater rescue, doveinto the lake three times before finally freeing Roush from thewreckage. He pulled Roush, barely alive, to the surface and pumped thewater from his lungs.
Roush says the crash, and everything that happened to allow him tosurvive it, humbled him and gave him an appreciation and reverence forlife.
It has not, however, diminished his enthusiasm for flying. He stillpilots his own airplane and is actively involved in restoring and flyingvintage aircraft, including a P51 Mustang named "Old Crow."
He stopped leasing 10 small planes and bought a pair of 727s, decoratedwith "Roush Air" and a stylized image of the owner on the tails, toferry teams across the country.
Surviving the crash also caused Roush to redouble his efforts to makethe most of every minute he has left.
The Martin Factor
Roush, Mark Martin, and Pat Tryson look at tire wear after a Daytonaqualifying race in whi
He crosses to the garage that holds Martin's battered Ford. The enginebay is empty and the bodywork is unfinished. It isn't going to makeFriday practice.
"We had a back-up car," Roush says. "It would have made sense from thetime involved to pull it out of the trailer, but Mark really likes thiscar and it is what he wanted to drive on Sunday."
Casual fans have a hard time comprehending how two cars made in the sameshop by the same crew using the same equipment can have differentpersonalities. Even the fabricators can't tell why the racing DNA isdifferent in each one, but they swear it is.
So do the drivers, and that's good enough for Roush. He told Pat Tryson,Martin's crewchief, to use whatever resources needed to put the car backtogether again.
By the time the chassis is ready for Sunday's race, Tryson figures therewill be more than 120 man hours into its repair.
"We didn't have any options," Tryson says. "The back-up car could nevermatch this one. It's a lot of time and effort, but it's what we do."
"Every one of the cars we have here is different," Roush says. "Some arehigh downforce, high drag; others are low drag, low downforce.
"Some are faster down the straight, others go through the cornersquicker," he adds. "Hopefully it will all balance out when they run intraffic. The one we use all depends on what the driver likes, what he ismost comfortable with."
The rebuilding effort on Martin's car is testament to how much Roushthinks of his driver. Martin has been a faithful soldier for 17 years,and the boss wants nothing less than to give his retiring star one lastchance to win a championship.
"I don't think we'll see many more like Mark," Roush says. "I know Greg(Biffle) doesn't plan to race forever. Matt (Kenseth) doesn't want toeither. I honestly don't think you'll see many new drivers stayingaround until they are 45. That era is probably gone.
"They'll get to the point where they've made enough money and thepressures from young drivers will be so great they'll want to leave."
Roush is concerned about some of the drivers coming to the series, thosewith more attitude than talent and experience.
Robert Yates, himself a NASCAR team owner, says Roush wasn'tsubtle about his entry into th
"The owners have a responsibility to keep that in check," he says."Sponsors certainly have a say in it, as does NASCAR. But ultimately, itis up to the team owner to decide what is acceptable."
Some drivers of the next generation are already in the Roush stable,being trained in the two teams in the Craftsman Truck Series and threein Busch.
Even his hiring practices are unique to Roush. About three years ago, hecreated what he calls "The Gong Show" that pits aspiring drivers againstone another on a track none of them have driven before. It is anow-or-never, high-pressure environment that tests the driving mettleand communications skills under competition.
"It's different," says Roush, "but it works. I think an owner has aresponsibility to help grow the sport. One of the things I'm proud of isthe opportunity we've given young drivers to enter NASCAR and learn andmature with us."
Critics say Roush takes advantage of young, talented drivers by signingthem to long-term contracts at apprentice level wages. Others say he'ssimply running his racing business as a business, and that's what keepsthe teams busy and sponsors happy.
For Roush, it isn't always just about business. Sometimes hiringdecisions are made based on factors that can't be quantified.
Dave Winston, engineer on Biffle's Taurus, says he applied for his jobwith Roush in the middle of the interstate.
"There was a tractor trailer jack-knifed in the middle of the highwayand all the traffic was stopped," Winston says. "I got out of my car tosee what was going on and I looked around and saw Jack Roush standing afew cars away.
"I went over and introduced myself and told him I was from Connecticutand that I moved to the Charlotte area to become part of a race team. Iwas working at Freightliner and having no luck finding a job in racing.He took a real interest in me and told me who to contact at RoushRacing.
"That was in August. I had my job in November."