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."
Business "Out Of Control"
Roush's five-car team includes drivers Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, MattKenseth, Kurt Busch,
"It's a huge operation, and Jack is a good businessman," says RobbieReiser, crewchief for Kenseth's car. "But he also tries to take care ofhis people. I don't know of another car owner that would have done whatJack did when he ran the 99 car for an entire season without a sponsor.Those who could do it, probably wouldn't."
More teams mean more opportunity to learn, more chances to win, morepayroll, more sponsor commitments, more shop space--more of everything.
At any given race, Roush may have as many as 10 teams at a track, and headmits it can be hard to keep everything in check.
"It's been out of control for years," he says grinning. "But control isjust a state of mind."
He spends most races working the figures for Martin's car. He looks atlap times, knows the carb jettings and what kind of fuel consumption thecar is getting. He knows exactly when it should run dry.
"It's not much, but it's all I can do," he says.
You get the feeling Roush sometimes longs for the days when he could domore, when there was more for him to do. He is not unlike manyexecutives who have built a successful business and worked themselvesout of the very jobs that attracted him to their careers. So while Roushis setting the course for his racing empire, it is the people he's hiredwho have their hands on the tiller.
Make no mistake--Roush is still very much the man in charge.
"Jack's always in the middle of things, like you would expect a hands-onteam owner to be," says Reiser. "Sometimes I'm really glad he's there,then there are times I wish he wasn't."
Kenseth gave Roush its first Cup championship in 2003.
Take Tuesdays, for example.
Each week, Roush calls together the key players from all his teams tosit down and talk over what happened the previous weekend.
"We each compare ourselves to the other teams, because we all haveaccess to similar equipment," Richert says. "As a crewchief, as long asGreg and I stand behind our decisions--that we made what we thought werethe best ones at the time--he's pretty good about letting us do thingsour way. If we screw up, he's going to want to know why."
"When we are doing well, he leaves us to ourselves," Reiser explains."When we aren't doing well, then the rope gets a little tighter.
"He puts no limit on what we can do when it comes to testing. If we wantto try something really different, or look at something from a differentangle, he lets us do it. He actually encourages us. But if we findsomething that works, we are better off sharing things with the otherteams. First of all, in a company this big, you can't keep a secretanyway. And sometimes, when we tell the others about it on Tuesday,they'll run with it and make it better."
Building A Reputation
Roush is among the most easily recognized characters in NASCAR. Hemarches from garage to garage, his brow furrowed as he turns a problemover in his head. He can be so focused that he doesn't even see thepapers and programs thrust toward him for autographs.
Busch made it a Roush repeat when he earned the Cup title last season.
When things are going well, when everything is under control, a grinopens beneath his always-present hat as he poses for photos, talks withfans, or tells youngsters about how to get involved in racing.
While Roush came into the series as a NASCAR rookie, he was far from anewcomer to racing, and he wasn't timid.
"Jack doesn't know how to put his toe in the water," says Robert Yates,who has worked both with and against Roush. "He simply arrives andkicks a hole in the wall. Everyone knew he was there."
"I had already won multiple championships and knew what racing is allabout," Roush says. "Maybe I wasn't 'rookie' enough for them or maybethey saw the degrees from Ohio and forgot I was born in Kentucky."
Jack came to NASCAR during an era when most car owners had built theirteams up from scratch, often relying on old-school technology that haddefined the sport for decades, technology only a step or two away fromlocal bullrings, in some cases. Roush arrived as a degreed engineer, aformer college math instructor, and someone with deep ties to Ford.
He showed from the start that success would follow him.
"His philosophy [involves] putting time, energy, and resources intosomething until he is successful," says Yates. "Nothing is going todissuade him.
"Opinionated? Oh yes. He has an opinion on everything, and he's neverbeen reluctant to share it."
Simply said, Roush irritated NASCAR.
Edwards is the latest driver to join the Roush brigade.
"That's up to a writer to say, not me," Roush says. "But I'm sure thatMark Martin would have won a couple of championships if he had beendriving for another team years ago."
Instead, Martin--with four Second-Place finishes in the points--couldbecome the best NASCAR driver in history never to win the season title.
The Martin/Roush duo hit NASCAR in 1988 when they finished 15th inpoints in his rookie year. In 1989, Martin was Third; in 1990, he lostthe title to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points. He finished Second toEarnhardt again in 1994, to Jeff Gordon in 1998, and to Tony Stewart in2002.
Roush openly criticized NASCAR for penalties he feels cost Martin thechampionship. He might have won in 1990 had his team not been fined 46driver points for an illegal carburetor spacer found on his Ford after arace at Richmond International Raceway. He was docked 25 points forusing an unapproved spring in 2002. That penalty was moot. Stewartfinished more than 25 points ahead of Martin, but the penalty added fuelto the critics who feel NASCAR has a bias against the veteran.
"NASCAR," says one, "has a very long memory."
So does Roush. He remembers everything it took him to get where he istoday.
"I think I'd like to be known as someone who didn't give up," he says."I want people to remember me as someone who didn't change in the faceof opposition, who fought for what he thought was right even when heknew he couldn't win the fight, and who always did what was best for thesport and my teams.
"And I'd like to be known as someone who won races."
After the organization faced disappointment at Daytona, Biffle won thenext race at Califor
Not this time. It's Sunday evening. The last of the Roush cars are beingpushed into the haulers and tied down for the trip back to Concord,where they'll be stripped bare and rebuilt for the next superspeedwayrace.
Roush is making his final round of the teams, thanking each one of themfor the months-long marathon it takes to get to Daytona.
Busch came up one position shy of winning NASCAR's biggest race. It'snot the first time a Roush driver has finished Second.
"He gave it a heck of a run," says the boss. "He was in there gettingeverything there was to get, right until the flag fell."
He stops and stares at Biffle's car. Its front fenders are alreadymissing, the driver-side door is decorated with black circles fromrubbing tires with the competition, and the tail end is covered withduct tape.
He takes a second look. Then he grins, shakes his head, and walks away.
From under the hat comes his gravelly voice: "Nice job, guys. Good workout there."