"I went over and introduced myself and told him I was from Connecticut and that I moved to the Charlotte area to become part of a race team. I was 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 Roush Racing.
"That was in August. I had my job in November."
Business "Out Of Control""It's a huge operation, and Jack is a good businessman," says Robbie Reiser, crewchief for Kenseth's car. "But he also tries to take care of his people. I don't know of another car owner that would have done what Jack 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, more payroll, 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 he admits it can be hard to keep everything in check.
"It's been out of control for years," he says grinning. "But control is just a state of mind."
He spends most races working the figures for Martin's car. He looks at lap times, knows the carb jettings and what kind of fuel consumption the car 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 do more, when there was more for him to do. He is not unlike many executives who have built a successful business and worked themselves out of the very jobs that attracted him to their careers. So while Roush is setting the course for his racing empire, it is the people he's hired who 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-on team owner to be," says Reiser. "Sometimes I'm really glad he's there, then there are times I wish he wasn't."
Take Tuesdays, for example.
Each week, Roush calls together the key players from all his teams to sit down and talk over what happened the previous weekend.
"We each compare ourselves to the other teams, because we all have access to similar equipment," Richert says. "As a crewchief, as long as Greg and I stand behind our decisions-that we made what we thought were the best ones at the time-he's pretty good about letting us do things our 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 want to try something really different, or look at something from a different angle, he lets us do it. He actually encourages us. But if we find something that works, we are better off sharing things with the other teams. First of all, in a company this big, you can't keep a secret anyway. And sometimes, when we tell the others about it on Tuesday, they'll run with it and make it better."
Building A ReputationRoush is among the most easily recognized characters in NASCAR. He marches from garage to garage, his brow furrowed as he turns a problem over in his head. He can be so focused that he doesn't even see the papers and programs thrust toward him for autographs.
When things are going well, when everything is under control, a grin opens beneath his always-present hat as he poses for photos, talks with fans, or tells youngsters about how to get involved in racing.
While Roush came into the series as a NASCAR rookie, he was far from a newcomer 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 and kicks a hole in the wall. Everyone knew he was there."
"I had already won multiple championships and knew what racing is all about," Roush says. "Maybe I wasn't 'rookie' enough for them or maybe they 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 their teams up from scratch, often relying on old-school technology that had defined the sport for decades, technology only a step or two away from local bullrings, in some cases. Roush arrived as a degreed engineer, a former 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 into something until he is successful," says Yates. "Nothing is going to dissuade him.
"Opinionated? Oh yes. He has an opinion on everything, and he's never been reluctant to share it."
Simply said, Roush irritated NASCAR.
"That's up to a writer to say, not me," Roush says. "But I'm sure that Mark Martin would have won a couple of championships if he had been driving for another team years ago."
Instead, Martin-with four Second-Place finishes in the points-could become the best NASCAR driver in history never to win the season title.
The Martin/Roush duo hit NASCAR in 1988 when they finished 15th in points in his rookie year. In 1989, Martin was Third; in 1990, he lost the title to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points. He finished Second to Earnhardt again in 1994, to Jeff Gordon in 1998, and to Tony Stewart in 2002.
Roush openly criticized NASCAR for penalties he feels cost Martin the championship. He might have won in 1990 had his team not been fined 46 driver points for an illegal carburetor spacer found on his Ford after a race at Richmond International Raceway. He was docked 25 points for using an unapproved spring in 2002. That penalty was moot. Stewart finished more than 25 points ahead of Martin, but the penalty added fuel to 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 is today.
"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 face of opposition, who fought for what he thought was right even when he knew he couldn't win the fight, and who always did what was best for the sport and my teams.
"And I'd like to be known as someone who won races."
Not this time. It's Sunday evening. The last of the Roush cars are being pushed into the haulers and tied down for the trip back to Concord, where they'll be stripped bare and rebuilt for the next superspeedway race.
Roush is making his final round of the teams, thanking each one of them for the months-long marathon it takes to get to Daytona.
Busch came up one position shy of winning NASCAR's biggest race. It's not the first time a Roush driver has finished Second.
"He gave it a heck of a run," says the boss. "He was in there getting everything there was to get, right until the flag fell."
He stops and stares at Biffle's car. Its front fenders are already missing, the driver-side door is decorated with black circles from rubbing tires with the competition, and the tail end is covered with duct 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 work out there."