News & Media

Roush hits 3,000: owner's milestone meaning

October 28, 2012, Mark Aumann,

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jack Roush had founded a successful engineering company and was a winning owner in sports cars and drag racing, but none of that prepared him for his first foray into NASCAR in 1988.

"I remember the first year we went to Daytona," Roush said Saturday. "Our first race was the Daytona 500 and we didn't have a garage to start with. And then they finally gave us one down at the very end when somebody who had more standing didn't come."

Roush's No. 6 Ford, with Mark Martin behind the wheel, lasted just 19 laps before being sidelined with overheating issues. And things didn't get all that better the rest of that first season, leaving Roush to wonder whether he had bit off more than he might have been able to chew.

"We didn't win at all, and I think we had one or two poles that first year," Roush said. "And I wasn't sure we were going to win in the second year until the fall race at Rockingham when Mark [Martin] won. The sponsors I had were teetering, but that win gave them the green to go forward with us another year."

The second time for Roush -- or at least the second season -- was definitely the charm. Martin finished third in the points in 1989, and from that juncture, the team hasn't missed a beat.

On Sunday at Martinsville Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing will celebrate its 3,000th Sprint Cup start. Since 1988, the team has won 130 Cup races, 84 Cup poles and Matt Kenseth's 2003 championship.

Roush was one of the first owners to realize the advantages of running multiple cars, adding Wally Dallenbach Jr. in a second car by the 1992 season. Eventually, there were as many as five full-time cars running under the Roush banner.

In all -- combining road racing, Truck, Nationwide and Cup -- Roush estimates the company has taken the checkered flag at least 450 times and counting. Not bad for a guy who realized a long time ago he needed to find some way to fund his own racing dreams, and kept building on that philosophy.

"When I started drag racing it was recreational -- an after-work-hours activity that was fueled by youthful enthusiasm," Roush said. "Then as we realized how big the challenges were, I recognized that I needed to generate cash flow and an income stream around it to siphon off enough money to pay for the equipment that my race cars needed. And that has been the trademark of what we've done for more than 25 years.

"We've had to look at a series, look at a race car and the rules, and then consider the opportunity to make a viable business out of it by selling the technology and selling the success to other people who would like to bask in it. So, the fact we've been able to survive for 25 years in Cup racing is more important to me than 300 wins. That's a more significant accomplishment."

Roush was the driving force behind NASCAR's decision to add roof flaps to keep the cars from lifting off the ground at high speeds. But he also prides himself on coming up with another innovation that doesn't receive nearly as much attention.

"We were the first ones to make a really viable composite nose and tail," Rough said. "When NASCAR decided to open that up in the early '90s, there was a pretty good debate on whether it should be an ABS plastic kind of material -- which I guess was favored by [the American Speed Association] and some of the other lower series -- or whether we could use some higher technology composite materials and be able to make a better and more easily regulated piece that would better service the teams.

"We carried the technology that we hadn't fostered, but we had applied from aerospace to our road race cars and that's caught on. There were three different ideas of how to do that for a composite nose and tail, and the material and the process that we carried to it has survived and is on every NASCAR car and every truck."