Roush ready to test new Fusion Jack Roush, car owner of the five Roush Racing Tauruses in the Chase for the Nextel Cup, was part of a Q&A session Friday morning in the infield media center at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Racing Tauruses
ASSUMING TONY WINS THE TITLE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DRIVERS WHO WIN MULTIPLE CHAMPIONSHIPS?
"I think it will be a travesty if Tony doesn't win a championship. He certainly had the kind of luck going for him that we in 2003 and 2004, and he's had better performance than I've had in those same years. If he can't win this year, then it's real clear that I shouldn't have won the other two, which I'd hate to give back more than one of them. For Tony realizing all the success he had getting to this level and with the Gibbs organization being where it is with their technology and their teamwork and all the other metrics that go with that, it's their time. Tony is certainly gonna be celebrated by me and held up for the champion that he is and I congratulate him for the prospect of winning two. I hope that he does."
CAN YOU COMPARE THE SATISFACTION OF WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP VERSUS GETTING FIVE CARS IN THE CHASE?
"I feel more honored and certainly feel that the task was more complex to put the five cars in than to win a championship. We had been in championship form with Mark Martin a number of times and because the owner let him down or the engine let him down or some other external force came into play, we came up dry. So to be able to look at that and say with a driver of Mark's caliber that I wasn't able to help him close the deal or provide the support for him to close the deal certainly got my attention and made clear to me how extraordinarily difficult this NASCAR form of stock car racing at its highest level is.
People ask me, 'What was the most important race you ever won?' Well, it was the world championship we won in pro stock drag racing in 1973 because that meant that I could really give up my day job, which I was teaching junior college then in addition to doing my race cars. I could give up my day job and go off and just focus on the motorsports side. The next most thing that I'm proud of and it's one of the least prestigious and least attended events, we won the 24 Hours of Daytona in the GT class -- the GTO and GTS -- 10 times, entered it 10 times. So those things loom large. The next-biggest challenge I would feel is to win a championship with Mark Martin -- to help him do that -- and then behind that, in front of either of the Nextel Cup championships with either Matt or with Kurt is putting five in this year."
COULD YOU SPEAK FROM A MANUFACTURER'S STANDPOINT ON IF THE CARS ARE CLOSER THAN EVER RIGHT NOW.
"The answer that I'd give you to that question would roll through the quarters for a while. These cars are so close today by every metric that you can apply. They are closer than they have ever been and we're into a situation where the chemistry between a driver and a crew chief, and then chemistry between a crew chief and an engineer, the chemistry between multiple drivers within an organization, the chemistry between consenting drivers and consenting crew chiefs throughout the field is the biggest thing we've got to race with today. NASCAR, by creating the common templates and by going for aero-matching, by doing all the things they've done with all the additional inspectors they've added, has created a level playing field beyond their vision and their expectation. The consequence of it is it's the strength of people that wind up making the difference in these race cars."
WAS THERE ANY CONSIDERATION OF REINSTATING KURT FOR THIS RACE?
"No, certainly not by me. Kurt had been a challenge for everybody that interacted with him on the team at some time or other. He used up his equity with his sponsors. He used up his equity with me. Barring real contrition, an understanding that what he had done was something he was truly sorry about and he would, in fact, make a commitment to everybody that he wouldn't do those things, there was no reason to back up from it. When I heard of what happened on Friday night out there, I thought I could personally stand aside from it. I thought that we'd be able to go on through the two races here and get through it, but as the news came in I didn't understand, first of all, how animated and how much difficulty the people had stopping him and talking to him. I didn't realize the angst that was there and the emotion that went with that and their willingness to report it and talk about it. Then, of course, the outrage in the broader community and the embarrassment that we felt for it, it was just time for Kurt to fix his problem and to let the rest of us move on.
In fact, I hadn't heard that there was a blood-alcohol number reported that was reported to be correct. What I had heard was that, first of all, they had refused to let them check him, and then secondly, when they did get him back and made it clear he was going to have to go downtown unless they checked him that they tried to check him at the race track there, at their sheriff's station, that the machine didn't work. That's what I was told, but I was doubting that Kurt was in fact intoxicated beyond a legal limit because it had been his nature to be very much like he was reported to be in contentious situations that frustrated him before. I'm very sorry about it. He's an extraordinary talent -- an extraordinary talent -- but he's really had trouble dealing with the realities of normal social behavior that have high standards in what we do."
ARE YOU SAYING HE DIDN'T SHOW ANY REMORSE OVER THIS?
"I didn't talk to him. I haven't talked to Kurt for probably four weeks."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CAR CAP NOW THAT YOU'VE HAD A WEEK OR SO TO THINK ABOUT IT?
"I've got contracts with sponsors that go out through 2011 and my driver arrangements go varying periods of time, but in the 2010 -- plus or minus a year -- timeframe. My shortest driver-sponsor arrangement is Carl Edwards and Office Depot and that goes 2008. Those are things that I'm committed for now. Can I sell those? I don't want to sell those. I don't know that I can based on the sponsor agreement that I've got. As far as I know, there is language in all of them that prohibits me from selling them unless they agree to it. So there is faith and trust as well as the way we've conventionally done our business that we're in the middle of here that is gonna take some time to work through. Mike Helton and Brian (France) have told me that they're not gonna hurt me through this. On the face of it, I consider that an insult.
For somebody that's not familiar with my business to tell me they're gonna make a dramatic change in it affecting my ability to re-pay my debt and the cash flow that is associated with the investments I've made and the people have made around me, that's an insult -- unless they're willing to sit down and talk about the detail of it and let us put together a proposal that makes sense. But they said they're not going to hurt me and I expect that they won't, but I'll determine in my mind whether I've been hurt or whether I haven't, and if I think I have, well then we'll have some more discussion. Can I operate a team in the year 2012 or 2013, or at some point past one of the sponsors I've got today, my Charter sponsors including the AAA sponsor for this 6 car for next year and my Charter drivers including Todd Kleuver.
Will I consider running four cars and make my business work running four cars beyond those commitments and the momentum and the energy that we've got together? The answer is yes. I very much want to be in this business for a long, long time."
SO YOU'RE GRANDFATHERED IN AND OK THROUGH 2008?
"I consider that and told I would be grandfathered, but they haven't told me to what extent. I told them what I expect and what I think is fair and what I have strong feelings about. They haven't said, 'Yes, yes, yes, yes.' They said, 'Yeah, but we're not going to hurt you.' So I'm guardedly optimistic about my prospects in the near term and very optimistic about my prospects in the long term."
THOUGHTS ON THE FUSION FOR '06 AND THE CAR OF TOMORROW.
"Going back to the first question I was asked about the balance of the cars, in 2004 Ford got a new Taurus configuration that gave us a chance to catch up on what was contemporary knowledge about the function of the nose and the tail that we didn't understand in '97. The last Taurus we had was in '97, so I did feel up through 2004, including the championship that Matt Kenseth won in 2003, that we had a disadvantaged car. That has gone away. Certainly for me I don't feel that I've got a disadvantaged car. I do have empathy and sympathy for Ray and not being able to get the result that he wanted from the change that I understand the design folks at Daimler Chrysler put on him, but as far as our car going forward to 2006, it's a minor, minor, minor change that the Fusion brings. It has very much the same characteristic in every metric that was can see to the car that we have now.
We don't think there is an improvement in it and we think that our data will relate to what we've been doing. As far as the car of the future, there have been three tests that we've prepared cars for and gone twice to Atlanta and once in Talladega, and it's just going to be an entirely different breed. It's as different as racing a Truck to racing an IROC car to racing a present day Nextel Cup car. It's going to be totally different. There are going to winners and there are going to be losers with regard to the driver's adaptability to it. Part of the reason that some of the people that had been most successful previously haven't been successful in the last two years is because of the aero-balance of the car that was brought about by shortening that rear spoiler an inch. The change to the new car from a performance point of view on the race track is going to be times more dramatic than that.
Whether or not it winds up greater parity; whether of not it reduces cost; whether or not it has the benefits that NASCAR predicts has yet to be seen. I won't say that I'm skeptical, but I certainly wouldn't have proposed this car at this time with the characteristics that they've gone after. I'm a follower and not a leader in that regard."
WILL KURT BUSCH REPRESENT ROUSH RACING AT THE NASCAR BANQUET IN NEW YORK?
"I haven't got a clue. I'm not sure. I hadn't contemplated that. They said that the manager of the race track came and told me the 97 flag was going to be taken down from the flag stand on Sunday here and Kurt will not be involved in that procedure. Jimmy Fennig and I will go up and take the flag, but I don't know about the banquet. I'm not sure what convention requires or what Nextel will require there. I'm just not sure."
FROM A PRACTICAL POINT OF VIEW HOW WOULD SELLING YOUR TEAM AND STILL SUPPLYING THEM EQUIPMENT BE ANY DIFFERENT THAN FROM HAVING ONE OF YOUR TEAMS IN SOMEONE ELSE'S NAME?
"They haven't written that down any place yet. That's the devil in the details that we're all looking for, at least certainly what I'm looking for and I'm sure Rick (Hendrick) is interested in. On the one hand they're encouraging us to help people -- to help provide cars, to provide technology, to provide engineering services. I'm encouraged to do all those things to new teams, and at the same time for a new team that comes in, I've got huge debt for the real estate that I've got in North Carolina and for much of the equipment that's inside those. I'm not leveraged beyond reason, but I'm leveraged like a normal business would be that has the kind of cash flow that I've got and has the prospect for a return that I've got.
For a new team to come in and need the cars and need the technology and need the people and need all the support that goes with that, there's got to be a price associated with that. And if they don't have the basis to be able to guarantee that they're going to pay for that, well then that either says NASCAR expects the existing teams that provide their support to be the bank for those operations, or NASCAR has got to step up and say that they'll underwrite it. Lacking that, it's easy to come back and say, 'Well, sell your team to somebody that doesn't have the money, that can't borrow it from the bank and then take the paper on it and let them go fail with it and lose your investment.' That doesn't make any sense.
So there are a lot of things out there that they've thrown out. 'Go sell your team. Go sell your services. Let your people work for somebody else as consultants.' Why would I do that? That would be contrary -- taking the risk associated with those unknowns would be inconsistent with the decision-making process that had gotten Rick or myself or Ray (Evernham) or J.D. (Gibbs) or any of the other folks that own these teams today into the position where they could have viable businesses. Anyway, I'm anxious to hear how they want us to provide these services -- who they'll let us sell the teams to. What the means would be. What the paper is that goes through if we have to sell these things on land contracts, or if we have to do something else that involves the effect of the mortgage -- how that relates back. If I sell you a race team and you give me a dollar down and a dollar a year, does that mean that you own it or I own it? Where does the ownership truly lie, regardless of where the paper is and what it says? The practical way of implementing the things they've talked about certainly hasn't been defined to me and therein lies the opportunity to get through this thing to their satisfaction or it winds up being the barrier for it." Ford Racing