Each crack of the bat in pregame warm-ups at Fenway Park brought a smile to Jack Roush's face.
Clad in his trademark straw hat, wire-rim glasses and a beige sport coat, he leaned against a wall behind home plate and soaked in the ambiance of a pleasant summer night on the ball field. It was a familiar scene for a front-and-center racing icon who has spent Tuesday nights this year watching his NASCAR team play intrasquad softball on a new diamond he built.
Having achieved nearly everything he'd wanted in his racing career, the 71-year-old captain of industry prefers to revel in others' success in the dusk of his NASCAR career.
"There aren't so many firsts left for me, but I've not lost my passion for competition or my desire to operate at the top of my game," the founder of Roush Fenway Racing told USA TODAY Sports. "I just look forward to enjoying vicariously the success of drivers winning their first race or championship, and the crew chiefs and engineers able to share in those firsts. It's less about me and more about being a parent or a grandparent to them."
During a two-day summit for the team's sponsors in Boston (a de-facto home base since Fenway Sports Group became an equity partner six years ago), Roush again was the focal point during a series of workshops designed to maximize return on investment.
Once the quintessential hands-on team owner, Roush quietly is moving toward the sidelines in the Sprint Cup Series (which is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend). After a quarter-century of owning stock-car teams that have 314 wins in NASCAR and two championships in its premier series, Roush still works seven days a week but doesn't set his alarm for dawn anymore. He no longer spends 90 minutes before every race tinkering with each of his cars' carburetors, which have been excised from stock-car racing by electronic fuel injection.
The mechanical wizard who started his racing career with 20-hour commutes to California for weekend drag races, where he slept in the pits while turning the wrenches, has been marginalized somewhat by advances in technology. The survivor of two plane crashes (which haven't deterred his love of flying despite leaving him without a left eye) has eased into a role he jokingly labels as public and human relations manager.
"I've gone from wanting to be the mechanic that I hoped everyone else would be to now I'm the point-and-grunt guy," Roush said with a laugh, picking pistachios out of a plastic cup inside a luxury suite before a Colorado Rockies-Red Sox game. "Hopefully, I'll become less viable before I'm gone. The challenge is to give up the management and decision-making at the right time." More at USA Today
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