Business F1 Top 20 Petrolheads: Jack Roush, An Essential American Racer

  • 13 April 2024
  • 3 min read
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Business F1 Top 20 Petrolheads: Jack Roush, An Essential American Racer image

Photo credit: Business F1, Roush Racing

Jack Roush, originally from Kentucky, developed his enthusiasm for cars at an early age, fueled by what he calls "mechanical curiosity." A curiosity that has made him a leading player in the Nascar Championship and and a top collector. Roush is also an entrepreneur and a terrific businessman. A combination of all these skills has rarely been seen in motorsports since the days of Colin Chapman. The Automotive Hall of Fame, which honored him in 2017, described him as "an icon of American motorsports and a distinguished automotive entrepreneur". Roush was born into a blue-collar family that gave him a strict work ethic and a determination to do good for the world. In college he studied mathematics and physics and distinguished himself by his ability to solve scientific problems, which would serve him well later on.

Business F1 Top 20 Petrolheads: Jack Roush, An Essential American Racer - 1 Jack Roush is a petrolhead who loves the smell of petrol. He also loves getting up close to the technical side.

His passion for cars eventually led him to seek a job at Ford Motor Company, a place where talented engineers could really excel. After gaining significant experience, he left Ford and started his own automotive engineering business in Livonia Michigan with the goal of getting into racing. His first opportunity was in dragster racing with a team called "The Fastbacks." He began building chassis and engines for the team, perfecting aerodynamics in pursuit of straight-line speed. These were pretty basic things, but a very useful experience for a man taking his first steps in racing.

His success in drag racing laid the groundwork for his transition to real racing by creating a team and becoming a driver himself. Roush Racing was founded in 1970 with the financial backing of Wayne Gapp and quickly made a name for itself: Between 1970 and 1975, Roush earned his stripes as a driver in the American minor series and then moved on to Trans-Am and IMSA. His time at Ford helped him considerably to the point that between 1984 and 1995, Roush won 119 races and 24 national championships for this brand.

In 1988, with the support of Ford again, he joined the big guys in the Nascar Cup. There he earned a reputation for innovation, something not very evident in Nascar racing at the time, which relied solely on brute force. Roush's cars were known both for their performance and for their sleek, polished appearance. His team won two Nascar Cup titles, four NASCAR junior titles and a truck championship.

Business F1 Top 20 Petrolheads: Jack Roush, An Essential American Racer - 2 During the years Jack Roush has built a private collection of over 200 classic road and race cars.

Roush has grown his organization into an empire, building Ford race cars for other teams and participating in as many as five Nascar races himself. He was here, there and everywhere, becoming Mr. Nascar. Roger Penske even bought cars from him for racing. At the root of Roush's success was his total commitment to engineering excellence: He introduced cutting-edge technologies, from aerodynamic advances to engine design, in a sport that was accustomed to brute force.

His team became a talent hub for engineering, attracting some of the brightest people in American racing. Roush became the equivalent of Adrian Newey in Formula One with regard to ranking talent. He also pioneered decision making based on the analysis of data collected at the racetrack. Jack Roush stayed close to his roots and maintained a very close relationship with Ford Motor Company, bringing the Blue Oval flag to the track. The alliance with Ford transcended the traditional manufacturer-team relationship: It was very deep and represented a genuine alliance that helped Ford-branded cars remain at the forefront of NASCAR for decades.

Over time, Roush has built a collection of 200 vintage road and race cars. The collection includes most of his race cars, which he had to repurchase from customers to whom he had sold them years earlier, a fact that he admits, ""I sold most of the first race cars in order to build the next car. Decades later I had to go back and repurchase them to trace my own history." The collection is housed in a series of giant warehouses at Roush's headquarters in Concord, North Carolina.

Business F1 Top 20 Petrolheads: Jack Roush, An Essential American Racer - 3 Roush joined the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 27, 2006 and was also entered the Automotive Hall of Fame in 2017.

In addition to the racing team, his business empire includes Roush Enterprises, a leading provider of automotive engineering services including prototyping, Roush Performance Products, a supplier of high-performance components and Roush CleanTech, a pioneer in alternative fuel systems. Today he is a very wealthy man. And he certainly deserves it. Altogether, Jack Roush has won more than 400 races and more than 30 championships in all motorsports series for the Ford Motor Company.

Not everything in his life has been easy but luck has always served him well: Among the most remarkable examples is that he was the victim of two plane crashes from which he was fortunately saved in both cases. Today he is 81 years old, looking 60 years old, and has not lost his drive. He can never retire because he is a far too vital part of his team and the Ford Nascar program. He will never leave the Roush headquarters in North Carolina as he is too important in this world to ever leave!

Business F1 Top 20 Petrolheads: Jack Roush, An Essential American Racer - 4 His son Jack Roush Jr. leads the Roush Performance marketing department as Brand Manager.