An Interview With Jack Roush Jr.

Unless you just got into cars and racing yesterday, you know the name Jack Roush. Drag racing fans know him as half of the dynamic Gapp & Roush Pro Stock team of the ’70s, while road racers remember his dominance with Mustangs and Capris in the Camel GT and SCCA series of the ’80s and ’90s. Today, he’s most well known for his NASCAR teams, with drivers Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne.

And of course, if you’ve ever been to Detroit you’ve no doubt seen at least one of the Lord-knows-how-many buildings of Roush Engineering, Roush Performance (home of the Roush Mustang and other specialty vehicles), and Roush Industries. The company does development work for most of the auto manufacturers, sells crate engines and parts to regular Joes like you and I, and is synonymous with the word Ford.

But perhaps Jack’s biggest success story are his kids, in this case the son who carries his name, Jack Jr. An accomplished racer in his own right, Jack Roush Jr. started racing karts with his dad when he was a kid and has progressed to podium finishes in Grand Am’s Continental Tire series, driving, of course, a Mustang.

In the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang, 2010 was an exciting year for Jack Roush Jr and Co-Diver Billy Johnson. They have finished in the top 5 in every race but the first one at Daytona International Speedway where they had some challenges with the car.

He began his sedan racing in 2006 with a single race (to gain experience), then in 2007 he got a fourth place finish; in 2008 did as good as a second at Virginia International Raceway (VIR); in 2009 he had two wins, five podiums and six top five finishes; in 2010 the team finished in the top five in every race except for Daytona; in 2011 Jack took second overall in points with wins at FIR, Watkins Glen, and New Jersey with podium appearances at every race but Laguna Seca.

We sat down with Jack Jr. to get the inside scoop on what it’s like racing in the Continental Tire series, and also growing up with a father so rooted in all things fast.

StangTV: First off, tell us what it’s like to be Jack Roush’s son, and to be around all that racing and high-performance machinery your whole life.

Jack Roush Jr. is married to Laura and has three kids, two daughters and a son.

Jack Roush Jr.: “I have great admiration and respect for my father.  It’s just as awesome to me seeing what he’s done with his career than it is for any fan.  He built up his business from nothing with a lot of hard work and by choosing great people to work alongside with.  I’d like to think that having him as a role model has given me a good work ethic and passion for excellence, and I hope to pass that along to my own children.”

“As for having grown up around the racing and high-performance machinery, I’m lucky to have seen a lot of unique things relating to racing growing up — the drag racing that my father was involved with in the 1970’s, road racing in Trans Am and IMSA in the 1980’s, and NASCAR starting in the 1980’s to the present day.  Having caught a glimpse of these things while I was very young has definitely had a profound impact on my perspective as an adult.”

STV: What is your day job? Do you work for Roush Performance or Racing?

JRJ: “My day job is with ROUSH Performance, which is now centered in the Plymouth, Michigan (in the Detroit area).  My background is in Internet technology.  Before working at ROUSH Performance as my day job, I worked at my own Internet company, where we made Internet-based software, built our own web community, (the largest hi-fi headphone community), and did consulting work for companies including ROUSH.  Now that I’m at ROUSH Performance, I am continuing to focus on the Internet-side of the business.  I also help work on product development for our vehicles/parts as well, trying to bring in my own perspective on performance to our line-up.”

“However, I also keep in close touch with my racing program down in Concord, NC on a daily basis.  Whether it’s strategizing for our next race, figuring out problems that we need to fix, helping sponsors and customers, there’s always plenty to work on with that side as well.”

STV: You started racing in karts, have done some drag racing in the NMRA, and have been successful in road racing Mustangs. Which form of racing is your favorite, and why?

JRJ: “I started racing go karts when I was just six years old.  At that time, my father was on hiatus from having his own racing program.  He had just gotten out of drag racing and had not yet started his road racing program in earnest.  Of course, he was still running his engineering and race engine business.  However, as for his own race program, this was it, and as you can imagine, things got intense.  When I was eleven years-old (after winning four-and-a-half championships), we got out of karting, at least for a while.  At this point in time, my father kicked off his road racing program with Trans-Am and IMSA.”

“After graduating from college, I got back into karting.  Around the same time, I also was dabbling in drag racing (in NMRA).  I really enjoyed drag racing, but I felt that I was hard wired for road racing.  I reached a point where I wanted to get more involved in racing, either with a higher-horsepower drag racing car, or road racing.  At this time, the opportunity arose to drive with Dean Martin in the #59 Rehagen Racing Mustang, and the rest is history.”

Grand Am's Continental Tire series runs on some of the best, most famous tracks in the country, from street circuits to Daytona.

“Since that time, I’ve also dabbled in oval track racing, with Focus Midgets in 2010, and I have done some training for rally racing.  I have a great appreciation for all types of racing, but for me, given my background and what I am most passionate about, road racing is definitely my favorite form of racing as a driver.  Tuning a car to be the best at a given track, developing the skill to drive well, developing the physical endurance and strength to perform, and the many other aspects of doing well are all challenges that I enjoy tackling.”

STV: Tell us about your last two seasons in Grand Am.

You know you're cool when a kid asks for your autograph.

JRJ: “The last two seasons in Grand-Am have been a blast. First of all, I love this series.  Grand-Am’s Continental Tire Series has great depth in the field.  We have many of the best road racers from around the world here, both drivers and teams.  Plus, we drive production-based cars of many different manufacturers against each other.  Sure, there are a number of modifications to the cars that are specific to the race track, but at their core, these are the same production cars that you can drive on the street.  I think that’s pretty cool to see how all of these cars line up and perform on the track.”

“During the past couple of seasons, we’ve seen the ROUSH Performance team begin as a new team (in 2010) under a partnership with Mike Canney (the initial name was “Horsepower Ranch”) to being a dominant team in the series.  We have a great group of people, and I’m really proud of what our team has become.”

“I can’t say enough about my co-driver, Billy Johnson.  He’s done a great job with us, and we’re eager to go for the championship in 2013.”

STV: What was it like to win the Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at the legendary Daytona Speedway?

JRJ: “It’s a big deal and a great honor.  I think that for any driver in the series, winning at Daytona would have great meaning, but it goes beyond that for me personally.  This is the track where my father has won ten 24-hour races (with having run the event only ten times — a 100% success rate!).  Also, Daytona is the place where NASCAR, Roush Fenway’s primary series, was born.”

Jack Jr. and his team scored a win in 2012 at the legendary Daytona International Speedway.

STV: What type of racing do you most want to do?

JRJ: “I have to say, road racing in Grand-Am is pretty hard to beat for me personally.  If I end up venturing into a different series, I think that it would be in Rolex.”

STV: You got a degree from the University of Colorado. Tell us about that, and how it helps you in racing and/or in business?

JRJ: “It was a great experience going to school at CU in Boulder.  My degree involves two of my passions, business and computers.  Web development and programming is a funny thing to study.  You can never sit still with what you know at any one time — you have to keep learning because of how quickly things change and because there is an awful lot to learn.  However, what I learned at CU for technology was very helpful and helped build my core of knowledge to keep building on.”

“As for the business side of my curriculum, I think it’s not a bad idea to have a business degree (or at least have a good knowledge of it) no matter what you want to do.  In my racing program, we are constantly forming business relationships with partners and sponsors, handling customers that we can help support, and controlling costs.  The business side of racing is simply inseparable from the performance side.  I gained a lot of what I need to do business from school.  However, that being said, you can’t overvalue the experience from working in business and constantly trying to learn on your own outside of school as well.”

Career Highlights

2011– The No. 61 car made the podium in every race but one, with 3 wins and a points finish of 2nd place. 

2010– In the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang it was an exciting year for Jack Roush Jr and Co-Diver Billy Johnson. They have finished in the top 5 in every race but the first one at Daytona International Speedway where they had some challenges with the car.

2009– Racing in the Koni Challenge GS Roush was able to obtain the 9th place in Driver Championship with 2 Wins, 5 podiums, 6 top 5’s (of 9 races driven in) with Roush Performance in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang.

2008–  Jack made his first podium with a third place finish at Barber Motorsports Park.  He followed this up later in the year with another podium (for second) at V.I.R.

2007 – In the No. 59 ROUSH Performance Ford Mustang, competed in all but one (Daytona International Speedway) events on the KONI Challenge schedule with a best finish of fourth in the six-hour season-finale at Virginia International Raceway. Completed his rookie season by finishing eleventh in team points and 24th in the driver point standings. 2006 – Ran one race, the season-finale at Virginia International Raceway to gain experience. Started the race in 35th, finished in 16th. Early Career – Raced go-karts, starting at six years of age in 1979 when he and his father Jack Roush raced together in the Ford Thunderbird Kart Club at Flat Rock (Mich.) Speedway. During the five seasons they raced, the pair captured 4.5 championships and tied for the championship in the final half-season. Also has some NMRA Drag Racing experience.

STV: Who have you found to be the hardest person to race against?

JRJ: “That’s an interesting question.  There are several great drivers in our series, and it’s hard to single out anyone as being the hardest to race against.  You can’t give up anything to many of these guys.  If you let yourself get caught up into thinking about how great a particular person is on track, you’re likely going to psych yourself out and prove that they are better than you.  I think that the balanced view on this is to drive with respect but also assert yourself as strongly as you are able.”

STV: What’s your favorite track to race on?

JRJ: “For a while, my favorite track was Barber, and it still is one of my favorites.  However, now I don’t have a single favorite track.  They are all so unique.  All of the tracks that Grand-Am goes to are in my opinion truly world-class and are great to race on.”

STV: Your dad is big-time into airplanes. Have you ever shared that passion?

JRJ: “I have done a little bit of flying.  Starting in 2003, my father and I flew a Piper Cub a fair amount.  It’s a tail-dragger (the wheels layout of planes going back to World War II and earlier), which makes it harder to land than a tricycle, which is the standard modern wheel layout on planes.  I got really good at flying and landing that plane.  It was actually kind of strange flying it once I got used to it — it felt like it was flying itself.”

“It’s unclear I’ll end up doing more flying at this point.  With my young family, racing, a day job, and some hobbies, it’s pretty hard to fit in right now.  But that’s not say that my father and I won’t go out for an occasional flight, and who knows what will happen in the future.”

STV: What do you like to do in your spare time that has nothing to do with cars?

JRJ: “Piano is another one of my interests that I try to get as much time as possible doing.  I’ve played since I was seven.  Actually, I started racing, playing piano and programming all within about a year as a young child, and these are all things that I am still very interested in.”

“Other than music, I also really enjoy working on my fitness: running, weight, etc.  Of course, this does tie back into racing — it definitely helps to be in good shape.”

STV: So what’s next for Jack Roush Jr.?

JRJ: “I don’t see any major course changes for myself coming in the immediate future.  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to race as I do and to be a part of such a great company.  What I am striving for now is to not change what I/we are doing so much as to improve the way we are doing them.  For Grand-Am, that means going for the championship in 2013.  On the side of ROUSH Performance, we are constantly looking to improve our product line-up and to make the customer experience and lifestyle as good as it can be.”


About the author

Rob Kinnan

Rob Kinnan requires very little introduction. Many would recognize Rob from his days as the Editor of Hot Rod Magazine. He is a dyed-in-the-wool hot rodder and muscle car enthusiast, a road racing aficionado behind the wheel of his Factory Five roadster, and a hardcore NASCAR fan.
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