Grand-Am Road Racing Media Conference
Topics: Grand-Am Road Racing
Jack Roush, Jr.
June 22, 2011
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's Grand-Am teleconference as we get ready for this weekend's Rolex Sports Car Series event and also the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at historic Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Today we have two really special guests, two drivers who are going to compete in Friday night's Road America 200 for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. We're joined by Ken Schrader and a little bit later in the call Jack Roush, Jr. Ken is going to co-drive along with Dicky Riegel, the No. 195 Cruise America Thor Motorcoach MINI Cooper S for RSR Motorsports.
Ken, you have such a great history in NASCAR and short tracks. This weekend you're going to be in a MINI Cooper for the first time at a track you've never raced at before. What are your thoughts going into this obviously pretty unique weekend for you?
KEN SCHRADER: Yeah, a track I haven't been at and don't know where the turns are, but that's okay, we're going dirt racing tonight and I've got a video of some in-car footage so I'll be able to research that tonight in between races at the dirt track. Really looking forward to it. I'm kind of having a lot of fun right now because we're just kind of able to do whatever we want to do. We've run the Cup car five times this year and we've been doing a little more TV and been running my dirt car a bunch, and I was talking to Dicky the other day -- well, a couple months ago, and he said, man, if you ever want to be co-driver, and I said I'd love to, and he texted me about this date and I said that would be perfect; I'm already in the Midwest. And I am looking forward to it.
HERB BRANHAM: It's hard to believe that we're starting a conversation with you talking about a track you have not been to. There aren't too many of those, are there?
KEN SCHRADER: I'm closing in on about half of them. We've run about half of them. That's figuring that they're ballparked around 1,000 tracks and we're closing in on 500.
You know, I kind of shied away from the road courses for a number of years, and then when I started driving for Mr. Hendrick, heck, that was a number of years ago, I knew I had to get better, and we started doing some off weekends and stuff, and actually started having some fun doing it.
Q. Tell me something: In crisscrossing the Midwest forever, did you have any impression of Road America, like did you ever fly over it and wonder? I guess it's not like Trenton or Langhorne might be, but to get to race -- where does it fit in your big scheme of things to get to race at Road America?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, like I say, I've got to run at Riverside. We actually won a race at Riverside and Topeka and Lime Rock and got to run Watkins Glen, got to run some pretty neat places, Sonoma and that. But I never went out just really, really searching for road courses, and when I thought of Road America, I thought of Foyt getting hurt. I thought, that's a good place to stay away from.
I know it's nothing to do with the racetrack. I've always been a big A.J. fan. Never have flown over it or anything, and just -- this whole thing, I've always -- and you know this: I've always had fun racing, but now it's really cool to be able to do everything, a lot of the stuff you really just want to do. And when Dicky mentioned this, I thought that sounded like way too much fun, in a MINI Cooper especially.
I remember going out to Wentzville, Missouri, Mid-America Raceway, shoot, early '60s, mid '60s.
Q. Those were Austin Minis.
KEN SCHRADER: Yeah, they'd make a left-hand turn, they'd be carrying the left rear tire. I didn't ask if these do that. I guess I should check. That looked a little scary at the time. But I'm just really looking forward to it.
Q. Front-wheel drive, have you ever raced front-wheel drive and what's the anticipation of that?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, from what I've seen, the front-wheel drive cars on dirt, it's a lot harder to get them turned around. Hopefully that'll be good for me to be going the right direction most of the weekend.
Q. My curiosity is after driving the high-powered stock cars and your dirt car, how do you go about adjusting to the lower powered vehicle you're going to be in this weekend, and I'm also very curious as to where you're going to be racing on dirt this weekend in the Road America area?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, we're actually not in the Road America area. Last night we went to Canton, Illinois, which is down by Peoria, for the UMP Summer National Series, and we got rained out last night. So we're back in Highland, Illinois, tonight, which is right outside of St. Louis, and then I don't have -- I've got to be up there tomorrow morning and haven't quite got that far yet as far as hopping the plane or hopping the truck or something. We're not really racing up that weekend -- right up there this weekend. I'm going to go watch my ARCA car Saturday night in Winchester, Indiana, maybe run something on the way home Sunday, but like I said, that's kind of the nice part right now, we're just kind of picking and choosing and doing what we want.
Q. Is this the start of maybe you joining us for maybe more runs?
KEN SCHRADER: Let's see how it goes and let's see if Dicky calls me again. That's a big question. We'll just see how it goes. But yeah, it would definitely be something that I'd look at doing some more.
I'm kind of partial to my dirt car. The dirt ovals are what I am kind of partial to, and we're running about 70 nights a year right now, so it only fits in so many any other nights, you know?
Q. I appreciate the statistical update on United States racetracks, and knocking Road America off, what's near the top of your gotta-get-there list right now? Could be anything, dirt, road course, asphalt. What's at the top of your list as far as the next racetrack you want to get to?
KEN SCHRADER: I'd just like to get to ones that I haven't been to before, and next month in July -- I don't have any that are just circled that have to go there because all those I've been pretty fortunate to go to. But we're shoving off July 5th with our dirt cars, we're taking three of them, and we're going up to Knoxville, Iowa, which we've run a number of times, and three or four places in Minnesota that we haven't ran before, and then we're going over to Estevan, Canada, and Winnipeg, then out to Montana and then Wyoming, a bunch of tracks there. Most of those are tracks that we haven't been to.
So the ones high on the list are just new ones for us.
Q. And you mentioned, I'm sure probably tongue in cheek, how you used to avoid road courses, but since you started running on them you've had some success and in different categories of cars. What do you write that off to? Is it partly saying, hey, I'm going to have fun with this and the success follows? How do you figure that?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, my wife, we were flying to Sonoma or someplace, and I was driving for Mr. Hendrick, and I was like, man, I'm just dreading this, and she just said, I don't understand that. If we were sitting on a quarter-mile dirt track in wherever, Timbuktu, and we were sitting up there in the grandstands and you'd watch somebody's car and say, If this guy just did this or did that, he'd be going good. What, do you think your cars are no good? What, do you think you can't drive? She just kind of lit a little fire. I know my car is good, so I've just got to figure this out.
First thing I had to figure out about it was when you walk in the garage area that morning be looking forward to it, and then we started having fun with it.
Q. People talk about different road course specialists, if you will, that help NASCAR drivers. Was there anybody in particular that you could cite as a help to you?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, it's pretty simple. Just about everybody because I was so screwed up because everybody was better and they were all help. Terry Labonte was always very good, very smooth. He's going to run Frankie Stoddard's car this weekend at Sonoma, and he was a lot of help.
HERB BRANHAM: Ken Schrader, I'll let you go and wish you the best of luck going into Road America this week, and we appreciate your time today. It'll be cool to see you road racing.
KEN SCHRADER: We're definitely looking forward to it, especially a track with that much history. And getting to run a MINI Cooper, how neat is that?
HERB BRANHAM: We're joined by now Jack Roush, Jr., who was in the car at Elkhart Lake. Jack, appreciate you joining us.
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Thanks for having me. Sorry I'm late.
HERB BRANHAM: Jack Roush, Jr., he returns this weekend racing in the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang, two-time winner already this season, and he's third in the Grand Sport points standings.
Big weekend obviously, historic racetrack, you and co-driver Billy Johnson coming off victories at Virginia International Raceway and Watkins Glen to bump yourself up to third. What are your thoughts about going to Road America and what kind of role do you think this event might play as you try to win this championship?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Oh, I'm really excited to be here. I've driven at this track before, and the thing is that I don't remember for sure, but I believe I was about ten years old my dad took me here once. It's funny being here and seeing some sights that kind of look familiar, but it's been quite a while.
Q. Congratulations on the success you and Billy have achieved. Could you give us a little bit of an idea what he's meant, what your teammate has meant to your development as a real effective road course driver?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Oh, absolutely. I started road racing because I go-kart raced as a child, which is essentially road racing, but obviously with a much bigger vehicle.
As an adult I started road racing full-sized cars just a handful of years ago, and obviously there's a lot to learn there, and one of the things I've tried to do along the way is to try as hard as possible, looking at data, talking about lines or different types of (indiscernible).
Billy has been great to work with. He's a great racer but he's a great coach. After each session we debate what's gone on at the track, and anyway, yeah, it's been a really great relationship, and it's helped me get a lot better as a driver.
Q. This is tough to put you in his shoes, but have you talked to Billy, and how excited is he about the double duty assignment that he's got this weekend?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Yeah, he's really excited about it. Actually I'm staying through the weekend to watch the Nationwide race and watch his involvement in it. Yeah, he's really excited to drive in anything that has wheels and goes fast, so he's very pumped.
Q. Carl said that he was actually going to help him at both venues. As far as you know, is Billy still planning to go to Sonoma after your race?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I'm not sure. I don't know about that one.
Q. I know you had to pick up some smart genes from your dad because he's got so many of them, but I wanted you to talk a little bit about the Roush Performance part of it that you borrow from -- not only just from your heredity but from the standpoint of engineering and such that helps you out.
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Oh, absolutely. You mean like as far as personally or how Roush Performance is related to the racing?
Q. Well, actually both would be good. That would be a good comparison.
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Okay. This may be -- I could give you a long version of the answer, but up until about three years ago I was working at my own company, which I had for over ten years, which is based -- we did web-based programming, and for a while I wanted to work at my dad's company, and there's quite a few divisions there.
The part that -- one of the parts that I'm really excited about is obviously Roush Performance. It's like working at a toy factory. I like driving fast Mustangs, and the people at Roush Performance have a vision for that. It's very similar in a lot of ways to the racing side. Obviously there's some other things you need to take into account for production, pricing and safety and things that would be different than racing, but it's definitely of the same fabric.
Q. I was on a teleconference a while back talking about the way the FR9 engine went together, went so smoothly, and all the effort that was taken. Could you talk a little bit about that and how that makes you feel, driving a Mustang with that kind of engineering background?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Oh, absolutely. As far as the Ford engine and NASCAR, I have not been very involved with that, but obviously it's impressive to see what those guys are doing with it.
As far as what we do in our racing, I personally find it really rewarding to drive a production-based car against other manufacturers, and I have to say the Ford Mustang does extremely well. You know, especially when you think about what you pay for a Mustang compared to an M3, and you get performance that's on par, to say the least. It's really cool.
Q. So you would say that there's definitely a correlation there that you think goes from the great engineering that they put into that new engine that transfers over to all the Ford products?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: As far as the new NASCAR engine, I can't -- I really can't speak to the specifics of that. But for our series, we race essentially production-based cars. Even the engine that we run, which is the new Ford five liter, it's a slightly different version of it, but it is used in some of the production Ford Mustangs. Yeah, it's very closely tied to the production version.
Q. First of all, talk about the positives and negatives of having, I guess you could say, an icon in the sport being your dad.
JACK ROUSH, JR.: Well, I think that there's definitely positives and negatives. I think it's a lot more positives. I almost hesitate to say that there's negatives, but I think that especially when I came into the series, I came into Grand-Am without any road racing experience with full-sized cars, so that was humbling in a lot of ways. There were a lot of people watching what I was doing and wondering if I was there just because of my name. At least I like to believe I've proven what I can do.
I think that on a level that's much more real to me as far as what that heritage means is living up to the standards that my dad has lived up to, which is pretty high. But yeah, I'd definitely say that that's a positive.
Q. Can you kind of talk about the season progression? Obviously you had a rough start down there at Daytona, but since then you and Billy have really been on a roll. How did you get it turned around and how have you guys been able to figure it out here in the last couple races?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I think it's actually a lot of things. It's almost hard to identify any single thing because one thing that goes wrong can really screw everything else up that you do right.
It's funny, after we win races, we're happy, but we walk away from victory lane many times talking about things that went wrong and things that we can do better, and it's probably that. If there's any one single thing that's helped, it's just continually trying to get better, and I think the whole team feels that way and strives to do the best they can.
Q. And then you mentioned your dad took you there to Road America when you were a kid. What did you remember or what do you remember about being at the track, and I guess what stands out to you at the track of today?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I guess it's -- when I was growing up, it was more -- I'd ride a motorcycle around the track and see the cars -- when I started road racing myself, it was kind of a flashback to being at the road races of my childhood. Being on the track is a whole different thing. Even though I haven't driven the track, I have practiced it quite a bit on iRacing.com, which has helped. It's definitely interesting to be driving here.
Q. You seem to be really enthusiastic towards production-based cars. Will we see you move up to other divisions?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I hope so. I don't know what the future will bring. I really enjoy driving in the series, and obviously for this year that's our focus is to strive for success here.
Q. You guys have knocked off a bunch of podiums. Do you have to be on the podium the rest of the season to catch the Turner car to get the championship?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: You know, I'm not exactly sure. Billy's dad is an amazing statistician when it comes to our points. I'm not up on that, but basically we're just trying to go out and win every race if we can and worry about the rest later.
Q. And with the race at Road America this weekend, with the track being so long, is it going to be a little bit different driving through traffic with everything a little bit more spread out?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I don't think it'll be too bad. There are a lot of tracks where it's a lot more difficult to pass the ST traffic. Yeah, I don't see any problems there.
Q. You guys have actually been on the track already today. How are things going at the track, and what kind of lap times would we be looking at in GS?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I'm not exactly sure. The track was wet when we first went on track, and it was gradually drying up more. The track felt very green. We were starting, I think, in the high 229s, and I expect that we'll get a few more seconds out of there before the weekend is over.
Q. As I look back in history, dad got his start, he raced equipment, and obviously has progressed to the point where Roush Industries is today. You spent time with your own company, as you said, you're racing this stuff now. Do you as you look big picture and look ahead, do you see this as kind of a training ground for moving into a management role somewhere with Roush Industries in the future?
JACK ROUSH, JR.: I'm sure that will help. I think that there's a lot of reasons why I race, and part of it is the personal satisfaction from it. But there is a lot of things related to what you're saying. It's not really anything that's been spelled out specifically, but yeah, it is definitely part of what we are as far as racing and even other parts of the company that wouldn't seem to be an obvious tie.
HERB BRANHAM: We appreciate you taking some time out for us today. Best of luck this weekend at Road America.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|