Jack Roush: I Had Not Planned on Winning The Daytona 500

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IFebruary 17, 2009

If at first you don't succeed. Try...try...again. We've all heard that right?

Well the saying holds no truer than to those racers and owners wanting to win the Great American Race.

Most every race fan knows that it took the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. 20 attempts before winning the Daytona 500, but what most didn't know prior to Sunday, was that Jack Roush had tried 21 times before he hoisted the trophy.

On Tuesday afternoon, Roush and Daytona 500 winner, Matt Kenseth, took part in a teleconference to talk about this past weekends big win.

"It's way different than I'd expected," Roush told reporters Tuesday. "I had not planned on winning the Daytona 500 race. I went for years as a road racer to the 24 Hours, to a number of other road racing events they had. In fact, I won 14 times in 14 different events, road racing events, before I started the NEXTEL or Spring Cup racing. I thought when you went to Daytona, you picked up a trophy and got $200 and didn't have to go to jail or anything."

After all his success in road course racing at Daytona, Roush said he was surprised to find how difficult it was to win on an oval in a stock car.

"Sprint Cup racing for the Daytona 500 has been so difficult," Roush said.

Roush did visit Victory Lane with Jamie McMurray at Daytona in the July race, but had yet to win the season's inaugural event.

"It was surprising to me that there was so much pomp and circumstance about the enshrinement of the car in the Daytona 500 Experience, that Daytona Experience they have there," he said. "The enshrinement of the car was an emotional thing."

Roush said he had more energy associated with the ceremony than he ever imagined. "Of course, there was the ring that came in the Victory Circle that I hadn't expected," he continued.”

There's all the interviews and stuff and, of course, like Matt, I've been the recipient of a lot of well wishing, a long of congratulations that really surprised me and have humbled me beyond my description.

The 51st running of the Daytona 500 was Roush's 22nd attempt at winning the event.

"I had pretty much put it out of my mind that I'd ever win a Daytona 500," he said. "Of course, it was Matt's 10th try with us. So Matt had not planned on being there for the Monday after the event and had to trek back to North Carolina to get fresh clothes and things for the week that followed, and I had to delay my trip home by half a day."

Canceling flight plans home is well worth hoisting the trophy and cashing in more than $1 million in prize money.

"I know the spirits have picked up in the shop," he said. "In fact, I was surprised it was rained out. I was checking weather when they finally called the race. It came hours earlier than I'd expected. As I walked through the garage area to the paddock area, I was met by a line of cars, cars that were coming off the racetrack, so I was late getting to Victory Circle."

Roush went on to say that Kenseth's victory was very popular throughout the other crews and teams and that just about everyone Kenseth passed seemed to be congratulating him for what he had done.

One of the "perks" of winning the Daytona 500 is having your car enshrined in the Daytona Experience.

While it's exciting, it also takes away a car that the team knows can win on the restrictor plate tracks.

"Yea, that was a little hard to take in a way," Roush said of losing the car until next February. "The good news is with the Car of Tomorrow, which of course is the car of today, NASCAR's template rules, all the underbody, standardization of so many different things dimensionally, we've got other cars. There's nothing special about that car. If it was in the previous series of cars, you won a speedway race with it, you had to take it back the next three times you when to races during the year."

In all, Kenseth ran three different cars between the Budweiser Shootout, Gatorade Duel and Daytona 500.

"This car here, you know, seemed to work a little bit better from the beginning. But I talked to the crew chief, Drew, about it," Roush said. "Drew said he felt like in the shop the preparation that the guys did was better than what they were able to achieve at the racetrack from a bump-stop point of view."

So, do the teams get paid for the car from NASCAR?

"I've been told that NASCAR are going to pay me for it," Roush said. "I don't know if they'll consider it to be a $5 horse and I'll get $5 for it or what it will be. The good news is that one day it will come back to us and it will be a collector's item."

Another perk to winning the Daytona 500 is appearing on the David Letterman show the next day. While reporters thought Kenseth fared well on the show, they questioned if Roush had stayed up to watch.

"Absolutely not. I had to be up at a quarter to five this morning to get up to North Carolina," Roush said. "I'll have to get a recording of it and check it out in my spare time. I didn't see it last night."

The win was Roush Fenway's second restrictor plate victory since 2007.

When it comes to the recent success, Roush said the restriction of testing to NASCAR tracks has made teams with recent success a step above the competition since they already have a good database of information to go on.

"The partnership we have with Ford Motor Company technically gives us the ability to reduce a bunch of data, reach some conclusions that may not be obvious," Roush said. "The testing situation has played to our strength. The fact that we won at Daytona now certainly gives us encouragement going on to Talladega."

While it gives a bit of encouragement, Roush knows that heading to the restrictor plate tracks is as much of a toss-up as a jump ball at a basketball game.

"I heard Matt say that the car behind him was wrecked and the car in front of him was wrecked on the Earnhardt and Vickers debacle. You just had to be in the right place to be able to get through that," Roush said. "The team strategy doesn't really have that much to do with it."

Heading to Auto Club Speedway in California, Kenseth leads all drivers with the most victories (4), while Roush has a total of six car-owner victories at the two-mile oval.