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Jack Roush: The Man Below The Hat

Ben BombergerSenior Writer IJanuary 14, 2009

He's one of the most influential faces in NASCAR and can be spotted out of a group of people like a buffalo in a pack of dogs.

No, I'm not saying that NASCAR owner Jack Roush is a large man, but his signature hat —which brought him the nickname, 'Cat in the Hat'— sits atop his head anytime you see him, thus making him an easy target to pick out.

Roush was born and raised in Manchester, Ohio. He attended Berea College, where he obtained a degree in mathematics and a minor in Physics in 1964.

After being recruited by Ford Motor Company, he later continued his education at Eastern Michigan University, where he received a master's degree in Scientific Mathematics.

Although he enjoyed his job at Ford, Roush had dreams of his own. He was particularly interested in the manufacture's participation in motorsports.

His early fascination came in the from of drag racing, and always working to see how he could make the cars go faster. According to his bio on Roush-Fenway's Web site, he was involved exclusively in drag racing until 1978.

After successfull campaigns through various racing leagues, Roush broke into NASCAR in  1988 with an up and coming driver you may know — Mark Martin.

Martin quickly found success, finishing his rookie year with 10 top-10 finishes and three top-fives, but no trips to Victory Lane.

That changed in year number two, when Martin won at North Carolina Motor Speedway in October of his sophomore season. Martin would go on to finish third in the points.

Martin competed alone in a Roush car for the first four season, and finally received a teammate (Wally Dallenback Jr.) in 1992.

Martin doubled his wins that year, (taking the checkered flag twice), but Dallenback struggled, with only one top-five finish.

Year six for the Roush-Martin duo was even better than the any of the previous five years combined. Martin recorded five victories, 19 top-10 finishes and 12 top-fives. Yet, it was only third best in the championship race.

In 1996, the Roush stable added a third team. The drivers now included Martin, Chad Little and Ted Musgrave.

The trio struggled, however, bringing home zero wins for Roush.

Following a disappointing season, Roush added yet another young driver to his arsenal, Jeff Burton.

In 1997, Burton visited Victory Lane three times, while Martin did so four times. Musgrave managed five top-five finishes, but Little struggled, recording no top-10 finishes and a 36th place showing in the points.

Martin and Burton finished third and fourth (respectively) in the points, keeping a big goose egg in the championship column for Roush Racing.

1998 saw the addition of a fifth car, which was split between Musgrave (20 races) and Kevin Lepage (13 races).

The teams, overall, brought in nine wins. Of course, seven came from Martin and the other two, from Burton. Martin finished the season second in points, while Burton finished fifth. Roush was now 11 years into NASCAR, and had yet to win a championship.

In 1999, Burton carried the torch with six wins, while Martin recorded two. Martin, however, finished higher in the points at third, while Burton managed another top-five showing at fifth.

The year 2000 saw future champion Kurt Busch compete in seven races, taking over for Little. It was also the arrival of another future champion, Matt Kenseth.

Burton finished the season with four wins, while Martin and Rookie Kenseth each garnered one. Burton was the team's top-dog with a third place finish in the points, while Martin finished eighth.

Roush's stable in 2001 fielded only four cars, and was full of talent: Busch, Kenseth, Martin and Burton. The team captured only two wins, with Burton taking home each.

2002 was a turning point for the organization as Busch recorded four wins and a third place finish in the points, Kenseth grabbed the checkered flag five times and finished ninth in the points, Martin had one win, but finished the season second in points.

It may not have been a championship, but a second and third place showing gave Roush the taste that a championship may be near.

In 2003 — 15 years after his arrival in NASCAR — Roush celebrated his first championship with Kenseth.

Kenseth's season was consistent, and although he only won one race the entire year, he finished atop the charts. (It's believed that his championship run is what led to the Chase, which began in 2004).

Also in 2003, Roush returned five cars to the track with the addition of Biffle. Busch managed four victories en route to an 11th place finish in the points, while Biffle had one in his freshman season. Martin and Burton each finished the season with goose-eggs in the win column and 17th and 12th respectively in the points.

2004 was the beginning of the Chase, and was good to Roush.

Busch won three races en route to his first championship, and Roush's second in a row. Kenseth and Biffle each had two wins, while Martin recorded just one.

This year was also the arrival of Carl Edwards, who participated in 13 races, with one top-five and five top-10 finishes.

In 2005, Roush managed to place all five of his drivers in the Chase, prompting a questionable call by NASCAR to limit owners to four cars.

Roush drivers finished second (Biffle), third (Edwards), fourth (Martin), seventh (Kenseth) and 10th (Busch, after being suspended the final two races).

The announcement to teams that NASCAR would limit owners to five teams, obviously brought great opposition by Roush.

He felt he should be grand-fathered in and didn't think he should have to give up one of his teams.

Though the limit went into effect for the 2006 season, Roush was given until the conclusion of the 2009 season to cut back. (NASCAR knew that sponsorship issues and driver contracts had already been completed).

In 2006, Roush's car would again play bridesmaid, as Kenseth finished the season second in points, with four wins. Biffle recorded the teams only other wins with two. This was also the first year Jamie McMurray competed in a Roush Ford.

In 2007, Roush brought David Ragan on board and finished the season with seven wins. (Edwards 3, Kenseth 2, McMurray 1 and Biffle 1).

Kenseth and Edwards both made the Chase but finished fourth and ninth, respectively.

Last season, Roush brought home 11 victories, (Edwards 9 and Biffle 2), but again fell short of the championship, with Edwards finishing second to Jimmie Johnson.

Now that the 2010 deadline is approaching, it should be interesting to see which team Roush opts to cut after this season. My thoughts would be that instead of actually cutting one (probably McMurray), the team will merely be shifted over to the Yates banner.

Today, Roush Industries employs more than 1,800 people and operates facilities in five states, as well as Mexico and Great Britain.

In 21 years of competition, Roush cars have recorded 113 wins, 590 top-fives, 1,026 top-10 finishes and 70 poles. They also have led 31,181 laps (4.5 percent), earned over $216 million, and completed 900,899 miles (which leads all owners, all-time).

Roush definitely has a signature look with his "Cat in the Hat" image, but he also has a signature look on the racetrack — out front!

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