On any given weekend during a NASCAR racing season season you'll find him wondering all over a speedway garage area with the stoic expression of a thinking man on his face. During television media interviews it's easy to tell that he's carefully listening to each and every word of a question and then chooses each and every word carefully while formulating a response. This is the nature of Jack "The Cat In The Hat" Roush, the founder of Roush Fenway Racing, (RFR), and one of the most successful NASCAR team owners in the business.
However, over the period of approximately seven days, Roush has had a lot of reasons to smile. Business has been good at RFR lately. The recent accomplishments include the sale of the #26 Ford team combined with a service contract with the new owner, some very positive steps regarding sponsor programs in both the organization's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams and Roush capped off the week by receiving a very distinguished, and well deserved, honor.
THE MANDATED SALE OF THE #26 TEAM HAS CREATED NEW OPPORTUNITY
NASCAR's long awaited mandate, that places a cap on team ownership to four cars, finally becomes effective at the start of this new racing season. With five cars in their racing stable last year, RFR had to make a tough decision regarding which team was going to be leaving the organization. By late summer it was getting to be pretty obvious that the departing team was going to be their #26 Ford driven by Jamie McMurray.
Then, on January 12th, came an announcement that said the #26 team had been purchased by Vermont based businessman Bill Jenkins, the proprietor of Latitude 43 a company that manufacturers organic cleaning products. In addition to all of that high quality racing equipment, the new team owner also acquired the rights to the team's owner's points from 2009. Because driver McMurray was able to keep this team inside of the top 35 in NASCAR owner's points, Jenkins now find himself with a car that has a guaranteed start in the first five events of 2010 including the prestigious Daytona 500. Announcements are reportedly still pending regarding the driver and sponsor but it was recently revealed that veteran crew chief Frank Stoddard, a former alumni of RFR, has been hired to lead the team.
Of particular interest here was the transfer of the 2009 owner's points. In the past NASCAR has allowed a transfer on the condition that the original team owner maintained some form of standing within the new ownership structure. A prime example of how this works would be a corporate merger between two existing teams.
However that doesn't apply to the sale of the #26 team to Jenkins. Because of that RFR was granted what was termed a "one time exception" and that allowed the owner's points to be transferred. According to NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston, this exception was granted because RFR was in the process of eliminating one of its teams in order to comply with the sanctioning body's newly implemented ownership cap.
Within a day of the announcement that said the team had been purchased came another press release that said Jenkins has signed a comprehensive services contract with RFR. The list of services in that agreement includes race car rebuilds, repair and maintenance, gears, transmissions, engines and testing services.
So far Jenkins has yet to name a driver or an official team sponsor for his new NASCAR Sprint Cup enterprise. But if one of those drivers turned out to be a Jack Roush protege would you be surprised?
THE RFR SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM IS LOOKING STRONG
With the start of a new racing season so close away, many team owners are still busy negotiating with potential sponsors. That issue is yet another reason that allows Jack Roush to smile. At this writing three of RFR's Sprint Cup teams for drivers Carl Edwards, David Ragan and Gregg Biffle are completely sponsored for the entire 2010 season. Biffle's #16 Ford just recently received some additional sponsorship from the U.S. Census Bureau who recently launched a massive national ad campaign for the upcoming national head count.
Still outstanding in the sponsorship category is Matt Kenseth's #17 Ford. At the end of the 2009 season DeWalt Tools announced they would not be returning to RFR and ended an approximate ten year relationship. Crown Royal, last year's sponsor with the #26 team, agreed to move over to Kenseth's car for 17 races. However, in recent days, RFR President Geoff Smith said all is well and he expects to make an announcement very soon regarding a full sponsorship package for the Kenseth car.
Add to the mix that all four teams will be powered by the new Ford power plants, developed by Roush Yates Engines, and that's just one more reason why Roush can't wait for the green flag to fall on the new season.
THE RFR NATIONWIDE PROGRAM IS ALSO LOOKING PROMISING
Roush will be looking over four full time NASCAR Nationwide teams during the 2010 season. That includes the recent, rather surprising, addition of driver Paul Menard. Last year Menard was racing in the Sprint Cup Series for Yates Racing. The recently completed merger between Yates and Richard Petty Motorsports now has him officially has him driving a Ford for RPM in the Cup Series.
Apparently Menard wanted to join the list of drivers who plan on spending 2010 racing full time in both the Cup and the Nationwide Series. RFR was only to happy to accommodate those wishes. Menard's Home Improvement Stores, a family owned enterprise who has supported the driver for many years now, will once again provide the primary sponsorship for the new Nationwide Series ride.
RFR driver Carl Edwards also plans to run both series full time this year. His #60 Ford will be sponsored by Fastenal and Copart who will cover 31 of the 35 events.
Also joining the RFR Nationwide Series stable for 2010, on a full time basis, will be the up and coming talents of Colin Braun and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. The Braun car so far has sponsorship from Con-Way Freight and 3M with additional sponsorship to be announced soon. Stenhouse's Ford will carry the colors of Citi Financial this year.
RFR drivers Matt Kenseth, David Ragan and Greg Biffle will not be rotating in and out of a RFR Ford in the Nationwide Series as they did last year. However, it was recently announced that Biffle will be driving a Nationwide Series Ford, on a part time schedule, for Baker Curb Racing.
THE CAT IN THE HAT'S SMILE WAS REALLY SHOWING LAST WEEKEND
Jack Roush was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall Of Fame this past Saturday night in a ceremony held in Concord-North Carolina. That ceremony also included fellow inductees and colleagues Roger Penske, Rusty Wallace and Robert Yates.
When you consider his years of success in the sport and his massive contributions to the betterment of NASCAR racing this is an honor that is richly deserved.
If you walked up to Jack Roush right now and asked him about the prospects of the new racing season he would likely return to that stoic, thinking man, expression and tell you that last year could have been better. He would then carefully give you an analysis of the prospects of the new year and present it a very optimistic way even though you would not see it on his face.
But at least for one week there were plenty of reasons for the "Cat In The Hat" to smile and he more than deserves that.