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Jack Roush Jr. Guest Column - Roush on Track
World Challenge is Latest Challenge for Mustang Racer
Hello, my name is Jack Roush Jr., and not only do I work at a toy factory (Roush Performance) as my day job, but I also have the privilege to race Ford Mustangs. Having the same passion that many of you out there do for the Mustang, I am very lucky to have both of these opportunities. Now, the fine folks here at Mustang-360.com have invited me to tell the stories behind our racing program and getting the Roush Mustang on track, how they tie into the street Mustang, and other related stories. Through the racing season, we'll have updates on the events, but I think we should start a few steps back. I'll also tell you about the latest Roush Mustang models that we build for the street.
As many of you may already know, I am the son of Jack Roush (Sr.), NASCAR team owner and racing icon. People often ask how it is to have Jack Roush as my father. Obviously, it's all I've ever known, but I look at him as many fans do. I have tremendous admiration and respect for his dedication to excellence, both on and off the track. Having him as a role model has given me great inspiration and high standards in my own racing and work.
Go-Karting, NMRA, and Grand-Am
Before racing a Roush Mustang, I began my racing career when I was just six years old. One Sunday morning, my father took me karting at the Ford Thunderbird Kart Club, centered out of Flatrock, Michigan, and the rest is history. He was my crew chief and driving instructor. We ran there for five years, in which we won all but the last half championship (and we tied for that half season). At the age of 12, I stopped karting (for a while) and then focused on a number of other interests, including my schoolwork, martial arts, working on my own car, music, and computers. I never got rid of the racing bug, however. When I was in college, I got back into karting, racing at Kart2Kart in Sterling Heights, Michigan. It wasn't long before I got the urge to race full-size vehicles, which happened to be drag racing in the NMRA.
Racing in this series was a blast, and it was a challenge to drive well and be competitive there (which is a big part of the fun). I have to admit, though: When I got the chance to road race a Mustang, it was impossible for me to turn it down. Since karting is essentially road racing, but with smaller vehicles, road racing a Mustang just seemed like the natural thing to do for me.
That's not to say that there wasn't a lot to learn, because there was. In fact, I didn't enter an amateur series to get started. Rather, my first opportunity was to race on the Rehagen Racing team, co-driving the No. 59 Mustang with Dean Martin in the (then titled) Grand-Am Cup series, a series with the world famous road racing legends of Boris Said, Bill Auberlen, Pete Halsmer, Andy Lally, Spencer Pumpelly, and many others. The series is now called the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series within IMSA. We ran in the GS (Grand Sport) class with other high performance cars. Needless to say, the learning curve was steep.
The first race I ran in Grand-Am was in October of 2006 at the fast VIR (Virginia International Raceway) in a six-hour-long race, that stretched into the night in the rain. I had never raced in the rain at night before, and VIR was a new track for me, but I carried on. Dean and I also co-drove with Ray Mason that race, and we finished 16th out of a field of 36 cars.
I raced with Rehagen for the next two seasons and learned a lot about driving the cars, the courses, and strategy. Then for the 2009 season, I formed a new team with Mike Canney called Horsepower Ranch. He ended up backing out early that season, but generously helped me continue my season with the use of his hauler and some other equipment. Hugh Plumb co-drove with me for the first few races. Then Billy Johnson joined the team for the Watkins Glen race that year. Billy and I got our first victory late in the year at Miller Motorsports Park and it all came down to an epic battle at the end of the race in the dark between Billy and Bill Auberlen. When the dust settled, it was us standing on the top of the podium, and we only gathered momentum from there.
All told, our team scored 10 victories and 28 podiums in Grand-Am. Besides that first victory at Miller, one of the others was our win at Homestead, near Miami, in March of 2010, which was the 400th professional Roush win. I had won the pole for the race, but the series didn't like my splitter in post-qualifying inspection. So, we had to start from the back of the field. By lap 35, I was in the lead and handed the car off to Billy in that position. Billy continued on with a strong run of his own for the win.
Yet another win that I am very proud of was the last race of 2013 at Lime Rock Park. At this point in our stay with Grand-Am, our car was arguably at a disadvantage. We had a period where we had been fairly dominate in the series, so the officials reacted by slowing us down (and speeding others up). The winning move came down to the last lap, where Billy finally reeled in Matt Belle in the No. 6 Stevenson Camaro and passed him in turn 1 for the checkers. Not only did this mark the end of the season, but it ended our run with Grand-Am, and book-ended the season with our win at the season opener at Daytona that year.
The Pirelli World Challenge
For the 2014 racing season, our team will not be in Grand-Am (now called IMSA). Instead, we are running in the GTS class of the Pirelli World Challenge, a series celebrating its 25th anniversary and sanctioned by the SCCA.
I greatly enjoyed my run in Grand-Am, but I have to say, I am very excited to be running the Pirelli World Challenge in a Roush Mustang . The format is a bit different, and many of the tracks that we're running at are completely new to me, with many of them being street courses, such as St. Pete, Long Beach, Toronto, and Detroit's Belle Isle.
Then there is Sonoma (Infineon Raceway). I've never raced at this track, but I can't say that I've never been there. I went to the Bob Bondurant Driving School when it was at this track (it was then called Sears Point Raceway) back in 1989—when I just turned 16 years old. Of course, we will be at some of the tracks that I am very familiar with, including Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio, and Miller Motorsports Park.
Other than the new tracks, there are other significant differences to this series: There are no driver changes—one driver stays in the car for the entire race. The races are in a sprint format, 50 minutes with no pit stop needed for gas and tires (unless there's unexpected trouble). Some of the races have a standing start—drag racing all over again. Many of the racing weekends have two races at the given track.
Ford Mustang In Grand-Am Vs. The Pirelli World Challenge
In addition to the race format itself, there are a number of differences between the cars raced in Grand-Am (GA) vs. the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC). In general, the PWC cars are more modified from their street versions. Here is a quick break-down of the Roush Mustang:
Splitter: GA: Small-to-none PWC: Large
Rear wing: GA: Relatively small and low on decklid (which provides limited downforce) PWC: Large wing in optimum high placement
Hood: GA: Mustang GT vented hood PWC: Tiger Racing carbon hood with dramatically increased venting
Weight (for Mustang): GA: 3,315 lbs (without driver) PWC: 3,400 lbs (with driver)
Engine restrictor: GA: 57mm PWC: 60mm
Rear differential: GA: Torson T2R and a 3:73 rear gear PWC: Open (we run an Eaton Trutrac) and a selection of rear gear (3.73:1, 4.10:1, or 4.30:1)
Tires: GA: Continential racing slick: 275/35/18 PWC: Pirelli P-Zero racing slick: 305/660/18 front, 305/680/18 rear
Brakes: GA: Limited options, mostly stock rear brakes PWC: More open rules—we use high performance PFC systems in front and rear
Suspension: GA: Limited selection PWC: More open—we use KW Suspension system
Drivetrain: GA: Limited selection—mostly stock in nature which can cause reliability issues PWC: More open—we use robust Quarter Master parts where possible, including clutches and throw out bearings
There are many more subtle differences, which we may dive into at a later time, but these are the big ones. However, there are a number of similarities as well. For one, the base car is the same. In fact, one of the cars that we have is the same car that we ran in Grand-Am but with modifications for this series. Another big item that is the same is the engine: A Roush-Yates sealed Ford Racing 5.0L 4V engine.
Pirelli World Challenge Coverage And Schedule
Below is a list of the 2014 GT/GTS PWC racing schedule (all TV broadcasts are on NBC Sports):
• March 28-30: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg TV: Sunday, April 6 @ 5:30pm ET
• Aprill 11-13: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach TV: Sunday April 20 @ 5:30pm
• April 25-27: Barber Motorsports Park TV: Saturday, May 10 @ 4pm
• May 30-June 1: Chevrolet/Cadillac Grand Prix of Detroit TV: Sunday, June 15 @ 2:30pm
• June 19-21: Road America TV: Friday, Jul4 @ 6:30pm
• July 18-20: Honda Indy Toronto TV: Sunday, August 10 @ 1:30pm
• August 1-3: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio TV: Sunday, August 10 @ 1:30pm
• August 22-24: Sonoma Grand Prix TV: Saturday, August 30 @ 1pm
• September 12-13: Miller Motorsports Park TV: Sunday, September 28 @ 2:30pm
See live streaming and archived video from the events at World-ChallengeTV.com.
Photos by Andy Perry