Mark Martin and Jack Roush built each other. Mark Martin was a driver who, though obviously skilled (winning four ASA championships between 1978-1986), struggled to make it in NASCAR early in his career. Jack Roush was a brilliant Ford engineer who started a race team and a racing engineering company. It wasn’t until the two hooked up in 1988 in the Winston Cup Series that the two were successful at the top level of motorsports.
Martin and Roush stayed together through the 2006 season, 18 years during which Martin would finish 2nd in the championship standings four times. When Matt Kenseth won Roush Racing’s first championship in 2003, Roush was sure to thank Martin in every victory speech. Martin tried to retire in 2005, but due to driver shuffling in the organization, Roush needed Martin to stay, and he agreed.
Mark Martin and Jack Roush seemed inseparable, like best friends or long-lost brothers. Everyone thought Martin would be in a Roush Ford until the last time he hung up his helmet. It was a given.
Then, they split.
Martin went into semi-retirement with rival Dale Earnhardt Incorporated and the affiliated Ginn Racing, but came back to full time competition this year with Roush-Fenway racing’s arch nemesis, Hendrick Motorsports (and, quite frankly, is kicking the pants off of the whole Roush organization). Seeing Mark Martin in a Hendrick Chevy was almost like seeing Dale Earnhardt in a Toyota – unfathomable. And, in victory speeches or otherwise, Mark Martin no longer thanks Jack Roush, and Jack Roush no longer thanks Mark Martin.
So what happened?
To be short, we don’t know. Probably the only two who do know are Mark Martin and Jack Roush. There have been no stories, no media investigations, no scathing tell-alls by the hauler driver.
Perhaps this is how it should be, but we can still wonder. Was Mark kept out of retirement a year too long? Was he hoping for some sort of management or ownership role at Roush Racing in his retirement that Jack was reluctant to give?
This is pure speculation, as it should be, and probably will remain. Mark Martin and Jack Roush are two of the most respected people in the garage, and I highly doubt either of them would come out and say anything, should anything have happened.
It will be interesting, though, if Mark Martin is able to win his first championship this year, if he will thank Jack Roush for the role he played in Mark’s career. Yes, he will have won the championship in a Hendrick car, but without Jack Roush, there would be no Mark Martin, and without Mark Martin, there would be no Jack Roush.
Other NASCAR Notes
Goodyear will test a larger Sprint Cup Series tire on October 6th at Richmond International Raceway. The new tire amounts to 1.5 inches taller and wider, in an effort to give the unruly COT more mechanical grip and handle better. I think this will be a good move.
The last few years in Formula One, they had been racing on a grooved tire – the cars were getting too fast, so the sanctioning body took some grip away to slow the cars down for safety reasons. This year, however, they made some aerodynamic changes to slow the cars, and put pure slicks back on to improve the mechanical grip in the corners. This has made for some exciting dogfights in Formula One.
I used to be completely against any change to the COT. To provide a good show, I thought the cars needed to drive ugly, and the uglier the better. The drivers in NASCAR are the best in the world, and if the cars handled perfectly, they wouldn’t need the best drivers in the world to drive them.
I figured out the problem with my old way of thinking when I realized the cars simply cannot race against each other unless they're handling. Only when a driver can sail into a corner with full confidence that his car will stay under him can he truly race the other car. This is why the bigger tire will be good, should it be implemented. I’m sure NASCAR can find some way to limit the costs – we’ve seen too many good things happen with the COT and underfunded teams to undergo wholesale expensive changes now, far removed from just a few years ago when NASCAR would announce that a certain manufacturer would be allowed a nose kick-out next week.
Reporting for NASCAR Now on ESPN after the infamous driver's meeting this summer, Dale Jarrett said, “The cars have the same size tire they did when I started racing 20 years ago, but have 200 more horsepower.”
In a quick note, the “Sights and Sounds” videos produced at NASCAR.com are amazing! Watch them for a few minutes of enjoyment at: http://www.nascar.com/video/features/sights_sounds/