Jack Roush was born in Covington, Ky., in 1942 and raised in Manchester, Ohio. He attended Berea College, where he majored in mathematics and earned a minor in physics. He graduated in ‘64 and immediately moved to Dearborn, Mich., after Ford Motor Company recruited him to work on the processing of car assembling and tooling.
During that time he began working on his Master’s Degree in Scientific Mathematics at Eastern Michigan University and became intrigued by engine development and motorsports. He realized soon that his job on the assembly plant would not fuel his ambitions.
He left Ford in ‘69 and worked briefly for Chrysler. He sensed that working in the assembly plant would not fulfil his ambitions. He formed a partnership that involved him strictly in drag racing during the early ’70s. He won the ‘73 National Hot Rod Association and ‘74 International Hot Rod Association Pro Stock World Championships while gradually expanding his business enterprise. He was beginning to attract attention as part of the Gapp and Roush Racing. This same organisation would later provide powerplants for Charlie Kemp on his famous Ford Cobra II.
In the mid-’80s he turned to sports cars and became a fixture in the Sports Car Club of America and International Motor Sports Association divisions.
Roush was involved exclusively in drag racing until 1978, and advanced in power classes to the NHRA Pro Stock division. He also managed to find time to provide engines for race teams in other sports, such as the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb and various powerboat and oval track series.
In 1976, Roush ended his partnership with Gapp and formed Jack Roush Performance Engineering. Roush’s success at the track and his reputation as a performance engineer helped deliver project after project to his doorstep. He stopped operating the drag racing team, but kept doing race business for other teams. Roush primarily built engines for other teams throughout the early 1980’s.
In 1982 Roush formed a partnership with Zakspeed Racing to run GTX and GTP cars for Ford in the United States. Zakspeed had much success racing in Europe and wanted to partner with Roush for the US races. Some of their drivers included Kevin Cogan, Bobby Rahal and European superstar Klaus Ludwig.
Copyright Van Zannis
In 1984, Roush returned to competition in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) road racing series and a legend was born. In the first year, he won the manufacturer's title for Lincoln-Mercury. Since then, Roush Racing has claimed 24 national championships and titles in the two series, including 12 manufacturer’s championships. Some of the drivers who helped Roush achieve his 119 road racing victories are Tommy Kendall, Wally Dallenbach, Jr., Scott Pruett, Willy T. Ribbs and former Craftsman Truck team general manager, Max Jones.
Many other drivers drove for Roush Racing, including Mark Martin, Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd, Kyle Petty, Ken Schrader, Robby Gordon, Pete Halsmer, Lyn St. James, as well as actor Paul Newman and Olympian Bruce Jenner.
Roush Racing won a combined 24 road race championships in those two series from ‘84-‘97, including 12 manufacturer’s crowns and capturing the sedan class of the 24 Hours of Daytona a remarkable 10 straight years. Overall, Roush Racing has registered 116 road-racing victories.
The first race that saw a Roush Racing Ford Mustang was the 1984 Daytona Finale. A V8 6,0L powered car immediately dominated the field. Willy T Ribbs
powered the car to an unchallenged race victory, snatching the pole,
best race lap and class victory in the process! It was the car's first
ever IMSA race, and victory, but many were to come by. When he took on IMSA Racing, the team was named Roush-Protofab, as Jack Roush was partnered by Protofab, a team which was involved in race car components fabrication, led by Bob Riley. Charlie Selix and Gary Pratt partnered with Jack Roush in this effort.
When the 1985 season opened, they entered two cars in the traditional 24 Hours of Daytona. The first one was the car which won the Daytona Finale, while the second one was a Mercury Capri, which entered the Trans Am.
The race itself was a matter of simply dominating the GTO field for the Ford Mustang driven by Wally Dallenbach Jr, John Jones and Doc Bundy. The second car did not finish the race, after Willy T Ribbs went into the wall, fortunately uninjured. The team had entered IMSA racing in a very spectacular manner, and literally outpaced every competitor. Jack Roush, who was the ambitious type, knew exactly what he had to do, and he did it very well. The cars were thoroughly prepared and would last for 24 Hours without any major trouble. The next race, held at Sebring, would be no different. One single car was entered, and started only on forty ninth spot. But the race would prove once again the Ford Mustang's ability to dominate the GTO class. At the end, Wally Dallenbach and John Jones had a twelve lap advantage over the Road Circuit Technology entered Pontiac Firebird driven by Les Delano, Andy Peterey and Patty Moise.
Copyright Michael Crews
In fact, the real opposition did materialize in the form of three potent cars : the Dingman Bros Pontiac Firebird, the Peerless Racing Chevrolet Camaro, the Brooks Racing Ford Thunderbird and the very impressive Porsche 934 entered by Chet Vincentz. Wally Dallenbach and John Jones won at Road Atlanta and Riverside, but had a dnf at Charlotte. The Lime Rock race was not a success too, and the pair finished only sixth. They took over the winning trail at Mid Ohio, second at Watkins Glen with Doc Bundy as a co-driver, Portland and Sears Point. Then they had another win at Road America, two dnfs at Pocono and Watkins Glen, while Lyn St James became the first female driver to win a GTO race, driving the sister car. The newly formed pair John Jones and Lyn St James took the Daytona Finale, with John Jones being crowned as the 1985 IMSA GTO Champion. Darin Brassfield took five wins, and the runner-up. It was quite a very good season forbthe team as they swept up the Trans Am Championship too with Wally Dallenbach Jr winning the driver's title. The season to come was dawning under auspicious ways, but it was to become some kind of nightmare for Jack Roush. Chevrolet had hired more than half from his racing crew for his new racing team, and Roush Protofab became Roush Racing during the 1986 winter. He lost most of his drivers in the process. Even Ford seemed not to be willing Roush Racing to run the awesome V8 engines and urged him to develop the V6 turbocharged powerplant. Nonetheless, he worked on the Merkurs with the turbocharged engines. He went on working on the Ford Mustangs, and he had new drivers for this new season to come. The first race of the season was a one-two for Roush Racing with Lanny Hester, Maurice Hassey and Lee Mueller winning in a semi-works car, while Bruce Jenner, Scott Pruett and Klaus Ludwig were second in the Seven Eleven backed car. They had led most of the race, only to lose their ninety lap advantage when they had to pit for a lengthy oil leak repair.
The next car was more than one hundred laps down! The team equally enjoyed a very popular success with the all NASCAR team drivers Bill Elliott, Kyle Petty, Ricky Rudd and Ken Schrader, who had a dnf in the race. The next race was disappointing for everyone as Bruce Jenner, who was the best Roush entry finished only fifth overall on the Miami street course. The next race, at Sebring, will be remembered as the race the NASCAR men should have won, but it was once again Bruce Jenner and Scott Pruett who took the chequered first. It seems that a late minute unscheduled pit stop, due to a pitboard which was unintendedly displayed pitboard for the NASCAR men lost them the race! Scott Pruett won solo at Road Atlanta in the 100Mile event. The dominating team was beaten at Riverside by the Peerless Racing Chevrolet Camaro driven by Jack Baldwin and Jim Miller. They drove the fastest Camaro ever built, which was a lightweight tubeframe car, and would provide a stiff competition to the Roush contingent throughout the 1986 season. Scott Pruett was again successful at Laguna Seca, beating the All American Racers Toyota Celica driven by Dennis Aase. The Ford opponents were becoming more and more fast and new cars appeared, which were lighter, and faster than ever. At Charlotte, Jack Baldwin won again, this time over Tommy Riggins and Craig Carter, who drove the Dingman Bros Pontiac Firebird, Bruce Jenner and Scott Pruett were only third. Mid Ohio and West Palm Beach were new victories to the team, while Watkins Glen saw a new victory for Jack Baldwin on his Chevrolet Camaro, Bruce Jenner and Scott Pruett taking second.
Bruce Jenner proved he was a true racer, driving his Ford Mustang to consistent results
Copyright Mark Windecker
Portland, which is a horsepower track, saw a new victory for the Fords, but at Sears Point, Willy T Ribbs, who had left Roush Racing at the end of the 1985 season, was back in the winners' circle with a new Chevrolet Camaro entered by Brooks Racing. Second was the Toyota Celica driven by Chris Cord and third was Dennis Aase, also driving a Toyota Celica. The best Ford Mustang was only sixth, and it was obviously not the best racer on this type of track. Road America came next but they were again beaten by the nifty Toyota Celica driven by Rocky Moran and Dennis Aase. Bruce Jenner and Scott Pruett were second, and were leading the Championship points, but it was not the same kind of domination. Lime Rock and Watkins Glen were the kind of races you had better forget as no car were to be found in the top ten positions at the finish. This was due to oiling failures, and this were getting tough.
At Columbus, Willy T Ribbs won again, this time over Pete Halsmer, while Scott Pruett took a seventh place. The season would end pretty well for the team who made a very special effort, entering four cars at the Daytona Finale. Scott Pruett won the race over Chris Cord, who drove a Toyota Celica, while Bruce Jenner took the third place. At the end, Scott Pruett was the 1986 IMSA GTO Champion. With that kind of killer determination, Scott Pruett had the real mental positive attitude which drove him to the Championship, driving a four-year old car. The car had a powerful engine, but it was now getting outdated, and 1987 would not bring any radical change. New cars had appeared, and now you had fierce competitors around. At Daytona, it looked like things were to change for Roush Racing, as the All American Racers Toyota led for the biggest part of the race, only to be sidelined at the end of the race by a broken suspension. It was really tough for the AAR Team and the Ford Mustang driven by Bill Elliott, Scott Pruett, Tom Gloy and Lyn St James won the GTO class, and it was a third in a row for Roush Racing. Once again, Ford had the most reliable cars. It was now clear for everyone that the All American Racers Toyota Celicas were now the cars to beat. The Ford Mustang were clearly outdated. At Miami, Bob Earl won in a V6 Pontiac Fiero over Jack Baldwin and Tom Gloy. At Sebring, Ford would undergo a severe defeat as the Protofab Racing Chevrolet Camaro driven by Greg Pickett and Tommy Riggins won easily over the Ford Mustang driven by Bruce Jenner and Bobby Akin by seven laps.
Copyright Kirk Hoffman
They were just ahead of the Toyota Celica driven by Chris Cord and Juan Fangio II. At Riverside, Chris Cord won in an impressive way over Tommy Riggins on a Camaro and Tom Gloy. The remainder of the season would be a succession of top five results, and a sole victory at West Palm Beach for Tom Gloy. Jack Baldwin powered his Chevrolet Camaro to wins at Firebird and Sears Point, while Bob Earl took another win at Lime Rock. Chris Kneifel and Paul Dallenbach won the raincast Road America event. However, the new dominators in the series were the now reliable Toyota Celicas. They were fast but they could win every kind of race. Ultra-sophisticated, the lightweight Japanese rockets proved it was now the way to go for the next season. Chris Cord and Willy T Ribbs, now driving for Dan Gurney, won every remaining race. Chris Cord was the 1987 IMSA GTO Champion and Tom Gloy was second, but fifty eight points was the difference between the two men.
Copyright Kirk Hoffman
Jack Roush had now grasped the fact that the successful Ford Mustangs had to be parked away, and it was time for the now ready Mercury Merkurs to have their share of success. He had run the cars successfully in the Trans Am series, and the cars could be easily converted to IMSA GTO specs.They would be Roush Racing spearhead for the 1988 season.