Born in Covington, Ky., in 1942, Roush was raised in Manchester, Ohio, a town of 2,500 people. He attended Berea College and received a mathematics degree with a minor in physics in 1964. He was recruited by Ford Motor Company that year and moved to Detroit to work on the processing of car assembling and tooling. Roush purchased his first new car at this time, a 1964 Ford Mustang. Roush had always been fascinated with engines and was determined to work in that area. He then went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Scientific Mathematics from Eastern Michigan University in 1970, which he felt was needed in order to move into the engine research and development area.
While working for Ford, Roush was drawn to the company’s extensive motorsports activities. Always the organizer, he soon surrounded himself with others who shared his enthusiasm for going fast in a drag racer. Roush joined a group called "The Fastbacks" in 1966. Working for Ford provided steady income, but security and professional accomplishments were no substitute for going faster than the last time, and faster than anybody else at the racetrack. Roush left Ford in May of 1969 and began buying his own equipment to improve the racing performance of "The Fastbacks." It was not long before he was doing development work for other teams.
Roush worked at Chrysler as an engineer for one year before leaving in 1970 to start his own engineering business. As "The Fastbacks" disbanded that year, Roush began his next venture into racing by forming a partnership with Wayne Gapp. For the next five years, the duo attracted national attention by winning events and one championship each in NHRA, IHRA and AHRA with their Pro Stock racer. The team fielded Ford products including a Mustang II, Roush also spent some time teaching in between his racing ventures. He taught mathematics, physics and a variety of automotive subjects at Monroe Community College in Monroe, Mich., in 1971 and 1972. 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.
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. In 1989 at the helm of a Roush Racing Mustang, Dorsey Schroeder scored Ford's first Trans-Am title since 1970. 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 current Craftsman Truck team general manager, Max Jones. Roush has also earned 10 consecutive 24 Hours of Daytona sedan class championships. Some of the drivers who competed for Roush are Kendall, Dallenbach, Pruett, 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.
In 1988, Roush moved south and expanded his racing business to include a NASCAR Winston Cup team with driver Mark Martin. During the team’s inaugural season, Martin won one pole and earned 10 top-10 finishes. In October 1989, Roush and Martin claimed their first NASCAR Winston Cup victory at North Carolina Motor Speedway. Today, Roush has expanded his racing operations to include four Winston Cup teams, one full season and one limited-schedule Busch Series team and two Craftsman Truck teams.
In March of 1999, Roush earned his 200th career win in the post-drag racing era as a team owner with Martin’s Busch victory at Texas Motor Speedway. His engine facilities in Livonia, Mich., and Mooresville, N.C., also supply the horsepower for several other teams in Winston Cup and Busch Series racing, including Wood Brothers Racing, PPC Racing and Akins Motorsports.
Currently, Roush Industries, Inc. employs more than 1,800 people and operates facilities in five states, as well as in Mexico and Great Britain. Although primarily known for providing engineering, management and prototype services to the transportation industry, Roush has developed a significant role in providing engineering and manufacturing for the electronics, sports equipment, aviation and motorsports industries. Roush Performance builds several special editions of Mustangs.
At his induction into the Mustang Hall of Fame, Roush delighted the audience to his reminisces of hopping up his first Mustang and draggin' on the streets of Detroit.