by Jack Roush Jr.
It's not even Summer yet, and things are heating up for the ROUSH Performance racing team. On the heels of a second place finish at Barber on April 9th, we earned our first win of the season at VIR on May 14th. Looking at our past three races, including a 3rd place finish at Homestead, we have an average finish of 2nd. The difficulty for us now is in overcoming the DNF that we had at Daytona, the season opener. This year bears a striking resemblence to the beginning of our 2010 season - we DNF'ed at Daytona but followed it with consistent strong finishes. After leaving Daytona this year with no points, we've worked our way up to 6th in the point standings, and we are just one point out of 4th and 5th (which is tied) and only nine points out of 3rd.
It may sound like we had a big break between Barber and VIR, but this was not the case. In the interim, the #61 Mustang drivers, Billy Johnson and myself, took part in the Brock Yates' One Lap of America, driving two bone stock 2012 Stage 3 ROUSH Mustangs to prove their performance in a test was not in a controlled environment. This event originally started over thirty years ago as the Cannon Ball and involved racing on public roads. However, just like all other forms of racing, things have changed, especially when it comes to safety. Consequently, the One Lap of America now only involves competition on track only.
One of the big components of the One Lap of America is endurance, for both the humans and machines involved. During the event, much of the sleep that we got (which wasn't a lot) was done in the passenger seat of our cars, and the few times that we had time to stop for dinner was a real luxury. Not only was it an exercise of human endurance, it was also a test of vehicle endurance as well. The event took place over the course of eight days and involved competition at 12 tracks, including road courses, autocross, skid pad, and drag racing. The driving between tracks alone consisted of over 4,000 miles. As proof of how hard this event can be on a car, the field saw an attrition rate of approximately 20%.
Not only was the event itself hard, but so was the competition. Nearly half of the field of 75 cars consisted of highly-tuned cars that were race cars that somehow were made to be street legal. Brock Yates jokingly refers to the field as street cars that are conspicuously disguised as race cars. In fact, it's more the other way around. And there are many great drivers in the event, including not only some of the best from our primary series, The Continental Tire Series of Grand-Am, but also national champions of autocross, experienced drag racers, acclaimed racers from Europe, and seasoned veterans of the One Lap.
At the end of it all, the ROUSH team outperformed expectations. In the awards ceremony, Brock Yates Jr. said that he expected the ROUSH Mustangs to do well for production cars. He expected us to get as high as 20th overall. In fact, we got 1st and 2nd in class and 3rd and 11th overall.
This combined with our Grand-Am season adds up to quite a few days of racing. As a driver, that's a great thing. Nothing can replace seat time in developing and maintaining your skills. However, the season ain't over yet. This coming weekend, we go to Lime Rock for the Memorial Day Classic. Then, without returning home, we go on to a three day test at Monticello, NY and leave from their to Watkins Glen for the next race. You can expect that the #61 ROUSH team will continue digging until the checkered flag drops at our last race of 2011 at Mid-Ohio. Stay tuned for more updates...