• One of NASCAR’s most successful team owners
• Two NASCAR Cup Series titles
• Five NASCAR Xfinity Series titles
• Two-time DAYTONA 500 Champion (2009, 2012)
Other Motorsports Series:
The success that Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing founder and Roush Enterprises chairman Jack Roush has enjoyed in motorsports may cover more different racing forms than anyone. In NASCAR alone, as of 2022, Roush’s teams have won eight championships across all three of the organization’s major series, including back-to-back NASCAR Cup Series titles (2003-4) and five Xfinity Series crowns (2002, 2007, 2011, 2012, 2015). “The Cat in the Hat” began his career as an engineer at Ford. He left to team with Wayne Gapp in 1970 and over the next five years, the duo won championships in NHRA, IHRA and AHRA Pro Stock. Roush moved into road racing in 1982 and in 1984 began an incredible domination of SCCA and IMSA, winning 119 races and 24 national championships overall. His cars took sedan class honors in 10 consecutive Rolex 24 at DAYTONA events. In 1988, Roush moved to NASCAR, where his teams have won more than 300 races, over 130 of them in the Cup Series. His two DAYTONA 500 trophies came with Matt Kenseth (2009, 2012).
By Godwin Kelly
Right out of the blocks, let’s tackle how Jack Roush was given his nickname—“Cat in the Hat.”
“I started buying the hats—exactly the same hat—about 1994 and had multiple road race cars and multiple NASCAR cars at the time, and I had so many sponsors who wanted me to wear their hat—I was like the old woman that lived in a shoe—I didn’t know which hat to wear,” Roush said. “So, I decided I’d get a straw hat and whatever I wore would be personal. I’ve worn a straw hat ever since.”
Did you catch that?
Multiple cars in multiple series with multiple sponsors. Oh, add this to the equation—Roush has seen tons of success in every racing endeavor with NASCAR at the tip of his motorsports spear. His teams have captured more than 300 races and eight championships, including a pair of NASCAR Cup Series titles (2003, 2004), across all three major series. Roush also sports a pair of Daytona 500 victories with Matt Kenseth (2009, 2012).
Where exactly did this tiger cat emerge from?
The lure of racing pulled Roush out of an engineering job at Ford in 1970 to team with Wayne Gapp. Over the next five years Gapp & Roush won NHRA, IHRA, and AHRA Pro Stock titles. In the 1980s, Roush’s incredible domination of SCCA and IMSA included 24 national championships. And let’s not forget Roush’s gift to Paul Newman for the actor’s 70th birthday. In 1995 Roush Racing prepped a Mustang that took Newman to a GTO class victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Looking for a new mountain to conquer, Roush took his talents to the NASCAR Cup Series in 1988 as Roush Racing. Some 34 years later (through the 2021 season), Roush has piled up a slew of victories with a bevy of drivers. Roush partnered with Fenway Sports Group owner John Henry (Boston Red Sox, Liverpool F.C.) in 2007 to form Roush Fenway Racing. Now they’ve added 2012 Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski as a part-owner and full-time driver as part of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing (RFK Racing).
“We’ve got over 300 victories in NASCAR, but I forget what the exact number is,” Roush said. “The number that I hold dear is (in more than) 40 years of racing, drag racing, road racing and NASCAR, I’ve won over 450 national events. I’ve enjoyed a lot of success, had a lot of really talented and able and dedicated people who have led us to victory.”
The NASCAR Cup Series might be the most demanding racing series in the world because of its coast-to-coast, week-after-week schedule. Cup racing starts each season with its biggest event, the Daytona 500, and concludes in November. Jack Roush has been in the ring with this sports beast for more than three decades—and he is still standing.
“You know, it just takes a tremendous effort,” Roush said. “This thing goes from the middle of February to Thanksgiving time, and it really consumes your life and the lives of all the people who are doing this. You’ve got to have focus on it. It’s unbelievable, you know, how much energy goes into this thing.”
But the “Cat in the Hat” can handle it.
Godwin Kelly, who has authored five racing books, was Motorsports Editor at the Daytona Beach News-Journal for more than 40 years before his retirement at the end of 2020.