Roush Reflects On 30th Anniversary Of Debut Race

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Roush Fenway Racing debuted in the 1988 Daytona 500 with Mary Martin behind the wheel. (Roush Fenway Racing photo)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Across the world, Feb. 14 annually marks the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day, but it holds another special significance for Jack Roush and Roush Fenway Racing.

The date marks the anniversary of Roush’s first foray into the world of NASCAR, as he competed in his first race at the highest level of automobile racing as an owner and began a journey that built one of the most successful organizations in professional sports history.

Competing with a backup car not even built for a superspeedway, Roush and his newly formed team completed only 19 laps before overheating and finishing 41st in their debut Daytona 500 on Feb. 14, 1988. That day was a humble beginning for a team which, 30 years later, has accumulated a NASCAR record 325 wins and hoisted championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

Ronald Reagan was President of the United States on that day. A gallon of gas cost 96 cents, the average price of a car was just over $14,000, a loaf of bread went for 61 cents and Roush was in the early stages of building the winningest team in NASCAR history.

“We wrecked our car in the twin qualifying race and had to run a car that was built for a smaller track,” said Roush of the team’s debut. “We went with what we had and of course did not yield the results we would have liked for our intro to NASCAR that day.”

“We made the race on time,” added driver Mark Martin, who piloted the No. 6 Stroh’s Ford Thunderbird in Roush Fenway’s inaugural season and held the ride for the next 19 seasons. “Then we got wrecked in the Twin-125’s and we didn’t have a backup speedway car, so we used the Atlanta car for the race. We didn’t last 20 laps.”

The results would quickly improve however, with Roush and Martin winning a pole that season and earning 10 top-10 finishes. The next season Roush Fenway won six poles, scored 19 top-10 finishes and grabbed its first win, breaking through in the fall of 1989 at Rockingham Speedway.

Roush Fenway would go on to earn its first NASCAR championship in 2000, doing so with Greg Biffle in the NASCAR Truck Series, and added its first Cup championship in 2003 on the strength of Matt Kenseth’s unparalleled consistency that year.

25 years later Roush earned his historic 300th NASCAR victory in the 2012 Daytona 500; the same event his car had lasted only 19 laps in a quarter of a century earlier.

Today, Roush’s teams have competed in 5,864 NASCAR events, holding the record for most total NASCAR wins (325) and sitting second on the all-time team win lists for both the NASCAR XFINITY Series (138) and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (50).

Until being surpassed by Joe Gibbs Racing (NXS) and Kyle Busch Motorsports (NCWTS) in 2016 and 2017, respectively, Roush also held the XFINITY Series and Truck Series records for wins by one organization as well.

Roush Fenway will look for its third Daytona 500 win on Sunday (2:30 p.m., FOX, MRN, SiriusXM) at Daytona Int’l Speedway with drivers Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

CREDIT: Roush Fenway Racing

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