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Curator's Corner / Hall of Famers

Jack Roush Gave Big Breaks

Team owner Jack Roush spent his career gambling on unproven drivers. His big bets paid off in a Hall of Fame career.

Championship team owner across all three NASCAR National Series.

Winner of 325 NASCAR races, including 137 in the premier series.

Pioneer of safety innovations, including roof flaps.

Founder and co-owner of Ford Motor Co.’s factory-backed racing engine company.

Global auto industry entrepreneur.

Jack Roush’s NASCAR Hall of Fame resume certainly checks an awful lot of boxes, more than enough for him to be inducted into the Hall’s Class of 2019.

Certainly, all of the aforementioned accomplishments are impressive.

Equally impressive is Roush’s commitment to developing drivers. Ever since hiring a then-unproven Mark Martin when he began his NASCAR team in 1988, Roush has given dozens of drivers their big breaks in NASCAR. In Martin’s case, he wound with a career that culminated with induction into the Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017.

And Roush is still developing talent on the owner side, bringing on Brad Keselowski as a driver and ownership partner in the newly renamed RFK Racing.

Not every risk Roush took on a young driver panned out, but a lot of them did.

Here are eight drivers who won their first premier series race behind the wheel of one of Roush’s Fords.

Hall of Fame careers for driver Mark Martin and team owner Jack Roush were kickstarted with a victory at Rockingham. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Mark Martin, 1989

Prior to joining what was then known as Roush Racing in 1988, Mark Martin showed promise as a driver as a rookie, only to lose his sponsor and have to return home to Arkansas and go racing in the American Speed Association. Martin earned his first Cup victory and the first for the team in the 1989 AC Delco 500 at North Carolina Motor Speedway. The victory came in Roush Racing’s 56th premier series start.

Jeff Burton dodged a massive first-lap crash to win the first premier series race at Texas Motor Speedway in April 1997. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Jeff Burton, Texas, 1997

A nominee on the NASCAR Hall of Fame Modern Era ballot for the Class of 2023, Jeff Burton drove for the Stavola Brothers in 1994-95 before joining Roush’s team in 1996. Although winless in their first year together, Burton and Roush scored a huge victory in the inaugural race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997. From 1997-2000, Burton won 15 premier series races and finished in the top five in points each season.

As a rookie, Matt Kenseth won one of NASCAR’s majors, the Coca-Cola 600. Photo courtesy of NASCAR Archives & Research Center/CQ-Roll Call Group via Getty Images

Matt Kenseth, 2000

Matt Kenseth, newly elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023, began his premier series career with Roush in 1999, running five races. The following season, Kenseth claimed Rookie of the Year honors, winning one of the sport’s majors, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In 2003, Kenseth delivered the first premier series championship for Roush, dominating the entire season.

The first taste of a premier series triumph for Kurt Busch came in the Food City 500. Photo courtesy of Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Kurt Busch, 2002

As a rookie in what is now the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2000, Kurt Busch finished second in points, earning himself a ride in one of Roush’s Cup cars the following year. In 2002, Busch won his first premier series race, the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch won four races in 2002, and two years later won the series championship in a memorable run that saw him prevail despite losing a wheel during the final race of the year at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It was a festive night in Daytona Beach for team owner Jack Roush (from left), driver Greg Biffle and Roush Racing President Geoff Smith. Photo courtesy of Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images

Greg Biffle, 2003

After winning championships for Roush in both the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2002 and the Xfinity Series in 2002, Greg Biffle began his rookie season in the premier series in 2003. During his rookie campaign, Biffle scored an upset victory in the July 4th weekend Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway. All 19 of Biffle’s career premier series race victories came while driving Fords for Roush.

Carl Edwards celebrated his first premier series victory with a backflip of the roof of his race car. Photo courtesy of Jamie Squier/Getty Images

Carl Edwards, 2005

Roush discovered Carl Edwards after the driver posted a classified ad in National Speed Sport News. After one full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Edwards replaced Jeff Burton midway through the 2004 premier sears season. The following year, Edwards won his first race by defeating Jimmie Johnson in an epic last-lap battle at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Edwards also won the 2007 Xfinity championship driving for Roush.

After winning at Daytona, David Ragan hoisted his trophy in Victory Lane, surrounded by his Roush Fenway Racing crew. Photo courtesy of Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

David Ragan, 2011

Another driver who won his first premier series race driving for Roush was Georgia native David Ragan, who drove for what was then known as Roush Fenway Racing from 2007 through 2011. In his final season with the team, Ragan won the 2011 Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola, the annual July 4th weekend race at Daytona International Speedway.

As his Roush Fenway Racing crewmembers cheered him own, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrated his Talladega victory with a frontstretch burnout.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2017

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first two career victories both came while driving for Roush Fenway Racing during the 2017 season. The breakthrough first victory for Stenhouse came in the Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in May. He followed that up on July 4th weekend, when he took the win in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

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Tom Jensen

Tom Jensen

Tom is the Curatorial Affairs Manager at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For more than 25 years, he has been part of the NASCAR media industry.

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