Every so often, our editorial staff selects one aftermarket industry professional to get to know a little better. Participants are asked to respond to a series of questions that can be answered in about the same amount of time you might spend chatting at the office coffee pot or waiting for an elevator. In this installment of “5 Minutes With,” we get to know Jack Roush Jr., vice president of marketing and part of the ROUSH Performance family dynasty.
What was your first job in the in dustry?
As you might expect, I’ve been around the industry my whole life. Growing up, I worked in the family business, working in our paint shop, special projects, maintenance, and elsewhere. As for my career, I didn’t immediately work in my family’s business or in the industry for a number of years after I graduated. Instead, I co-founded a tech start-up with some friends of mine beginning in the late 1990’s. When I was six years old, my father got me started racing in karts while my mother got me started in programming classes. It’s funny that two of my passions started at the same time and continue today. So, developing technology was right in my wheelhouse. I worked in that business for ten years, innovating search and other technology.
In 2004, even though I was still at my tech company, I began to take part in ROUSH Performance (RPP). I went from racing karts my whole life to racing full sized vehicles, first in drag racing, then in road racing – representing the ROUSH brand on track. Also, my tech company began supporting ROUSH Performance with consulting services. Eventually, I left that company in 2008, focusing my efforts full-time to help elevate the web side of RPP.
What would you say you like most about your current position?
I’ve loved being part of RPP across all of the roles that I’ve served in from managing the web side of the business, product development, and strategy. We have a special blend of performance, engineering excellence, and competitiveness that I’ve always been excited about and proud of. Having grown up around racing, it’s just a part of who I am. RPP takes that same passion for racing and instills that into quality products that help our customers live that excitement.
My current role is VP of Marketing. I took over the marketing department right before the pandemic hit in 2020. As it was for everyone, this was an uncertain time. We didn’t know how things were going to shake out. We couldn’t go out and see our customers. Honestly, it was pretty heartbreaking. Luckily, we have a great marketing team full of talented people who truly care about the brand and our customers, and they are automotive enthusiasts themselves as well. Through the uncertain times, we continued supporting our dealers. We also focused on entertaining our audience while things were locked down with content and even our own eSports series in iRacing, which continues today.
Now in 2022, I’m excited to navigate new ways of connecting to our customers and providing value to them.
Did you initially intend to pursue a career in the aftermarket? If not, what drew you to the industry and what keeps you here?
The ROUSH company is more diverse than you would expect. The parts of the company that you hear about publicly (Roush Fenway Keselowsky Racing, ROUSH Performance, and ROUSH CleanTech). However, these are really just the tip of the iceberg. The majority of what we do is in helping other companies develop their own products. This includes helping the major automotive companies, as well as the military, energy, aerospace, amusement park, and technology industries. In the case of RPP, we’re able to engineer and produce the brand’s products because we already have such a deep set of capabilities to work with.
When I came to my family’s company, I could have gone to work in any number of different areas, but I wanted to work at RPP. The choice here is out of a passion for the RPP brand, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s about the competitive drive for excellence in what we do – to provide the best products for our customers.
It’s funny, I don’t really look at RPP as being an aftermarket company. Pretty much all of the aftermarket kits that we offer come from our vehicle programs, which go through the same certification requirements (where is applies) as the OE’s –certifying powertrain upgrades with the EPA, proving safety with DOT validation, and ensuring longevity to meet our warranty.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Working in your family’s business, you never really walk away from work or watch the hours tick down until you can think about other things. It’s always on your mind – how you can meet the current challenges.
That being said, I’m very fortunate to have a great family. I’m married to my beautiful wife Laura, and we have four wonderful children. So, we’re also running around keeping their programs going as well. I may also be racing in sportscars again this year, with an announcement likely coming soon, and I’m also continuing to work on my iRacing skills (sim racing) as well. Yet another passion of mine is music (classical piano and other endeavors), and I try to keep up on practicing that, too. It is a pretty hectic routine, but I will say that I’m never bored.
What kind of car do you drive?
I have a 2020 ROUSH F150SC, a ROUSH BlackJack Stage 3 Mustang, a Focus RS, and other assorted toys. I also get the chance to take out a number of engineering vehicles for testing and development. I have to say, it’s nice to get the chance to bounce between all of these to get perspective on where each one shines.
What was your first car?
Believe it or not, in high school, I didn’t have a car. I would borrow our family’s car when I needed to get somewhere, but I usually was working pretty hard at home on my studies. In college, I got my first vehicle, a Bronco II, which I loved. The locking 4×4 mode could crawl over just about anything.
Do you have a nickname?
Not really, but there is one that comes to mind. My friend and race team manager, Brad Francis would call me “Rocket Man.” In case you aren’t familiar with his name, he was a true legend in the sport. He ran the skunk works on our NASCAR teams, which says a lot, but that is a tiny part of his storied career. For more than 30 years, he was a fierce enemy of my father’s on the track including drag racing, road racing, and even NASCAR – where he helped advance the technology of Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s program with Richard Childress Racing. Since that time, Brad and my father became great friends and allies in racing. Unfortunately, Brad passed away in 2020. I learned a lot from him while he ran my road racing program — for over eight years. I’m humbled and honored by this nickname that he gave me.
Do you have a hidden talent?
That would probably be music. I love playing and writing music. I started play piano at about the same age that I started racing and programming – age 6. I play classical piano. I used to play guitar and sing. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick those back up at some point as well. In college, I double majored in music composition along with my business school program in information systems. Given that I wasn’t interested in teaching music, though, I ended up leaving the music school and continued studying privately. I’ve never stopped playing since that time.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading three books:
1) Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” – I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books. He has a very unique style of analysis that incorporates many disciplines of thought and ties them together to form a bigger picture. “Blink” explores the process and value of instant analysis of situations.
2) “Keyboard Presents Synth Gods” – This is a compilation of many articles from Keyboard Magazine (now know as “Electronic Musician”). It’s interesting to go back through the stories of several of the artists that changed history in synth music.
3) the Smithsonian’s “History of the World Map by Map” – This is a very interesting book that makes it easier to visually grasp the context of human history over time and geography.
I try to read either fiction or topics that I’m not actively involved with to help me fall asleep and others when I’m flying or have other trapped time.
Who was your childhood hero?
Another tough question… In truth, I’ve had many heroes. Some were people I knew personally, while others were those that I admired for creating things that I loved. However, my parents top the list. They both worked very hard their whole lives to provide for our family and others. Neither of them were impoverished growing up, but they didn’t have it easy either. Both grew up around farming, in Ohio and Kentucky. They met while going to Berea, a college that only allows students who did very well in high school and who need financial support. While there, they met and started dating. They got married while in school. After graduating, they made their way north to Detroit to pursue opportunities in the auto industry, which was booming at that time. The rest is history. They have both been strong role models for me in embodying humility, ingenuity, and hard work.
Other heroes include my father’s drivers. When you look back at the list of talented people that were part of our teams, it’s pretty amazing in itself. The road racing was especially inspiring for me. It was similar to the racing I did very early on with karting. Then to grow up and be able to take part in that same style of racing that I witnessed my father run is something I’ll always be grateful for.
Who is on your dream dinner party guest list?
I guess I don’t have that interesting of a wish list here. I’m just thankful for each time I can see my close friends and family. Life is too short.:
If you could time-travel, to where and what in era would you want to visit?
I would want to see the beginning of our country – the time of the Declaration of Independence and the formation of the US Constitution. The more I learn about this time, the more amazing it seems to me – not only what happened at that time but also in its context given previous developments (the Magna Carta specifically) and how it affected the development of democracy and republics afterward. It would be amazing to observe first-hand what the people of this nation went through and how they formed principles that ultimately formed the Constitution. You can read much of this in books, but to see the personalities live this would be something else. What they did in that time and place helped move the entire world in the right direct for liberty and freedom.
Edison had some great ones that all focus on never giving up, innovating, and working hard. I think that this one sums it up well:
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”AMN