A second title would convince the team owner there is no conspiracy to keep him from winning.
By BRANT JAMES
Published November 21, 2004
HOMESTEAD - If Kurt Busch wins the Nextel Cup championship today at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he will make team owner Jack Roush happier than the dour man ever thought he could be.
And Busch will force Roush to admit the curse, the conspiracy or whatever it was, is history. It just can't hold up in the face of consecutive championships.
As with any decent conspiracy theory, there is circumstantial evidence. Roush's mainstay driver, Mark Martin, finished second to Dale Earnhardt by 26 points in 1990 after being assessed a 46-point penalty earlier in the season for failing an inspection. Martin led the standings late in 2002 when a rule change that benefited Pontiacs aerodynamically helped Tony Stewart overtake him for the title.
When Roush's Matt Kenseth won in dull fashion last season and NASCAR subsequently changed the way the champion is determined, Roush carped: "Maybe they didn't change the rules because Matt Kenseth won a championship. Maybe they changed it because Jack Roush won a championship."
But with Busch on the verge of a title, the often-cantankerous Roush seems to be softening.
"I was so mad and so irritated with the 17 years that had gone with my chase for a championship in NASCAR, I honestly didn't care if I ever won one," he said. "I wanted one for Mark Martin and I wanted one for the team, but it was almost like that no matter what happened, there was a rule somebody made that we were not going to be allowed to win one.
"To come back and say, the curse, like this Red Sox thing, this curse is broken, we've outlived it. I was really caught cross-purposes because I was prepared to be angry as long as I did this for what they've done to me and for what my frustrations had been over a period of time. It took me a while to get detoxed from that."
It was a powerful poison. All the unfortunate circumstances his Cup cars accrued became fodder for paranoia within the organization. The thought crystallized: NASCAR will not allow Roush to win a title. The woe-is-us line became a mantra, one that is sure to flare if some odd circumstance befalls Busch today.
"In the Roush world, everyday we're sure (NASCAR) always prefers they have someone other than us win," team president Geoff Smith said. "We're too big, too powerful, and by the way, Kurt probably won't bring in as much souvenir revenue as Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jeff Gordon brings. He won't be the financial success. He does not have several of NASCAR's biggest sponsors tied to the program."
As one of the more irascible, demanding owners in the series, Roush never has been shy about expressing his opinions, through the media and in the NASCAR hauler. Perhaps his constant badgering singles him out for misery.
"I've never met a race driver or race team, Roush included, that really ever lost a race or championship," NASCAR director of corporate communications Jim Hunter said. "It's the competitive nature of everything, and NASCAR is an easy target. I think with the things that have happened over the years, it's easy to understand why they would take that approach, but in winning last year with Matt Kenseth and having two of the top five in the Chase this year, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the other teams start developing their own conspiracy theories."