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Source: Roush Racing, Red Sox owner complete deal

2/9/2007 - MLB Boston Red Sox

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- A group of investors led by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry has completed a deal to buy a 50 percent stake in Roush Racing, a person familiar with the negotiations said Friday.

Although team owner Jack Roush is selling half of the team to the Fenway Sports Group, Roush will continue to run the team's competitive operations, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the deal hasn't been announced.

Both parties have scheduled a Feb. 14 news conference at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, a minor-league facility near Daytona International Speedway.

Roush fields cars in the Nextel Cup series for Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray, Carl Edwards and David Ragan and has won series championships with Kenseth and Kurt Busch.

An avid racing fan, Henry has been talking to Roush for several years about forming some sort of partnership. Henry is a co-founder of iracing.com, a company that allows computer users to play online racing simulation games -- and Henry is said to spend hours playing the games himself.

The deal represents a financial windfall for Roush, who started as a small drag racing team owner in the 1960s and entered NASCAR in 1988 with driver Mark Martin.

At NASCAR's preseason media tour last month, Roush said that he needed additional funding to help his team develop the Car of Tomorrow -- a new chassis design that NASCAR is introducing this season -- and keep up with Toyota, which is entering the Cup series this year and is expected to drive up the cost of racing.

The deal could also help Roush attract more casual sports fans to NASCAR and allies the team with a group of well-heeled investors with a wealth of financial experience.

But even other NASCAR team owners admit that their business model isn't an automatic path to huge profits. Teams generally invest much of their profits into research and development.

And unlike teams in other sports, NASCAR doesn't award franchises to team owners; because the sport is open to anybody who wants to start a team, existing teams aren't worth nearly as much as franchises in other sports -- where the addition of a new team must be approved by the other franchise owners.

So what does Henry get out of it? The deal with Roush could boost Red Sox popularity among NASCAR fans and expose Fenway Sports Group to a trove of new corporate sponsors willing to strike deals.

This isn't the first time an outside investor bought into a NASCAR team. After the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001, team owner Richard Childress sold a stake in his team to a group of investors who helped him restructure Richard Childress Racing.