Roush, Henry join up to form Roush Fenway Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When Boston Red Sox majority owner John Henry and NASCAR team owner Jack Roush began talking about a partnership more than three years ago, both teams were notorious for falling painfully short of winning championships.
Now they've both got titles and plan on winning plenty more together under a new banner: Roush Fenway Racing.
"I think owners get into sports for one reason: You want to win championships," Henry said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "That's something that we've tried to do, and we've successfully done it on our own. That's the primary reason. I think that we can help Jack's vision of what he wants to try to accomplish over the next 10 years, and we'll win championships."
The new partnership, which was announced at a minor league baseball park near Daytona International Speedway on Wednesday night, gives the Henry-led Fenway Sports Group a 50 percent stake in Roush's team. It is the most high profile in a recent series of moves by team owners to attract outside investment in NASCAR.
Are big-money partnerships the next big thing in NASCAR?
Richard Childress sold a stake in his company to private investors in the wake of Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001. Real estate developer Bobby Ginn has purchased majority ownership of a mid-level team that he wants to turn into a winner. And Ray Evernham actively is looking for a partner of his own.
"I'm certainly keeping an eye on what's going on there," Evernham said. "The Fenway Group can bring more than money to the table. Obviously, Jack just doesn't need money. He has a better understanding of how big the sport's going to get."
Media estimates placed the value of the deal at about $50 million. Roush Racing president Geoff Smith said only, "It's not chump change."
Roush will retain control over the team's competition side. But he also understands the next time he wants to buy an expensive piece of technology to help his race cars go faster, he'll have to justify it to more people than himself.
Of course, the Red Sox did just spend $51.11 million simply for the right to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka -- a sign that winning's important to them, too.
"Over three and a half years, Jack and I became friendly, and we just talked about whether or not there was a fit," Henry said. "And over time, it became apparent to both of us that we can really, together, push things further than either could alone."
Henry is no racing novice. He's the co-founder of iracing.com, a company that runs online NASCAR computer simulation games, and he spends hours of his free time playing the games. Henry's so serious about it that he takes offense to the term "playing" -- because it's not a game to him. At one point, he and his friends played four nights a week and even had an awards banquet.
Early in the negotiations, Henry had lunch with Roush and then-Roush driver Jeff Burton. The conversation turned to Lowe's Motor Speedway.
"I said, 'Oh, yeah, I know that track very well,'" Henry said.
But does he know racing well enough to know what he's getting into? It's long been known in the garage area that the only way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a big one.
That's not quite true anymore. Roush and other NASCAR megateams do make money. But because most of their profits go back into research and development, it's not the best dollars-and-cents investment opportunity in sports.
Henry said the main reason anyone buys a team in any sport is because they love competition.
"You can't buy that investing in something else," Smith said.
Both sides hope to use the partnership to double-team corporate America in pursuit of additional sponsorship.
Fenway Sports Group president Mike Dee said when both sides combine their rolodexes, "there shouldn't be a CEO's office that we can't eventually walk into."
Henry said the deal also allows them to explore business opportunities outside of baseball's restrictive revenue-sharing agreements.
"We reached a point in baseball where there's only so much we can do," Henry said. "Fenway Park is small. We've sold out every sign."
In turn, the Fenway group hopes to bring the Roush brand to New England sports fans who haven't been exposed to NASCAR.
Most important, both sides say the fit is just right. A telling sign: Both owners' favorite accessory is a straw hat, and both were wearing them at the racetrack Wednesday.
"You can see we are compatible in some respects," Roush said.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press