Today, Rolling Contact Fatigue (RCF) is essentially caused by surface originated failures. This failure mode is often linked to surface defects like dents due to oil contamination [1, 2, 3] or surface finishing . For example, the surface roughness has an influence on both the risk of EHL film collapse and the stress level in the contacting bodies. Consequently, the induced damage could either be scuffing or micro and macro spalling. In this paper, the authors have developed an analytical model using Fast Fourier Transforms (FFT) in order to evaluate the pressure increase due to the roughness profile under elastic dry contact assumptions. Using this method it is possible to determine the pressure field and the induced stress distribution for real surfaces. Moreover, the more dangerous wavelengths and/or amplitudes of the roughness can be identified. Ball bearings with two different surface finishes were produced. Roughness profiles were measured before and after the running in process and used in the model in order to evaluate the maximum shear stress level encountered in the elastic bodies. These ball bearings were then fatigue tested until failure. The operating conditions are representative of automotive applications. The encountered damage is clearly initiated at the surface. An analysis of the surface roughness influence on the damage encountered in rolling element bearings is proposed. The experimental fatigue life reduction is linked to the numerical results.