Cup ownership about much more than cheerleading for Daugherty
First and foremost, Brad Daugherty wants to go racing. But he also sees his Cup ownership venture as "an opportunity that someone needed to do," writes Marty Smith.
Updated: July 30, 2008, 12:04 PM ETBy Marty Smith | ESPN.com
Many times, when it seems impossible and futile and unattainable and downright damn unfair, it's actually a blessing in waiting.
Marty, What are Brad Daugherty's thoughts on jumping into Cup ownership? I've watched Brad as an athlete my whole life, and he's done great. But owning a Cup team seems like it'll be a very tough go for him, with a new team and rookie driver. Why does he want to do this? And, Marty, is he crazy?-- Libby Wynton, High Point, N.C.Daugherty isn't naive, Libby, though he readily admits this decision could mean there are some screws loose upstairs. He's a smart man, notably successful in myriad business ventures. The former NBA star adores racing -- has his whole life -- and when the opportunity for a lifelong dream arose he couldn't stomach the thought of letting it pass by, especially given his relationship with his partner in JTG Daugherty Racing, Tad Geschickter, a longtime friend in whom Daugherty has the utmost trust. See, Geschickter gave Daugherty's buddy, Robert Pressley, a shot when no one else would. Daugherty never forgot that.But this is about a helluva lot more than cheerleading. Daugherty felt it was time for an influential minority to take this step."I'm doing it for a couple reasons," the 7-footer said. "First of all I love racing. Everybody knows that. But No. 2, to have ownership -- and significant ownership -- at the Cup level, being a minority, was an opportunity that someone needed to do."In the wake of Mauricia Grant's $225 million lawsuit against NASCAR citing racial and sexual discrimination, Daugherty understands that his position as a prominent black man in NASCAR is raised even further. "I'm very aware of my place from a diversity perspective, and this sport has worked hard to try to be more inclusive -- in particular in the last decade," Daugherty said. "I feel no pressure there. I have goals and objectives to try to address some of those things to help create inclusion."But the mission, ultimately, is fast cars on Sunday afternoons."Look, my No. 1 priority is to race. That's why I'm there," Daugherty said. "I'm well-aware and know I'm a big part of that diversity fabric and try to conduct myself and carry myself with a little bit of that responsibility on my shoulders. I realize that even when doing TV, and I welcome that. "This is something I'd be doing if I was white, black, red, green, yellow or blue. Race doesn't matter. I love racing and just happened to be an African-American kid that grew up loving NASCAR."Strictly from a business perspective, a start-up Sprint Cup team is a puzzling investment. Established owners will tell you the business model is an awful one. And for Daugherty it's even worse. This is a rookie team with a rookie driver (Marcos Ambrose) and rookie ownership at the Cup level. Oh, and no points."Was it a great business decision? Probably not," Daugherty said, laughing. "[NASCAR] is really capitally intensive. It's very difficult. But I feel comfortable trying to build this program. I want to go in and create some good business practices."Is it a good time to do it? No. Is it a good business to get into? Probably not. But hell, I'm very blessed and fortunate with a lot of the businesses I own, and I thought I should take a gamble and have some fun. I know what to expect. I know how hard it is -- it's just going to be 50 times harder."Daugherty hasn't yet chosen a manufacturer for his No. 47 car, but he said it "more than likely" won't be a Ford. An announcement should come soon, he said. He and Geschickter are wading through that process now. They're also surveying the possibility of acquiring an existing team's points to guarantee Ambrose's position in the Daytona 500. "We may try to buy points from people," Daugherty said. "That's something we have to look at, to see if it's feasible."And then there's television. Unless you became a NASCAR fan six minutes ago, you know that Daugherty is a NASCAR analyst for ESPN. Some fans are skeptical of analysts-turned-team owners, but neither ESPN nor Daugherty is concerned. "Before I did this, I had a long talk with [ESPN executives] George Bodenheimer and John Skipper, and my first priority is TV, ESPN," Daugherty said. "Those guys have said it will not affect [my position]. I thought it may. I guess it doesn't."Daugherty says he refuses to use ESPN as a platform to offer sponsor plugs or promote his race team. "I wouldn't feel comfortable doing it -- and don't like it when it's done," Daugherty said. "I can't fix the outcome of races from a studio. Basically, most of the information I delegate to the shows are opinion-based -- some people like 'em, some don't. It's the way I see things and I'll continue to do that. I plan on continuing TV and [ESPN plans] to let me. "There's other guys that own teams, and pieces of teams, that are on the broadcast side, and people try to keep it hush-hush. I think it's fine, so long as it's not always about my race team with sponsorship mentions all the time. I'll have to build credibility, but I already had to build credibility."To continue to build his team, Daugherty hopes to field a pair of Nationwide Series teams in 2009, one with JTG's current driver, Kelly Bires. He says Ambrose will perform admirably in Cup, largely because the added horsepower in the COT is more akin to the Australian V8 Supercars in which Ambrose's driving career was reared. "I don't care who you are, to get into this business with the Hendricks and Childresses of the world, opportunities are limited," Daugherty said. "If you want to participate, you have to bootstrap it. We're going to do that, and we aren't looking back."
EspnBrad Daugherty on his Cup venture: "This is something I'd be doing if I was white, black, red, green, yellow or blue. Race doesn't matter."
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