Commentary

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 ET
By 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.

Brad Daugherty
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."

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."

Door-To-Door
with Marty Smith
Do you have a question for ESPN NASCAR analyst Marty Smith? Go to Smith's SportsNation page to submit your question or comment for Marty, and check back regularly for the column in which he will provide the answers.
Ask Marty

Marty,

There are a ton of articles about Tony Stewart being the No. 14, and I think you said that on "NASCAR Now" after he left Gibbs a couple of weeks ago. Is this accurate? It would be awesome to see him in A.J. Foyt's number.

-- Tim Summerland, Indianapolis

It certainly would be, Tim. Expect it. Car and jersey numbers -- specifically their importance to those representing them -- intrigue me.

Most athletes love their jersey numbers, and some even go to extreme lengths to secure them. Like the time Clinton Portis offered up 40 grand to a Washington Redskins teammate for the No. 26, and after paying just half that sum was nearly taken to court for the balance. (It was settled out of court for an additional $18,000.)

I tell you this because I fully understand how a man could love a number that much. It may be stupid or juvenile, but it's how dudes are. I wore the No. 9 my entire life because my momma's birthday was Dec. 9. I recall to this day my excitement when learning that Michael Jordan would wear No. 9 for the Dream Team. Still have the jersey. (And I'm still obsessed with the No. 9. Drives my wife half-batty. We were at the Vatican in April, and I stopped on the ninth floor to take a photo with the Roman Numeral IX.)

I have no idea whether Tony Stewart feels that strongly about the No. 14. None at all. But his hero drove it, so I have an inkling it's awfully special to him. When you're a kid, and you idolize someone, you love what they loved. And Mr. Foyt loved the No. 14.

And racing numbers are different. There's only one No. 14. In football there are 32 No. 7s. Stewart being the No. 14 just seems right.

More on Stewart …

Marty,

I saw you say on ESPN that Tony Stewart would win Indy. What on earth gives you that idea? He hasn't won all year long and he's a lame duck. I think you need to wake up and smell the coffee. He's done and you need to say so.

-- Jacob Linczeski, Mars, Pa.

Here's your joe, Jake -- Stewart was a half-lap and an impossible decision away from winning the Daytona 500. (And don't tell me he was "totally focused on Gibbs" back then, either. The wheels were already in motion for a move to Haas at that time.)

Stewart was two laps from winning Bristol before his buddy Kevin Harvick went for the win and wrecked Stewart. He had the best car in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, and the best car at Loudon, too. He could easily have four or five wins this year, but he's had awful luck.

A lot of people point to the July race at Daytona as proof that he's done. How could Tony Stewart -- TONY STEWART! -- get out of a car because his belly was hurting? I don't buy it.

"NASCAR Countdown" host Allen Bestwick made a great observation when we were at lunch the other day: Indy is huge for Stewart in the grand-scope perspective. If he wins the 400, he'll be hell-bent toward a title. If not, it may go all to hell.

Random thought about that lunch: I show up at ESPN on Monday for the "NASCAR Now" show, unaware that my shirt was stained. And ripped. The sole of my left shoe came halfway off just before air, and I forgot my belt. And yet, everyone thought I looked sharp.

Marty,

It's obvious you know nothing about NASCAR. You use these sources and stuff all the time. Do you just make stuff up in your pretend world? What do you know about?

-- Ricky, Eagle Station, Ky.

I know real whiskey is made in Tennessee.

Speaking of real … I just got turned on to Matt Stillwell's new single "Shine." Look him up. He's a little bit Jason Aldean, a little bit Chris Cagle, and he's about to kick the speakers out of your radio.

Marty,

Weird question, I know, but I was wondering if you could explain to me -- when cars spin out at tracks like Loudon the tire smoke is a weird orange color, and when they spin out at other tracks the smoke is a regular gray/white. Is it tire compounds or something on the track like a sealer that causes this? Go Biffle!

-- Todd Wyckoff, Pennsauken, N.J.

It's a combination of the track sealer and the differences in the tar used to make the track, Todd.

That's my time for this week, folks. Step up for me, Six. Questions were sparse this week. How good was that Jack Daniels line?

Marty Smith is a contributor to ESPN's NASCAR coverage. He can be reached at ESPNsider@aol.com.