Controversial NFL star becomes NASCAR's most unlikely owner
SI.com's Mark Beech offers the most intriguing news, notes and analysis fans need to know heading into each week's race.
And Now For Something Completely Different
What the ... ?
Today marks a big day for me. In more than a year on the NASCAR beat, I'd yet to come across a story so shocking, so completely unexpected and at odds with what I think I know about the world, that it made me spit coffee all over the screen of my computer. This morning I found that story, and I guess it means from this point forward, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. Before I head to the kitchen to grab a roll of paper towels, let's try to work through this together.
Inspired by the efforts of NFL players who have preceded him into the motorsports arena, New England Patriots All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss announced plans Tuesday to field a Moss Motorsports team in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series.
Hmm. NFL players? Was Moss actually inspired by Hall of Fame Racing, the outfit owned until recently by former Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach? In two seasons, HOF Racing never won a race and managed just two top-five finishes in 72 events. Hardly the stuff of inspiration. Perhaps he means Joe Gibbs, whose success in NASCAR is well-documented.
Details are sketchy at this point, with the team's driver, manufacturer and sponsors yet to be selected, but Moss hopes to make his CTS debut as an owner later this season, with the intent of running the full season in 2009.
The interest in racing isn't new to Moss, a 1998 first-round draft pick out of Marshall. He sponsors a local dirt track program in his native West Virginia and serves as a goodwill ambassador for the Urban Youth Racing School headquartered in Philadelphia.
Did anybody else know about this? Apparently, the man is a racing fan, and quite serious about the whole thing. Moss is already hooked up with Integrity Sports Marketing, a major player in NASCAR, a sport which, in its heart, is all about sports marketing.
In addition to owning several businesses in West Virginia, Moss should be able to coax some sponsorship dollars from his relationships with some of his personal-endorsement sponsors. I can't find anything about his love for motorsports -- specifically his dirt-track sponsorships -- in any old profiles in the Lexis/Nexis database, and I'm suddenly beginning to wonder just how many other holes are in some of those stories. Of course, when you're writing about an NFL bad boy (or former bad boy), I suppose it's easy to succumb to tunnel-vision.
I have to figure NASCAR, a sport that has made significant investments in improving the diversity of its sport, loves this development. Yes, Randy Moss comes with no small amount of negative baggage. But his record-setting season in New England last year seems to have put him squarely back on the road to respectability. I can't imagine the folks at New Hampshire Motor Speedway are going to miss this marketing opportunity in the fall. What I'm most encouraged by is the fact that his presence on the NASCAR circuit should be a big boost for the profile of the Truck Series, which is home to some of the most exciting racing in the sport today. What's not to like?
So welcome, Randy. We hope you're here for a very long time. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to clean up the mess you caused.
How To Drive
Richmond International Raceway
J.J. Yeley talks about running at RIR: "I have a love-hate relationship with Richmond. It's a fun racetrack, but for whatever reason, I've always struggled there, more so in the Nationwide Series car than the Sprint Cup car.
"We had a pretty decent run the last couple of times we've been there. It's a tough race, so you have to use a lot of patience throughout the night. You have to get the car to rotate, which is so critical at that racetrack. The groove has widened out where you can do some two- and three-wide racing. That really fits my driving style and makes it more enjoyable. The problem is that just like [at Bristol or Martinsville], it's such a small place, and when you put 43 cars out there, it obviously doesn't take very long for the leaders to catch you.
"Two-groove racing will happen there, but it's still pretty hard to pass, and it's still pretty narrow, even though it's wide for a short track. The better the track position you have to start the race, the better off you are because you don't have to play from behind all day."
71: Number of races since Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s last victory, which came at Richmond on May 6, 2006.
12: Ranking in the point standings of Juan Pablo Montoya, who finished second at Talladega last Sunday.
15: Montoya's highest previous ranking.
February 23, 1986: On the track where his father won 13 races, Kyle Petty scores his first career Cup victory in the Miller High Life 400. Dale Earnhardt had dominated the day, leading a race-high 299 laps, but Petty, having spent most of the race in the top five, avoided an accident that took out the leaders on lap 397 and cruised to the win.