DAYTONA BEACH (AP) _ Troy Aikman. Terry Bradshaw. Tim Brown. Julius Erving. Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Jim Kelly. Mark Rypien. Roger Staubach.
The list of top athletes who have come and gone through NASCAR is a collection of big aspirations with bank accounts that couldn't keep up. Some never reached the track, others spent millions searching for success before finally calling it quits.
Randy Moss insists he's different.
New England's All-Pro receiver became the latest athlete to cross into NASCAR when he announced Thursday, July 3 he has purchased 50 percent of Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, a fledgling Truck Series team racing this season without sponsorship.
It costs at least $6 million a season to run a successful truck program, and if Moss can't find funding, he'll have to reach into his own pocket to pay the bills.
Moss, who wouldn't reveal the purchase price of his latest venture, said he has the funds to foot the bill and the desire to build a winning program.
“Yeah, I am prepared. I'll leave it at that,'' he said at Daytona International Speedway, where he'll be attending his first NASCAR race this weekend. “I have been in the league 11 years, so I think I'm good. I am not really saying that I am 100 percent certain that it's going to work, but at the same time, you've got to think positive. I think if you go out there and think in the negative light, bad things will happen.''
So the former Marshall star heads into a new sport with lofty aspirations. He's renamed the team Randy Moss Motorsports, and changed the truck number from 46 to 81 to reflect his jersey number. The revamped team will make its debut July 19 at Kentucky Speedway with Willie Allen behind the wheel.
A self-professed “country boy'' who got hooked on NASCAR growing up in Rand, W.Va., Moss insists he did his research before buying a team and is aware of all the past failures from his NFL counterparts. That's why he zeroed in on an existing truck team with eventual aspirations to move into the premier Sprint Cup Series.
Many of the failed ventures before him aimed straight for the Cup Series.
“Most of those guys started out at the top,'' Moss said. “I am true believer in you have to crawl before you walk, and I wanted to start at the bottom in the Truck Series.''
Moss isn't exactly new to the sport. He's sponsored a dirt track program and has been an ambassador for the Urban Youth Racing School. At an event for young racers there, Moss met former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs and asked him for advice on moving into NASCAR. Gibbs has won three Cup championships as a NASCAR owner.
“I think my dad's advice to him was 'Don't do it,''' said team president J.D. Gibbs. “But I think he'll be fine. I think he'll be able to put together a partnership, and it's not like he's starting from scratch _ he already has a team there, so that's going to be a big value.
“I'm going to give him a hard time if I see him, tell him. 'I hope you've got a lot of cash, my friend.'''
Gibbs guessed it costs about $7 million to run a successful program, and his father pulled the plug on spending it after sons J.D. and Coy were unsuccessful in a combined 64 truck races from 2000 to 2002.
“My dad said, 'Whatever we're spending there, it's too much. We're out of cash,''' J.D. Gibbs said. “We were both fired. It didn't help that we didn't win anything, but it was a pretty good chunk of change.''
Two-time series champion Tony Stewart, who is exploring his own ownership opportunities, believes Moss can be successful.
“A guy's not going to take an undertaking like this unless he's going to give it 100 percent,'' Stewart said. “A guy like Randy isn't going to make a commitment like this unless he's really passionate about this and he wants to be successful.''
And veteran Jeff Burton isn't sure the financial end of it is going to be that difficult so long as Moss starts small. But a strained economy could make it hard for Moss to find success.
“You've got to have a lot of money, but at the truck level, you don't have to be Bill Gates kind of rich,'' Burton said. “So there's still an opportunity for investment by young owners and Randy's an example of that. Obviously, Randy's made a lot of money playing football, but he would have a tough time going and buying an NFL football team.
“He can get into this sport at the truck level without near the investment, but it's a tough time for anybody. The economic status we have today in our country is really tough and the sponsorship game is really hard right now, so it's a tough time to try to break in.''
Moss also enters at a time when NASCAR is fighting allegations of racial and sexual discrimination and harassment by a former official who has filed a $225 million suit against the sanctioning body. Mauricia Grant, who is black, claims she was fired for complaining about the way she was treated.
Moss avoided entering the race debate Thursday, but said the color of his skin had absolutely no bearing on his decision and he doesn't plan to be a poster boy for NASCAR diversity.
“I am an African-American, and I am a businessman,'' he said. “When it comes to race, I don't really see race as a factor. I think a lot of people do, but I don't. A lot of people talk about race in NASCAR, I think it's a lot of negative, a lot of hatred.
“There's not a role to play, it's just being real. If that's the cards or the hand being presented to me, fine. I am not really jumping into NASCAR just because of the color of my skin. I am jumping into NASCAR because of the love and passion that I have to win.''
Pictured above is Randy Moss.