DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Timing is everything. And no one knows timing better than Randy Moss.
On Thursday afternoon, the four-time All-Pro New England Patriots wide receiver announced that he has purchased a 50 percent stake in one of NASCAR's most successful Craftsman Truck Series teams.
For Moss, who makes his livelihood being in perfect sync with Tom Brady on the football field, it couldn't have come at a better time.
With NASCAR in crisis mode over a potentially damaging lawsuit charging racial discrimination against several of its employees, the appearance of an African-American athlete in a very high profile ownership position is tailor-made to deflect a good deal of the criticism NASCAR will face over the coming weeks and months as the Mauricia Grant lawsuit works its way thorough the American judicial system, creating loud and unpleasant headlines along the way.
That isn't why Moss has made what appears to be a substantial monetary investment in Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, which has been renamed Randy Moss Motorsports. The West Virginia-born Moss, who calls himself a country boy at heart, says that he's been a fan of NASCAR for quite some time.
"I'm a big fan of all sports. I've been a fan of NASCAR for years," said Moss. "I like the energy they bring. I like everything that goes with NASCAR."
Moss credits business partner Tim Martin for suggesting that Moss jump onto the NASCAR train, despite them both knowing full well the recent history of the NFL-NASCAR connection.
It's not been very good.
Some of the NFL's biggest stars – Dan Marino, Brett Favre, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach have been involved in NASCAR team ownership – with disappointing results.
Moss knows this and says he's done his homework. It appears that he has.
"Most of those guys started out at the top (in the Cup Series)," said Moss. "I'm a true believer in you have to crawl before you can walk. I wanted to start at the bottom with the truck series."
The blueprint used in previous NFL deals, for the most part, involved little or no financial risk on the part of the player involved. They were, simply put, figureheads, there to help attract sponsorship.
That's not the situation with Moss.
Moss actually wrote a check for his part of the team. He's got skin in the game, so to speak. That makes a big difference. And Moss strikes you as the kind of guy who isn't about to put himself out in front of anything less than a winner.
However, before making his decision Moss did not heed the advice from the one man with an NFL connection who has successfully made his mark in NASCAR – Joe Gibbs.
When he told the former Redskins coach of his plans, Gibbs told him not to do it.
"You didn't listen to my dad, did you?" joked Gibbs's son J. D., who ran into Moss in the Daytona International Speedway media center after Moss' press conference.
Moss just smiled confidently.
Moss has several hurdles to overcome – the most important and the most difficult among them is finding sponsors in an economic environment that's challenging for even the most successful of teams.
He plans on leveraging the connections he's made during his 11-year career in the NFL.
"I understand how tough it is. I don't really think like that. I always think positive," said Moss, expressing the kind of confidence that's made him successful on the playing field.
"I've been doubted most of my whole life and I've prove a lot of people wrong. I'm up for the challenge. I don't feel any negative tension. Everything is positive."
He's also prepared to keep writing checks until that sponsorship is found.
"I'm ready to take this all the way. At the same time, I'm ready to keep this thing going myself. Either way we're going to be happy and satisfied with what we're going to develop."
The Moss announcement comes on the heels of another high profile African-American's foray into team ownership. Former NBA basketball star and current NASCAR television analyst Brad Daugherty has announced plans to compete in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2009.
Daugherty was part-owner of Liberty Racing, a Truck Series team that won two races with the late Kenny Irwin Jr. back in 1997. He also campaigned a regional team with Robert Pressley that briefly stepped up to the then-Busch Series and won a short track race in North Carolina.
Moss discounts any thought that his decision to become a team owner has anything to do with diversity. It's purely a business decision.
"I consider myself a businessman, I don't really look at color," he said. "I'm not jumping into NASCAR because of the color of my skin. I'm jumping in because of the love and passion to win."
Moss' decision to take on the task of team ownership in one of NASCAR's premier series is to be commended, if only for its audacity.
Still, you can't discount the timing.
- Randy Moss