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Monday, February 25, 2008

Ex- NBA Star Eyes NASCAR

John Salley is interested in becoming a team owner in NASCAR. Other athletes have gone into racing but did not last long. Can he be any different?

Former National Basketball Association star, John Salley, has expressed interest in NASCAR ownership. Salley was in attendance for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 and was thoroughly impressed. As a member of Detroit’s championship winning Pistons, John Salley understands the intangibles and the hard work that is required to be a champion.

“I enjoyed it better than watching the NBA All- Star game,” said Salley. The NBA All- Star game was held on the same Sunday as the Daytona 500. “This is the best stuff I’ve seen in my life,” continued Salley.

It is a positive moment when racing can reach a new audience, draw new fans, and attract potential participants. John Salley claims that he is ready to join a growing list of former athletes that have ventured into motorsports. However, the list of former athletes that remain in motorsports is considerably shorter. Aside from ex- pro quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, athletes from other disciplines have not been able to remain in the sport. Carmelo Anthony, to my knowledge, was the most recent NBA player to go racing and declined a return to the Indy Racing League.

NASCAR’s efforts to increase minority involvement are commendable. However, Michael Crawford, the owner of Crawford Motorsports of the Indy Pro Series, gave me a bit of wisdom that anyone considering team ownership on any level must know.

“Racing is an expensive sport and it is a terrible business. You cannot buy into this sport and hope to get rich. To go faster you must spend more money,” said Crawford.

In that sense, racing is not a pure sport. Hold on, I can hear the non- race fan muttering that racing is not a sport. I contend that in racing the best person does not always win. For example, in track and field, the best-trained and the faster athlete will always win barring disqualification. Racing requires inordinate amounts of money to find that extra tenth of a second that another competitor may not be able to afford. In this case, the well-funded driver will win rather than the most talented driver.

It is exciting to see a high profile athlete like John Salley talk about joining NASCAR as a team owner. It appears that athletes get in over their heads and do not understand the staggering amounts of money that racing commands. If he finds a good team and competent advisors, John Salley might make a good owner. He has to consider that most of the owners in motorsports have amassed their wealth in other industries before tackling auto racing making him a not- so- big fish in racing’s financial pool.

Let’s hope that John Salley and other minorities with the resources to enter the shark-infested waters of racing ownership do their homework. The most important aspect, that people from other forms of entertainment seem to overlook, is the love of the sport. To sink the type of money necessary to compete in any form of racing, an individual must have a desire and commitment to succeed in auto racing despite poor performances, wrecked racecars, and steep operational costs.

John Salley posing in Daytona courtesy of Jeff Siner/McClatchy-Tribune

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