|Moss grows on NASCAR|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 16 March 2011 08:39|
``To be point-blank, NASCAR is a country, redneck sport,'' Moss says with a smile. ``And you know, that's where I'm from. That's me. These are my people.''
With his main job on hold - the free agent and can't strike an NFL deal until the league's labor troubles are resolved - Moss has immersed himself in his venture as co-owner on the Camping World Truck Series this season. He's watched his racers, Travis Kvapil and Tayler Malsam, at Daytona and Darlington and plans to attend truck races at Martinsville and Nashville next month.
``He's got that gearhead side of him,'' Kvapil said. ``It definitely was a surprise.''
And right now, the NFL star could see himself locked into NASCAR when his football career is over.
``I'm enjoying every second of it,'' the receiver said.
The mix of Moss and NASCAR sounds like oil and water. Not so, says Moss, who carries the soul of a racing fan from his days growing up in West Virginia.
Moss learned to appreciate racing in the small town of Rand. His home state is filled with dirt tracks, and a boy couldn't escape appreciating the skill it took to slide over the finish line first on Friday and Saturday nights, Moss said. As his talent took him to football success at Marshall and in the NFL, Moss would always tune into races at Daytona International Speedway or Indianapolis Motor Speedway and follow the action.
Moss always dreammed of being involved in racing and spoke with NASCAR about the right opportunity. David Dollar, an experienced NASCAR truck owner, became the perfect fit.
Dollar, like Moss, grew up in a small town, Hennessey, Okla., and shared a race fan's passion. Still, when NASCAR presented Dollar the chance to bring Moss in as a partner in 2008, he was skeptical, figuring it was a celebrity's grab for attention and not a legitimate offer to grow a race program.
When the two sat down in Atlanta, Dollar was blown away by Moss' excitement and good humor. ``I knew he was in this for the right reasons,'' Dollar said.
Randy Moss Motorsports was born in mid-2008 and expanded to a two-car operation the next season. Veteran driver Mike Skinner helped Moss' program make a solid splash that year with three victories and a third-place finish in the championship standings.
Moss was a big hit during his stop at Darlington. The 6-foot-4 wideout shook hands with drivers and posed for pictures alongside cars that weren't even his. When a boys high school basketball team honored by Darlington Raceway saw Moss striding by, the players rushed to touch his shirt or snap a quick photo.
Moss quickly obliged, soaking up the atmosphere.
``I do love Southern hospitality,'' he says.
Moss can't fully escape his megawatt NFL existence. Dollar saw YouTube videos of Moss' showy antics before their 2008 meeting and wondered if he should back out. Travis Kvapil, driver of the team's No. 5 Toyota Tundra, is a Green Bay Packers fan who was miffed by Moss' pretend mooning of Cheeseheads during a January 2005 playoff game.
``I thought that was pretty low,'' Kvapil says.
Moss recently made up for it, giving Kvapil his two Super Bowl tickets to the Super Bowl in February, when the driver's beloved Packers won the NFL championship.
He's an easygoing boss who wants to learn as much as he can, according to the 22-year-old Malsam, in his third season racing in the Truck Series. Plus, Malsam loves driving for a probable NFL Hall of Famer.
``That's something pretty special,'' he said.
Moss is certain there's more left in his NFL gas tank. The once dominant receiver shuttled between three teams last year, traded from New England to Minnesota during the season, then getting released by the Vikings in November before finishing as a little used wideout with Tennessee.
The 34-year-old finished with 28 catches, by far his lowest total in 13 NFL seasons.
``As a free agent, I'm a wanted man, I just have to see who wants me,'' he says. ``I know I can still play at a high level.''
Moss sees a similarity with Joe Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl champion coach in Washington who built his passion for racing into Sprint Cup success. Moss thinks he's got the same drive for the sport and hopes it can lead to NASCAR championships as Gibbs has done. ``So that's something I can take out of his book,'' Moss said.
Moss also might help NASCAR move the needle in its drive for a more diverse audience. Minority owners such as Moss will attract others, Dollar is certain. ``It can't be anything but a benefit for the sport,'' he said.
Right now, Moss hopes to enjoy as much time at the racetrack as he can. He loves the roar of the engines, the smell of a barbecue and the joy of Southern fans gathering with a couple of beers to see who's the fastest at the end of the night.
``If you want to call me a rebel, a redneck, a blackneck, it's just me,'' Moss says. ``It's what I like to do.''