Listen to this article
Daugherty, the former NBA star and part owner of JTG Daugherty Racing, became the first Black owner in the Cup Series to win the Daytona 500 when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took the checkered flag last Sunday.
For JTG, it was just the second Cup win in the team’s 14-year existence – the first came in 2014 with driver A.J. Allmendinger at Watkins Glen, N.Y. – but this one came on the sport’s grandest stage.
And for Daugherty it was well worth the wait.
Asked to anything comparable in his NBA career, Daugherty recalled beating Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish and the rest of the Boston Celtics in a thrilling overtime game in the 1992 NBA playoffs.
“I had the same emotions,” Daugherty, 57, said of his team winning the 500. “I’m not driving the race car. I’m not shooting the jump hook or the free throw, but I’ve put so much blood, sweat and tears into this sport of NASCAR racing, that it was almost overwhelming, you know.
“People ask which is better. It’s not which is better. They’re both tremendous blessings to have been a part of and I was as excited Sunday at the end of that race and when we won that race as when we beat those guys in the Boston Garden.
“All of those things are part of a fantastic journey and a very blessed and lucky journey.”
Daugherty’s backstory as a NASCAR owner
While Daugherty has become a fixture in NASCAR both as an owner and a TV analyst for NBC Sports, his owner role in NASCAR wasn’t always so apparent.
Entering the 1989 season, Daugherty had formed a new team in what is now called the Xfinity Series along with driver Robert Pressley.
Although the sport’s official statistics now recognize him as the owner, it wasn’t public knowledge at the time.
“We go to fill out the entry forms,” Daugherty explained, “and (Pressley) was like, ‘Man, you know, racing isn’t the most diverse place, Brad. Everybody loves you. But I think I’ll just put my name down as owner because I don’t want any issues or problems with NASCAR.’
“There we no Black owners. He was like, ‘Are you cool with that?’ I said, ‘I don’t care about that. I want to go racing.’ That’s how we started. As it turned out, we won at Orange County (Speedway) so I was the first rookie owner with a rookie driver to win in the Busch Series.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JTG Race winner Daugherty Racing, Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet Camaro
Photo by: NASCAR Media
Unfortunately, Daugherty wasn’t on hand for the win at Daytona. He left the before the race as he was suffering some vision problems following a recent eye surgery and decided to return to his home in Orlando, Fla.
Daugherty said he has had no illusions of expectations with what he described as his “small race team.”
“If we as a small race team go out and we’re fighting our guts out and we finish 15th, that’s a great day and you have to appreciate that,” he said. “Some of these guys on this big massive teams with all these resources may say, ‘Ah, we finished outside the top-10.’
“Every time we leave our race shop. I think we have a chance. I know that’s crazy. It is validation because what it shows is sometimes it takes a long, long time to get the reward for your efforts.”
For someone who has been a part of racing – whether as a driver or owner – his entire life, Sunday’s victory was especially rewarding.
“It’s an accomplishment that declares you and stamps you as a champion,” he said. “It’s a little different from stick and ball. It’s a monumental accomplishment for me and my family, my race team.
“On a personal level, being the first African-American – during Black History Month – to win this and to be a part of something that’s so significant in my life and having gone through something that’s been such a dynamic cultural shift in the last few years. I couldn’t be prouder.”