Moss grows on NASCAR

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 17, 2011

Associated Press
DARLINGTON, S.C. ó Randy Moss looked entirely at ease moving through the garage area at Darlington Raceway. Thatís because the star receiver and owner of Randy Moss Motorsports says NASCAR feels like home.
ěTo be point-blank, NASCAR is a country, redneck sport,î Moss says with a smile. ěAnd you know, thatís where Iím from. Thatís me. These are my people.î
With his main job on hold ó the free agent and canít strike an NFL deal until the leagueís labor troubles are resolved ó Moss has immersed himself in his venture as co-owner on the Camping World Truck Series this season. Heís watched his racers, Travis Kvapil and Tayler Malsam, at Daytona and Darlington and plans to attend truck races at Martinsville and Nashville next month.
ěHeís got that gearhead side of him,î Kvapil said. ěIt definitely was a surprise.î
And right now, the NFL star could see himself locked into NASCAR when his football career is over.
ěIím enjoying every second of it,î 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 couldnít 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 fanís passion. Still, when NASCAR presented Dollar the chance to bring Moss in as a partner in 2008, he was skeptical, figuring it was a celebrityís 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 Mossí excitement and good humor. ěI knew he was in this for the right reasons,î 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 Mossí 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 werenít 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.
ěI do love Southern hospitality,î he says.
Moss canít fully escape his megawatt NFL existence. Dollar saw YouTube videos of Mossí showy antics before their 2008 meeting and wondered if he should back out. Travis Kvapil, driver of the teamís No. 5 Toyota Tundra, is a Green Bay Packers fan who was miffed by Mossí pretend mooning of Cheeseheads during a January 2005 playoff game.
ěI thought that was pretty low,î Kvapil says.
Moss recently made up for it, giving Kvapil his two Super Bowl tickets to the Super Bowl in February, when the driverís beloved Packers won the NFL championship.
Heís 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.
ěThatís something pretty special,î he said.
Moss is certain thereís 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.
ěAs a free agent, Iím a wanted man, I just have to see who wants me,î he says. ěI know I can still play at a high level.î
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 heís got the same drive for the sport and hopes it can lead to NASCAR championships as Gibbs has done. ěSo thatís something I can take out of his book,î 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. ěIt canít be anything but a benefit for the sport,î 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 whoís the fastest at the end of the night.
ěIf you want to call me a rebel, a redneck, a blackneck, itís just me,î Moss says. ěItís what I like to do.î
The Associated Press
03/16/11 14:28