Daugherty Finds New Passion In NASCAR

By Ivan McDowell
Updated: October 12, 2007

ALABAMA — Brad Daugherty grew up in Black Mountain, North Carolina with a passion for the game of basketball. Growing to almost 7 feet tall, basketball was a no brainer for the five-time NBA All-Star, but hoops weren’t his only love.

Daugherty also enjoyed hunting and fishing, but neither of those compared to the thrill and excitement of racing. Auto racing that is. Daugherty even got the opportunity as a youngster to meet stock car legend Richard Petty and later chose to don “The King’s” No. 43 — throughout his illustrious career as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I loved playing basketball and competing at the highest level,” remarked Daugherty. “The physicality of the NBA was awesome; you’re talking about playing against a Bob Lanier or an Artis Gilmore and Hakeem Olajuwon. You couldn’t beat that.”

“The passion I have for racing is a different level of excitement because even though I have had some technical and ownership experience, mostly, I am a fan,” exclaimed Daugherty.

Daugherty’s passion is currently on display on ESPN, ESPN 2 and ABC, as a commentator on NASCAR Now and NASCAR Countdown. NASCAR Now is the network’s first-ever daily program solely devoted to NASCAR.

Countdown immediately precedes all NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and Busch Series races televised on the family of networks.

“It has been very interesting and I have been treated great by ESPN,” clamored Daugherty when asked about the culture of covering a sport that traditionally has been slow to welcoming African-Americans into its “good ole boy” network.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, Daugherty played eight seasons, all for the Cavs, averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds a game for his career. In the playoffs, Daugherty was just as consistent; tallying 19 points and 10.2 boards in 41 appearances.

Collegiately, he was an All-American at North Carolina, where he started as a 16-year old freshman. As a senior, he averaged 20.2 points and nine rebounds per game, while shooting a robust 64.8 percent from the floor. He scored in double figures in a remarkable 32 of 34 games.

“Man, I was young. But I played for the greatest school and the greatest coach in the world (Dean Smith) and thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of North Carolina.”

After two injury-plagued seasons, Daugherty retired in 1996 and began working as an NBA analyst for ESPN and ABC as well as the Cavs and the Spurs. He would later become a college basketball analyst for ESPN, covering the ACC.

“I am fortunate that we as NBA players are pretty well taken cared of when we retire,” speaking on the necessity for retired players in any sport to be well compensated after their playing days are over for the service to their craft.

“Guys nowadays pretty much insure themselves with the amount of money that they make, but the retirement packages should be better for all sports across the board.”

Daugherty entered the business side of NASCAR shortly after his pro basketball career began. In 1987, he co-founded a late-model stock car race team with driver Robert Pressley in Asheville, NC. The team raced in the Mid-Atlantic Region of the NASCAR Racing series, winning the regional championship in 1987 and 1988.

He continued to balance basketball and “hard lefts” by mentoring several up and coming drivers, such as Kenny Irwin, Wayne Anderson and Kevin Harvick, as an owner in the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.

Daugherty left the racing business in 1999, but remained an avid fan of the sport. “I t’s like taking a fan out of the stands and into the booth,” said Daugherty.

“I’m interested in the stories and sagas as the competition. I know those little pieces that nobody talks about and I hope my presence gives fans even more reason to turn it on and watch.”

“I hope to draw a new audience to NASCAR.”