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Who Is Brad Daugherty, The Basketball Star-Turned-NASCAR Owner From 'Race For The Championship'?
Brad Daugherty patrolled the paint for the Cleveland Cavaliers during a successful eight-year NBA career, but now has his sites set on NASCAR glory as the owner of JTG Daugherty Racing.
Standing at a lean seven feet, Brad Daugherty, to put it bluntly, is a unicorn in the racing world. Not only is the charismatic entrepreneur literally head and shoulders taller than everyone else remotely connected to the league, he’s also a five-time NBA All-Star who, next to LeBron James, is arguably the most famous Cleveland Cavalier. Under the tutelage of legendary coach Dean Smith during his collegiate career at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “The Big Dukie,” as he’s also affectionately called, ferociously dominated the paint for the Tar Heels, propelling him to an eight-year NBA career in which he established himself as one of the most formidable big men in the game. Now, after turning his attention from the hard court to the racetrack, the former 1986 NBA first overall pick seeks to mold JTG Daugherty Racing into a championship-caliber NASCAR team.
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On the latest episode of USA Network’s "Race for the Championship," Daugherty revealed how his interest in NASCAR has always been in his blood ever since his childhood in Black Mountain, North Carolina with an avid stock car racing fan for a father.
“The heroes that you read about in our local newspaper were the race car drivers,” Daugherty detailed, “So that kinda piqued my interest in racing.”
“People would see me throughout the years at the racetracks or owning race teams, and they just couldn’t wrap their head around it. [They’d ask] ‘Aren’t you a basketball guy?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I love race cars,’” Daugherty noted. “So, here I am 35 years later, still messing with race cars.”
After once co-owning Liberty Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the 1982 McDonald’s All-American now co-owns JTG Daugherty Racing, which fields the No. 47 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, piloted by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Cup Series. The 34-year-old Stenhouse Jr., who typically performs better on super speedways, has had a challenging season this year, and as seen in episode four of "Race for the Championship," he knows running well in practice, only to finish toward the back of the pack at 29th like he did at Bristol, is not going to cut it.
“The race [Bristol] did not go according to plan,” the Memphis native admitted. “We left a lot to be desired out there… Practice was one way, and the race was totally different.”
“If I had a tail, I don’t think I would be wagging it,” Stenhouse Jr. joked to Daugherty when the two met up for a post-mortem on the disappointing result.
As a natural-born leader, Daugherty’s mild-mannered, cool demeanor serves as a calming force for both his young, ambitious wheelman and his team whose members collectively want nothing more than to position the club for a shot at a title.
“Usually the second half [of the season], teams our size struggle because the Goliaths get all the momentum. We just got to keep chewing at them,” Daugherty encouraged Stenhouse. “Attitude is everything, you know?”
That attitude – one that Daugherty has forged through his years as a highly successful basketball star – hasn’t exactly translated into the wins that both he and his driver have hoped for. Though he won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award in 2013, Stenhouse Jr., who’s now in his 12th year on the Cup Series, wrecked early at Talladega, relegating him to a disappointing 27th place in the overall standings this season.
With his driver out of Cup Series Championship contention, Daugherty, who wore number 43 during his basketball career as a tribute to Richard Petty, would undoubtedly love to figure out a way to help Stenhouse Jr. channel "The King" of NASCAR if he hopes to raise a banner in the rafters of JTG Daugherty Racing.
Can't get enough NASCAR action? Watch “Race For The Championship,” which follows the lives of NASCAR's biggest stars on and off the track, Thursdays at 10/9c on USA Network. And catch up on all race action on Peacock.