Former Cowboys Aikman and Staubach take lumps as NASCAR rookie owners by John Whisler
Motor sports: Former Cowboys Aikman and Staubach take lumps as NASCAR rookie owners
Web Posted: 04/08/2006 12:18 AM CDT
Express-News Staff Writer FORT WORTH — No one knows about the highs and mostly lows of a rookie better than Troy Aikman.
The Cowboys' top draft pick in 1989, Aikman suffered through a 1-15 inaugural campaign that was marked by pain far more than gain.
"A lot of people forget I didn't even win the only game we won that season," he said. "I was 0-11 as a starter."
Compared to that, Aikman's first year in NASCAR has been a straightaway sprint.
Aikman and Roger Staubach are part owners of Hall of Fame Racing, a Nextel Cup series team that makes its "home" debut Sunday in the Samsung/Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, not far from where the two former Cowboys greats brought home a combined five Super Bowl titles.
The pair hopes to rekindle a little of that magic in Sunday's race, knowing it won't be easy.
Especially when you're the new guys in the garage.
"I'm really an infant in the whole process," said Aikman, also an NFL analyst for Fox Sports. "It's very difficult to win in the NFL whether you're talented or not. I think there is a crossover into NASCAR with the same principle.
"But it's exciting. We're excited about being here in Texas."
Over the past three years, Aikman and Staubach have worked fast to put a team together and secure sponsorship.
Their major sponsor is Texas Instruments, which not only was looking to promote its new DLP technology for HDTV but was willing to make the necessary financial commitment — $15million to $20million per year.
As for the team's black-and-blue color scheme for its No.96 Chevy Monte Carlo, it's only a coincidence that it matches the color of Aikman's battered-and-bruised body his first season with the Cowboys.
Both NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks — Aikman will be inducted in August — know the first year for their new team could be just as ugly.
Since 1990, eight of the nine full-time teams that started out at the Cup level didn't win a single race their first year.
"As an athlete, this is the first time in my life where I'm not in control of the situation," Staubach has said. "When I was playing, I could contribute to the outcome. In this sport, I'm not going to be able to do that."
Hiring the right people should help, eventually.
One of the first things Aikman and Staubach did was to team up with Joe Gibbs Racing to ensure top-flight equipment.
Yes, that's the same Gibbs who coaches the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys' hated rival. But Joe Gibbs Racing is widely regarded as one of NASCAR's top organizations.
Aikman and Staubach hired crew chief Philippe Lopez, who worked for Gibbs in 2004, and Corpus Christi native Terry Labonte to drive the team's first five races and both road course events.
Because he is a former series champion, Labonte guaranteed HOF Racing a spot in the season's first five races and gave regular driver Tony Raines a chance to ease into the role.
Raines is scheduled to drive the HOF Racing car Sunday.
As expected, there have been some bumps along the way. The team was slapped with a 25-point penalty for using an illegal carburetor during Daytona 500 qualifying in Week 1.
"Probably the biggest battle they're up against is patience," said Labonte, who returns to his No.44 Kellogg's Chevy of Hendrick Motorsports on Sunday. "They're running against teams that have been at it for 20 years.
"I think it's going to succeed. Roger and Troy have been successful in everything they've done."
Mr. Jones and CrazyCowboy--Training Camp 2004