Last week, NBC Sports announced that North Carolina Tar Heels alum, NBA All-Star, and current NASCAR team co-owner Brad Daugherty joined their broadcast team. Daugherty will provide pre- and post-race coverage.
In a statement with his hiring, Daugherty is pumped to get back in the booth:
I’m extremely excited and I’m looking forward to spending time with all of the folks at NBC Sports and talk racing. I want to thank NBC Sports for giving me this historic opportunity and share my passion and insight about this sport that I’ve loved for more than 30 years. I’m boisterous, I love to laugh and talk, and I think my excitement will translate to the viewers watching at home.
For Tar Heel fans, Daugherty was a key figure in the legendary 1980s. The sophomore Daugherty was a member of the best Carolina team never to win it all, playing alongside Michael Jordan, Kenny Smith, and Sam Perkins.
At UNC, the seven-footer’s 1,912 career points at UNC ranks ninth in program history.
Daugherty also ranks in the top ten in most field goals made in a season and career, highest field goal percentage in a season and career, and rebounds in a career. He was the team’s field goal percentage leader all four years.
Since freshmen were allowed to play varsity in the 1972-73 season, just 13 Tar Heels have been four-year starters. Daugherty is on that exclusive list.
In the final game in Carmichael Auditorium on January 4, 1986, Daugherty was the leading scorer for Carolina. He scored 28 points in a 90-79 victory over NC State. He was the second-leading scorer in the first game in the Smith Center. Daugherty had a double-double, 23 points, and 11 rebounds, in that thrilling 95-92 win over third-ranked Duke on January 18, 1986.
On November 24, 1985, Daugherty made all 13 of his shots against UCLA, setting an ACC record for the highest field goal percentage by the total number of shots. Daugherty set the ACC record for most consecutive field goals made with 16. Fellow Tar Heel Brice Johnson tied that record in 2016.
Twice is was named to the First-team All-ACC (1985, 1986). In 1985, he was on the All-ACC Tournament Team and named the MVP of the NCAA Southeast Regional. In 1986, he was named a consensus second-team All-American. His no. 42 is honored by UNC.
And do not forget: Daugherty was just a 16-year-old freshman at Carolina.
Daugherty earned another collegiate honored when he was one of 12 Tar Heels named to the ACC 50th Anniversary Team in 2002.
Along with James Worthy, Daugherty is one of two Tar Heels selected with the first pick in the NBA Draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him first overall in 1986.
In his first year in the league, Daugherty was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. During his eight-year career, Daugherty was named an NBA All-Star five times, including All-NBA Third Team in 1992.
Daugherty averaged 19 points a season over his career but was forced to retire early due to back injuries. After his retirement, the Cavaliers retired his no. 43 jersey in 1997.
With all this success in basketball, is it possible that this sport is Daugherty’s second favorite?
Daugherty is a lifelong racing fan and has maintained an active role in professional racing continuously since his time at Carolina.
Oh, and his no. 43 jersey? A nod to his childhood hero Richard Petty. The King of stock car racing.
In a 2011 interview, Daugherty spoke about growing up a race fan:
I grew up in a little town in western North Carolina, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and my dad and grandpa, they were all huge race enthusiasts, tinkered with race cars, built race cars, drag cars, everything. We had a local speedway in the neighbor town of Asheville and we’d always be there at that track watching races. I was just always around it, the pieces, the parts, since I was a little kid. The big item in our little local newspaper was how the local racers had done. We had Jack Ingram, who has a lot of success on the short-track series, and that was a huge deal in our community, so it was all around us. It was all my dad and uncles talked about, and when you’re a little kid, you want to do what they do. I learned to work on race cars, it was just normal to me.
In that same interview, Daugherty spoke about his transition into professional racing in the late 1980s:
I had this big old body and I like to play sports, period, and worked really hard on my basketball and ended up going to North Carolina and playing for coach [Dean] Smith. But I still was always hanging around race tracks, building late-model stocks, because Robert [Pressley, a childhood friend] was racing all over the country, and I spent every weekend I could at the race track dabbling in something or at a NASCAR race. By my senior year, Robert and I built a late-model stock together, and my rookie in the NBA, I had a couple more quarters to rub together, so we could build a couple nicer race cars, and won a Mid-Atlantic regional championship, which as a pretty darn big deal. Then in ’88, I want to say, we build a couple Busch Series cars, got a motor, and won our fourth race. First rookie driver and first rookie owner ever to do so. So that was pretty cool.
Today, Daugherty is a co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing. Since 2009, the JTG Daugherty team has raced full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, the top circuit for stock car racing in the United States. Since 2017, the racing team has fielded two cars in the Cup Series.
The JTG Daugherty stable is a mid-level team that has had average owner points finishes in the mid to upper 20s (out of 40 total cars) for the past several seasons. Currently, JTG Daugherty Racing is in a technical alliance with Hendrick Motorsports with their chassis program. Additionally, the race team has a solid slate of sponsors, including Kroger, Kleenex, Velveeta, Cheerios, and Slim Jim.
In 2014, the team earned its lone Cup Series victory. AJ Allmendinger, piloting the no. 47 Chevrolet, captured his first career victory at Watkins Glen.
Check out the exciting final laps, along with a celebration by the man himself:
If those final laps are all you see, you can see why Daugherty is such a race fan.
This move to put Daugherty back in the booth by NBC is not a coincidence.
First, Daugherty has plenty of television experience. He first provided commentary for ESPN’s NASCAR coverage in the mid-aughts and did so until the end of ESPN’s NASCAR contract in 2014.
Daugherty has also provided color commentary for college basketball and the NBA.
But more importantly, Daugherty’s return to the broadcast booth is another step in NASCAR’s efforts for more inclusion among its racers and race fans.
Since June, both in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and increased conversations on the state of race relations in the country, NASCAR has been proactive in creating a more welcoming environment for minorities.
NASCAR reversed decades of precedent by enacting a strict ban on the Confederate flag at all events. NASCAR acted swiftly after a suspected noose was found in the garage of the Cup Series lone African American driver, Bubba Wallace. An FBI investigation found it was a garage door rope pull that was there since October 2019.
There is positive energy in NASCAR right now. Just look at the sports ratings from last weekend:
Here are the top ten most-watched sporting events from this past weekend among #OOH viewers. @NASCAR's #Foxwoods301 lead the way while @NBA, @NHL and @MLB games all cracked the top ten. pic.twitter.com/NYb50IMLns— Tunity Analytics (@TunityAnalytics) August 4, 2020
Now is the time to capitalize, and Daugherty is the perfect fit for the NASCAR booth. He is a figure that transcends the isolated cylinders of the sports world. Daugherty’s enthusiasm and knowledge have the potential to bring new fans to motorsports.
And Tar Heel fans can be proud that another alum is making a positive impact.