Staubach-Aikman team being patient about future in racing
The NFL Hall of Fame quarterbacks have a goal of making the top 25.
By REID SPENCER
SPORTING NEWS NASCAR WIRE SERVICE
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The answer you get from football-icon-turned-NASCAR-team-owner Roger Staubach is the answer you'd expect.
"Our goal is someday to be able to compete at the very top of the sport," Staubach said Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, his new playing field.
Less than 30 miles to the east, in Texas Stadium, the names of Staubach and Nextel Cup team co-owner Troy Aikman are emblazoned on the Dallas Cowboys' Ring of Honor, the holy of holies (to the Cowboys' faithful) that circles the stadium high above the field.
Staubach and Aikman are Super Bowl winning quarterbacks -- Staubach twice, Aikman three times. They are both enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That's the origin of the name "Hall of Fame Racing," the team Staubach and Aikman co-own with managing partner Bill Saunders. Hall of Fame Racing fields the No. 96 DLP HDTV Chevrolet driven by Tony Raines.
Realistic and patient
As competitive as Staubach and Aikman were during their respective football careers, in their roles as Nextel Cup owners they are realistic and patient.
"We can definitely be a top-25 team," Staubach says. "It isn't out of the question that, if all the stars lined up, we could possibly get close to the top 20. The top 25 is really a major goal for us this year. We feel we're very capable of doing that.
"We have a great sponsor, and we're putting the resources into this thing. We're not doing anything second-class. It's like anything else. It's a sport that takes time to be successful at it."
Staubach may be underselling his expectations. With Raines driving 29 races and Terry Labonte seven last year -- when the team made use of the insurance policy of Labonte's past champion's provisionals and road course expertise -- the No. 96 Chevy finished 26th in owner points, the same position Hall of Fame Racing occupies through seven races this season.
Toward the end of the 2006 season, there was speculation the owners might look elsewhere for a driver, but, to their credit, they stuck with Raines, who currently is 25th in the driver standings. They further strengthened their organization last October by promoting crew chief Philippe Lopez to competition director and naming Brandon Thomas the new crew chief.
Close association with Joe Gibbs
Through a close association with three-time Super Bowl winning coach Joe Gibbs, whose organization supplies engines and other technical support to Hall of Fame Racing, the team is ahead of the curve when it comes to the Car of Tomorrow. Raines was running in the top 10 in the second COT race of the season, at Martinsville, when Juan Pablo Montoya sent him spinning in Turn 1 at the .526-mile track.
Staubach believes the COT is a good thing for his team.
"I think it is for us," he says. "First of all, we have a great relationship with J.D. and Joe Gibbs -- the whole Gibbs team -- and they have been very, very good at being prepared for the Car of Tomorrow, which I think has helped us.
"So the equipment side of it is positive. We've been successful with it in the few races we've used it, and that's a positive thing for us. A lot of it has to do with Joe and his anticipation of the Car of Tomorrow."
Can't be too dependent
Despite the benefits of working with Gibbs, however, Staubach and Aikman believe it's in the best interest to wean themselves from dependence on another team to some degree, and part of that involves fielding a second car -- if sponsorship money is forthcoming.
"I think we have the infrastructure in place," Aikman says. "And of course, with our alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, that allows us to move things a little bit quicker than what some other single-car teams could do. We've got a handful of potential sponsors. Some look more promising than others. As you well know, it's a full-time job to make sure that we're properly funded.
"It would be easier if we had another car. We do have the benefit of being in the stable with Joe Gibbs' cars. That helps us. But at the end of the day, we're still a single-car team for all practical purposes, and I think that, in order for us to be the type of operation we'd like to be, a multiple-car team is where we need to be, just in terms of being out on our own and not having to be so reliant on the people that we are right now."
Raines may be 25th in points right now, but he's only 148 behind David Stremme in 12th place, the last spot eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup.
Raines, who posted a season-best 13th place result Sunday at Texas, would be comfortably inside the top 25 if not for the incident with Montoya, which turned a potential top 10 into a 20th-place finish at Martinsville.
Aikman was philosophical when asked about the incident. Staubach was not.
"Actually, I threw my Heisman Trophy at my DLP TV," Staubach said with a laugh.