Motorsports and football have more than just speed in common. The NFL's influence can be felt in the NASCAR garage and the NASCAR boardroom, with former players and coaches taking on roles from ownership to driving.
As we approach Super Bowl Sunday and the start of the NASCAR Cup series, it's a good time to take a look at the synergy between the two sports.
Several former NFL players have owned NASCAR teams. The terms of ownership in these cases probably didn't require an investment of money, but instead an investment of time, to help the teams land sponsorships.
Terry Bradshaw: The Pittsburgh Steelers great was a marketing partner with Armando Fitz, forming FitzBradshaw Racing. Among their drivers: Kerry Earnhardt, Tim Fedewa and a young driver named Paul Wolfe, who would go on to become the crew chief for Brad Keselowski in the Cup Series.
Dan Marino: The Hall of Fame quarterback was co-owner of Elliott-Marino Racing for the 1998 Cup season. Jerry Nadeau was the team's first driver.
Troy Aikman/Roger Staubach: The Dallas Cowboys legends were co-owners of Hall of Fame Racing. The team lasted from 2006-09. Among the drivers: Terry Labonte, Tony Raines and even Joey Logano for a couple of races. The co-owners of the team also included Jeff Moorad (former owner of the San Diego Padres) and Tom Garfinkel (current CEO of the Miami Dolphins).
Randy Moss: The standout wide receiver owned a truck team from 2009-11, buying into the team owned by David Dollar. The team went through several drivers, with Mike Skinner winning a couple of races and finishing third in the standings.
Brett Favre: Favre was co-owner of Jarrett/Favre Motorsports (co-owned with Dale Jarrett), which competed in the 1999 and 2000 Xfinity Series seasons with Kenny Irwin Jr., Steve Grissom and Jason Jarrett among the drivers.
Jim Kelly: The famed quarterback partnered with Frank Cicci to own an Xfinity Series team in 2002-03.
Mark Rypien: The former Super Bowl MVP quarterback co-owned a team that competed in Cup and then the Xfinity Series from 1993-97. Chad Little was among his drivers.
Joe Washington: The former NFL All-Pro running back (who won a Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins) co-owned an Xfinity Series team with Julius Erving from 1998-2000.
Joe Gibbs: And, of course, there's a NFL Hall of Fame coach in Gibbs, whose team has won 148 NASCAR Cup races and three Cup championships. Gibbs also worked with Reggie White to create a diversity driver program, which helped Aric Almirola in his development as a driver. The program also helped launch the career of Denny Hamlin, whose raw speed was noticed by J.D. Gibbs, Joe's son, during a test for potential drivers.
Another Hall of Famer
Gibbs isn't the only NFL Hall of Famer who has a connection to NASCAR. Les Richter, a former linebacker for the Los Angeles Rams, was a longtime NASCAR executive after his NFL career. Richter was president of Riverside International Speedway and then a NASCAR executive vice president of competition and operations in the 1980s and 1990s. He is a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee.
Jerry Glanville: The former coach competed in six Xfinity Series races, 27 Camping World Truck Series races, 10 West races and one Southeast Series race. He was third in the K&N West race at Las Vegas in 1998.
Mike Cofer: The former NFL kicker competed in three truck races in 2002. He also ran 17 races in what was the NASCAR Southwest Tour, winning at Stockton in 1994, the year he finished fifth in the standings.
And speaking about driving, NASCAR drivers took to Soldier Field for a 200-lap race July 21, 1956. Fireball Roberts won the event, contested on the half-mile asphalt track that would often host local races. The Chicago Bears started playing there in 1971. Several former college football players who have had tryouts with NFL teams end up on NASCAR pit crews. Former Seattle long-snapper Boone Stutz has spent time on pit road as a gas man.
The NFL has also influenced NASCAR off the playing field. Some of its biggest business decisions have been based on NFL moves: In 2012, NASCAR pushed the starting date of its season a week later when the NFL was considering expanding its schedule. Although NASCAR didn't cite the NFL as the official reason, it was apparent the sanctioning body didn't want to compete with the Super Bowl on its pole weekend nor its Daytona 500 race. NASCAR moved the Daytona 500 back to its traditional date -- the Sunday during Presidents Day weekend -- starting this year.
And then there's the NASCAR television contract. While ratings might drop from September through November, ESPN and NBC have historically paid tens of millions annually for rights to those races. Why? NASCAR is one of the best options to draw a significant audience (and along with it, advertising money) to go up against the NFL. Most other programming wouldn't pull in similar revenue.