Monday, July 07, 2014

COMMENTARY: Newly Announced "Race Team Alliance" Raises Hopes... And Concerns

Nine of NASCAR’s most successful teams announced today that they have joined forces to form the Race Team Alliance (RTA); a collaborative business association intended “to create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote, and grow the sport of stock car racing.”

Currently, the RTA is composed of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske. Membership opportunities will reportedly be extended to all full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams in the near future.

Today’s RTA media release said the organization will “engage with stakeholders on creative ways to market and experience the power of the sport’s teams and drivers... (and) explore innovative ways to harness the combined purchasing power and scale of the teams’ operations to drive efficiencies in costs.” RTA chairman Rob Kauffman – co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing - - said the organization “simply formalizes what was an informal group. By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport. Whether it be looking for industry-wide travel partners or collaborating on technical issues – the idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more efficiently, and deliver more value to our partners.”

Sources say one of the RTA’s first orders of business will be to negotiate with NASCAR for a larger share of the new, $8-billion television contract that begins in 2015 and continues through the 2025 season. Currently, teams receive 25% of all TV revenue, with 65% going to race tracks and 10% to NASCAR.

Not surprisingly, team owners want a larger piece of that new television pie, and believe they must present a unified front to obtain it.

NASCAR chairman Brian France spoke about the possible re-allocation of TV revenue in his "State of the Sport" address Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, saying NASCAR is "rethinking (the percentages) little bit. That'll be something that we will consider and look at to make sure that the appropriate values are where they need to be."

NASCAR vice president and chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said the sanctioning body was aware of the RTA prior to today’s announcement, but currently has “very few specifics on its structure or purpose. NASCAR's mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete,” said Jewkes. “Our job is to support and strengthen all of the teams, large and small, across all of our series and we'll continue to do that. NASCAR is a unique community with hundreds of stakeholders. They all have a voice and always will."

If they’re smart, the RTA will continue to use terms like “collaborative business association,” avoiding any talk of a possible owners or drivers’ union, which NASCAR has resisted ferociously in the past.

In 1961, driver Curtis Turner was banned for life by NASCAR founder Bill France, Jr., after working with the Teamsters Union in an attempt to unionize the sport. Turner was reinstated four years later, but the union’s foothold in NASCAR was lost. In 1969, a number of top stars including Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, David Pearson and Cale Yarborough formed the Professional Driver’s Association in an attempt to secure larger race purses and improve safety. The PDA boycotted the first-ever race at Talladega Superspeedway, citing concerns with tire wear, but France competed without his established stars, paying drivers from other sanctioning bodies to take part.

There have been no further attempts to organize or unionize NASCAR.

The newly announced Race Team Alliance has the potential to be a positive force in NASCAR, harnessing the combined purchasing power of its teams and utilizing economies of scale to reduce operating expenses across the board. Hopefully, the organization will open its doors to all NASCAR team owners and immediately begin working with the sanctioning body toward common goals, while resisting the urge to repeat the mistakes of the past. 


  1. The RTA is nothing more than a oligopoly were the 9 teams (Actually 7 organizations with 2 satellites) are trying to create a class structure at the expense of the sport. This will only create an even larger barrier of entry. What is ironic is the alliance makes most sense for the teams excluded from the RTA than the ones in it, yet those very teams are currently excluded. Why? Wouldn't a team like TBR, Furniture Row, and FrontRow benefit from an alliance to reduce costs? Wouldn't that be better for the the other all health of the sport?

    1. Anonymous8:43 AM

      Had you read more carefully, opportunities will be extended to ALL full time teams -Ellen, JJ's girlfriend

    2. Anonymous11:07 AM

      IMHO its not about the health of the sport, its about wallets. Wallets of these 9 teams vs the France family.

  2. Anonymous12:36 PM

    I think Nascar has become this huge machine much like a steamroller and is basically forcing the smaller teams out. Sometimes I think I would prefer a complete overhaul of their day to day operations.

  3. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Viewing this in a different light than those above, I think this was too long in coming. NASCAR DOESN'T do enough to promote racing in markets where there aren't tracks. From Jersey to California, there are fans that don't have the opportunity to go to a race for economic or distance or work commitments. Having these teams join together to help promote the sport AND the drivers may keep the sport from receding to the point drag racing has. They have to do something because in spite of their best attempts, NASCAR is in decline. It took them WAY too long to adapt to social media, WAY too long to realize there is association with brands not just drivers, and way too long to work with the hotel associations to rece pricing to make travel to races affordable.

    There HAS TO BE A CHANGE. Try finding NASCAR news on the internet or in a newspaper or on a news site. Unless there is a tragedy or monster crash, the media doesn't pay attention to NASCAR anymore. That is just as much the fault of NASCAR as it is the changing of the fan demographics.

    PS Nice race yesterday. You do a great job in making it enjoyable when the TV is only good for pictures.

  4. Dwayne in Memphis11:29 PM

    (sigh) not EVERYTHING in Nascar HAS to be a conspiracy! They actually COULD be getting together to get a large group insurance rate for employees. They actually COULD be grouping together to try and buy some parts in bulk to help lower costs. "Membership opportunities will reportedly be extended to all full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams in the near future." doesn't sound like a plan for the fat cats to squeeze out the little guy. But's MUCH easier to drag out the aluminum foil hats and start watching out of the drawn blinds for the black helicopters. Honestly, just once I'd like to see a news story about NASCAR and not see the conspiracy theorists crawl out of the woodwork. Hey, I have a thought, after we gripe about how "fixed" our sport is, and how everything is a sham to feed the rich, let's all complain about how the sports community as a whole won't take our sport seriously. Why should they, when so many of our own fan base take every opportunity to bash our sport? Rant mode = off.

    1. Anonymous1:14 AM

      dwayne. NASCAR has lost its credability.. its integrity. IT was going downhill... then the Richmond debacle scrrewed them... Brian France gleeming he made the right call.. out with Truex.. in with Gordon... change the rules for HMS and Logano got away with worse than MWR did.
      Even the media is suspect of NASCAR.. thus the sparse coverage. New TV deal has locked out most of America.. and the the actual coverage riddled with commercials. HMS and NASCAR ruined NASCAR...congrats.. you're all rich... screw the other guys.

    2. Dwayne in Memphis1:58 PM

      So if the last 16 people interested in NASCAR choose to watch anyway...let them. If NASCAR is such an embarrassing debacle of a sport, and has even bamboozled NBC to drop nearly 4 and a half billion on its coverage, then so be it. And I'm not saying that NASCAR didn't jump in with an iron fist and pounce on the chance of a power coup when Dale Sr. died in 2001. I'm not saying that unilateral disaster decisions like the COT with a WING for crying out loud weren't sometimes laughable. What I'm saying is that if people hate what NASCAR has become, griping about it is obviously not going to fix it. And I'm not to drop clichés like "love it or leave it" because I fully believe it's possible to still love it and want it back like it was. But it coming back like it was. Ever. So for the folks that love the conspiracy angles for every story that drops, go watch football, or baseball...or go support a local track. Because honestly, as someone who's largely walked away from football as it's gotten more and more political and closer to closer to "two below" style of defense allowed, it's ok to just walk away and find a new hobby. Sell your diecast on ebay, and start a new hobby.

      That's my only point. People that scream from the mountain tops about NASCAR's lack of legitimate coverage while at the same time acting like it's literally, just this side of pro wrestling with fixed outcomes are like sefl-fulfilling prophecies.

      Personally, I think NASCAR needs to have a little bit of perspective and understand that's it's going to be niche sport despite it's best efforts. They've chased the fringe viewer with radical change for so long - with no results, because it IS a niche sports - that they've alienated a large chunk of their long-time loyal base.

      But they still race on Sundays, and I still watch it. Because despite the drama in the board rooms or behind the scenes, it's still racing.

  5. Anonymous8:37 AM

    Obviously this didn't happen overnight at Daytona but has been coming for a while. On the surface the RTA seems to be an effort to gain a larger share of the financial pie for the owners of the 1st and 2nd tier teams. Perhaps they, like other sports businesses have figured out that they, not the promoters are the show. If so you can expect some ugliness to begin to bubble up. The more interesting point is the easily overlooked "with the encouragement of the manufacturers......." Interesting.

  6. Anonymous12:54 PM

    Wow looks like we have ourselves a convoy

    1. Anonymous7:44 PM

      It was the dark of moon on the sixth of June in a Kenworth haulin' logs...

  7. Anonymous12:52 AM

    How much did that demolition derby cost the owners Sunday? It's time for the hard working owners and drivers to turn the screws on Brain France. Maybe Bruton would like to help.

  8. Anonymous12:55 AM

    Nascar has poluted itself by promoting uncompetitive drivers like Danicant. Her very presence makes Nascar a joke. Of course Stewie backs her, he's getting millions from Pimp Daddy.

    1. Dwayne in Memphis2:01 PM

      I wouldn't phrase it quite like this, but there is a large amount of truth in this comment. Back in the day, owners courted sponsors for their cars, then went and found the best driver for the car. Now owners build cars and let the highest bidding driver come drive them. Used to be talent would open a lot of doors for you. Talent won't hardly knock on the door anymore..."I have a sponsor" is the key that opens the door to NASCAR these days.

    2. Dwayne In Memphis - what drivers with talent have been denied rides? I don't disagree about Danica Patrick or Paul Menard, but I'm at a loss to see a driver who has real talent but who has been denied a quality team to race with.

  9. The issue of the RTA and NASCAR is an issue of the sport's inability or refusal to confront the twin issues of spendaholsim and of the technology arms race. RTA clearly wants some deals with hotels etc. and perhaps it can get them, but there needs to be acceptance that the market is what drives hotel prices and the like; there is no price gouging or other such conspiracy.

    What is not needed here is unrealistic demands or passing off of accountability. I've heard the discussion about the sport's costs and it seems team owner spendaholism is never blamed - it's always "they're forced to spend money tyo re-engineer because of rule changes" and similar such arguments. The fact is they often DO NOT have to re-engineer - teams themselves need to accept a significant level of blame for their own spendaholism.

    If the two sides work together it will only help - especially if and when the sport finally gets some kind of spending cap implemented.