Gordon Kirby

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United colours of NASCAR

NASCAR’s top teams have formed Race Team Alliance (RTA) to “explore common interests, reduce costs and collaborate on initiatives to promote and expand NASCAR”.

Traditionally, NASCAR has always been firmly opposed to unions of drivers or team owners and RTA’s creation marks the first time in the series’ history that teams will be represented by a formal organisation.

RTA’s nine teams represent 25 cars, but RTA says it plans to invite all full-time Sprint Cup entrants to join the group. RTA’s founding members are Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas, Richard Childress, Roush Fenway, Michael Waltrip Racing, Team Penske, Chip Ganassi and Richard Petty Motorsports.

Rob Kauffman is RTA’s chairman and spokesman, and also the co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing. He says the RTA teams will pool resources to save money on hotels and disability insurance and to create economies of scale in purchasing machinery and equipment.

“The teams have met in various forms and forums over the years to explore areas of common interest,” Kauffman said. “We all have vested interests in the success and popularity of stock car racing. By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups.”

NASCAR’s president Mike Helton says NASCAR will work with RTA but emphasised the sanctioning body will not alter in any way its method of doing business. “We’ve got great respect for all of our stakeholders in the sport,” he said. “We take very seriously our responsibility to make decisions, because we’ve all worked together for a long time. Part of that responsibility is to have a sport that has a great product at great racetracks for our fans. And the owners have been very clear that this is their intention too, so we stand together very clearly on that.

“We’ll continue to do business the way we’ve done it in the past. We talk to a lot of folks to help us make our decisions about how to go forward. I want to dispel the perception of any animosity. The team owners play an important role in the sport and they deserve to be able to put forward their views. I think they’ve made clear their intentions are to make the sport stronger and their ownerships stronger. We have respect for what they do and for their business models.”

Six-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson also commented on the RTA’s formation. “I’m excited for the teams and the opportunity they have to work together and try to hold the costs down and have a more clear, concise role in a variety of aspects of the industry,” he said. “I’m happy that the teams are working together to try to drive costs down. It’s a very expensive sport and hopefully all the stakeholders can improve their positions and make our sport stronger.

“The things that have been discussed by the RTA are all about saving costs. It’s all about driving costs down. NASCAR is trying to do this and so is the RTA. I think everybody’s working in the same direction.”

Many NASCAR venues have struggled to put bums on seats in recent years. TV ratings have also fallen flat, but NASCAR has negotiated a new 10-year deal that will bring more than $8 billion in income – a 50 per cent increase over current TV agreements.

But if NASCAR is to thrive into the middle decades of the 21st century, it will have to attract a larger, younger audience. It will be interesting to see if RTA can be successful in nudging the sanctioning body to evolve into a more modern, more profitable organisation.

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