Alliance wants seat at NASCAR table, NASCAR dictatorship says no

Last Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the final broadcast for cable's TNT, and ESPN will start its final laps with the stock car organization with the July 27 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Starting next year, the Sprint Cup Series can be found on either Fox or NBC. The change also is the beginning of a new 10-year, $8.2 billion television contract for the sport.

That's why it's no surprise the Race Team Alliance was formed among racing's most-powerful owners. With so much at stake, many believe the real purpose of the coalition to have a seat at the table when the money is carved into pieces.

The current contract calls for the racetracks to get 65 percent of the pie (i.e. essentially NASCAR paying itself). NASCAR is next in line. Race teams get what's left over.

The next contract will translate to an extra $19 million in revenues for the sanctioning body compared to this year's contract.

Meanwhile, the costs of racing, especially if NASCAR follows through with plans to reduce horsepower, are growing at an alarming rate. In fact, the recent race at Kentucky Speedway didn't have a full field for the first time since 1998 as some teams struggle to keep their doors open.

The rub is NASCAR is owned and operated by the same family that owns and operates 19 of the 36 racetracks on the Sprint Cup schedule. Another group owns 12 of the tracks.

While the Race Team Alliance was developed to find ways have more buying power with hotel, rental car and insurance rates, the driving force is money.

And that leads everyone back to television money.

NASCAR president Mike Helton said his group hasn't been approached by the Race Team Alliance. But he made it clear the sport will continue to be directed in the same manner as always – essentially a benevolent dictatorship.

"We are going to stay our course," Helton said. "We believe that the way we (manage) our form of motorsports has worked."

Helton said NASCAR's doors always are open to ideas. For 60 years that meant each owner offered an opinion, the Race Team Alliance, which is comprised of Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske and Richard Childress Racing, will approach the sanctioning body as a single voice – a voice that makes up 17 individual fulltime entries.

"For everybody to be together on all topics I don't think there is any down side in being organized," Jimmie Johnson said.

NASCAR has aggressively turned back any attempt for teams and drivers to organize in the past. It issued a lifetime ban to drivers Curtis Turner and Tim Flock for trying to get the drivers to join the Teamsters in 1961.

And when Talladega Superspeedway was opened in 1969, Richard Petty tried to organize drivers against racing there because there were a lot of tire failures.

NASCAR founder Bill France put that uprising down by inviting the ARCA Racing Series to compete in the track's first race.

The regular drivers relented and were back at work the next week.

Now that car owners have aligned, Johnson said it might be time for drivers to do the same.

"That opportunity is definitely there," he said. "I don't know where others stand and feel with it. I haven't put any thought into it myself. I guess in some ways Pandora's Box has been opened with this topic and discussion. We will see where it leads."

To do that, just follow the money. Augusta Chronicle