NASCAR’s response to RTA: Business as usual

Mike Helton

Four days after the announced formation of a team alliance among the sport's top organizations, NASCAR President Mike Helton said Friday that NASCAR will continue to do business as usual: It will make decisions with input from the stakeholders of the sport.

Speaking briefly prior to Sprint Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Helton said any perception of animosity between the sanctioning body and the team owners "is incorrect and very unfortunate."

"They made clear their intentions are to grow the sport and make the sport stronger through their ownerships," Helton said. "We have respect for what they do to their business models."

Helton said NASCAR would continue to listen to car owners, drivers, team members and other stakeholders in the sport and continue to make decisions to benefit the whole sport.

"The way we do our form of motorsports has worked," Helton said. "We continue to add assets and values, to create and grow the sport, and we'll continue to do that. And we'll also continue to do that with the input of as many people as we can talk to individually.

"A lot of that is to (reduce) the barrier of entry (into the sport) the best we can … to encourage people who want to be owners or drivers or crew members to be part of this sport."

Nine teams announced Monday they had formed the Race Team Alliance with Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman as the chairman. The organizations involved are the top multicar teams in the sport: Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske, Michael Waltrip Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports.

The group has not talked with NASCAR officials except to inform them that they were going to announce the formation of the organization.

"We'll continue to do business the way we've done business," Helton said. "We'll talk to a lot of the folks to reach decisions the way we always have. You know everything we know (about the RTA).

"We continue to operate the way we have for the last six decades."

Kauffman said the focus of the group would be to secure better pricing for things such as travel, insurance, and common parts and pieces. He said the RTA also would be available to provide feedback to NASCAR but said the group was not designed to fight NASCAR.
The RTA is the first time the owners have aligned in a formal way. NASCAR typically has meetings with team owners, but now the RTA could take a vote and represent a united, and possibly stronger, front.

Speculation has run wild, including that the group wants to negotiate with NASCAR so the teams get more than the current 25 percent of television money. A new 10-year, $8.2-billion television package goes into effect next year, and the public companies that have run the tracks have indicated to shareholders that they expect the split to remain at 65 percent for the tracks, 25 percent to the teams (through the purse) and 10 percent to NASCAR.

"We take very serious our responsibility to make decisions in this sport, in the garage area, for the racetracks and the other partners that we've got because we've all worked together for a long time to make a great product," Helton said.

"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 that's their intention, too. So we stand together very clearly on that."

Drivers are just not learning about the RTA and its plans. Six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said Friday that the formation of the organization is a good thing.

"I'm excited for the teams and the opportunity that they have to work together and hopefully drive costs down and have a more clear and concise voice in the industry on a variety of aspects, not only to NASCAR but across the board," Johnson said. "We'll see where things go. It's obviously very new, but I'm happy that the teams are working together to drive costs down. It's a very expensive sport." Sporting News

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