Reaction to NASCAR RTA
Ed Hinton, ESPN.com: The France family's worst nightmare, dating to 1947, is now reality. The monarchy is still in place, but is no longer absolute, and will no longer be able to take all it wants for itself. Championship Auto Racing Teams and the Formula One Constructors Association weren't "unions" per se, either — they were consolidations of power that seized control of, and enormously changed, their realms.
Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman, who was elected the alliance’s chairman, spoke in mild, diplomatic language — but all that means is that the giant has been born sleeping. NASCAR dare not awaken it. Just the idea of those nine teams' haulers pulling out of a garage area on a Friday or Saturday amounts to a nuclear deterrent. Enormous power may be wielded beyond public view. It's a matter of time until the RTA gets a much larger share of TV money, gathers veto power over technical rules changes, exerts pressure on scheduling — pretty much anything it wants. Bill France Jr.'s old iron mantra of "we can do without you" has just been gutted.
This thing came very close to happening in the mid-1990s. The rumblings were palpable in the garages. But France managed to defuse it. Since then, NASCAR's greed has resumed. The RTA was born of that saying: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." These powerful teams, and this titanic alliance, will not be fooled again. Fans needn't worry. They won't be hurt by this. If anything, they'll be helped.
Brant James, ESPN.com: This should be a disconcerting move for NASCAR, because it might cost it money. Get an international investment banker, a billionaire and a sundry room full of millionaires and car salesmen together and eventually they will begin devising clever means to improve their margins. A main goal could or should be to form a wedge against the sanctioning body's penchant for luring away team sponsors. Offering a potential sponsor a raft of race cars from Hendrick, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas et al could be compelling, and a better deal than signing on with a faceless sanctioning body.
Ryan McGee, ESPN The Magazine: My first reaction was to wonder what took so long for this to happen. There has long been a pleasant tension between the sanctioning body and the competitors when it comes to one side handing the other stuff they have to do that costs money (see: new cars, new engines, etc.) while the side giving the orders cashed checks. A unified front from the teams will help when it comes to any future negotiations, be it rules changes, splitting cash or both. Heck, the RTA would prove effective merely by starting any negotiations at all. And there would be benefits to the smaller teams getting on board. If the RTA goes out and finds deals on say, travel costs, then that would help the little guy as well.
John Oreovicz, ESPN.com: I think NASCAR should definitely consider it a warning shot, and the stock car fan base has reason to be worried. An owners' group was probably inevitable, but it should still concern the France family. History tells us that such organizations can be good or bad for a sport. Created in 1974 by Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One Constructors Association helped massively elevate F1 racing into a worldwide juggernaut, but it also stripped power from the sanctioning body. On the other hand, the formation of CART benefited Indy car racing in the short term, but it also increased the political tension within the sport to the point that it ultimately resulted in another power grab — the infamous IRL/CART war that essentially trivialized Indy car racing in America and around the world. The Frances and NASCAR run a tight dictatorship, but the owners putting together the RTA might be advised to be careful about what they wish for.
Marty Smith, ESPN Insider: I make that powerful men with leverage just made a power play to protect their interests and their assets. From every conversation I've had with industry sources, this is my hypothesis on the Race Team Alliance: I believe at its foundation the RTA is first and foremost based on the desire of the owners to receive more television revenue. NASCAR signed an $8 billion television broadcast rights package that begins next season. The bulk of that money goes to the tracks and the sanctioning body. The tracks are publicly traded, so richer tracks mean happier shareholders. The sanctioning body, of course, is a family-owned business — our way or the highway. Yet NASCAR is a free-enterprise platform, so the team owner assumes all of the financial risk: The team owner pays for every rules change NASCAR decides to introduce, no matter how large or small. The team owner must procure sponsorship for his teams, or his teams die on the vine. And if he fails in that capacity, what's he left with? A few cents on the dollar, if he's lucky.
It's a different world than it was when Richard Petty tried to unionize the drivers way back when. Back then there weren't a ton of sponsors. Today, Fortune 500 companies allot millions of dollars to market drivers as the faces of their brands. Leverage has changed. Now, whether any of that ever facilitates anything is anybody's guess. But it's a telltale sign that owners believe they need to be unified to protect themselves. ESPN.com