Top 9 teams in NASCAR unite to form an alliance, or is it a cover for a union?

NASCAR's nine most powerful teams have formed the Race Team Alliance, a business association intended to increase revenues and budget efficiency for Sprint Cup organizations.

The RTA is comprised 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. It intends to open its membership to all teams in NASCAR's premier series.

A release said the organization "creates for the first time a single entity to engage with stakeholders on creative ways to market and experience the power of the sport's teams and drivers. As part of its focus, the RTA also plans to explore innovative ways to harness the combined purchasing power and scale of the teams' operations to drive efficiencies in costs."

"Calling it a union would be incorrect. A union would be for employees," Kauffman said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "The right way to characterize it would be a 'business alliance.' Unions are about employees directly trying to negotiate something. The RTA is pooling together to look at things we can be doing better [like getting a bigger race purse , the teams are after all, indirectly employees of NASCAR].

"No one is looking to start a fight or be controversial." [Yeah, this should get interesting.]

The RTA currently includes Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motor Sports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Kauffman said the top goal of the RTA, which is operating with bylaws and an executive committee, is to bring in the remaining Sprint Cup teams that are not currently members. The next most important items on the agenda, according to Kauffman, is working on cost-saving initiatives related to travel and buying power for parts, and communicating with one voice to NASCAR the team ideas on testing.

"Roger Penske's thought was 'Let's go for the low hanging fruit,'" said Kauffman, who retired at the end of 2012 from Fortress Investment Group, where he was one of three founders.

Kauffman said the RTA also will discuss health care and benefits for employees.

"One of the projects out of the chute is all of these teams get a lot of hotel rooms on a weekly basis — well, gaining a hotel partner might help with that cost and provide some flexibility," he said. "When you put a lot of smart people in the room, you can come up with a lot of smart ideas. Right now, I don't think we even know how much we all spend in total on parts. Or how many employees do we all have?"

NASCAR chief communications officer Brett Jewkes said the sanctioning body had few specifics on the RTA's "structure or purpose," so it would be inappropriate to comment on the group.

"NASCAR's mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete," Jewkes said in a statement. "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." More at USA Today and AP Story

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