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So, What Exactly is the RTA?

So, What Exactly is the RTA?

by July 9, 2014 0 comments

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR

The NASCAR world was rocked earlier this week with the announcement of the formation of the Race Team Alliance (RTA), a nine-team alliance formed to collaborate on tackling various issues with the sport.

If you’re like a good chunk of fans (myself included), you may have been asking yourself earlier this week ‘what exactly is the Race Team Alliance?’

Let’s start off with the question of ‘who comprises of the Alliance?’  

The nine teams that are currently represented in the Alliance are Richard Childress Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske, Hendrick Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, and Michael Waltrip Racing with MWR’s Rob Kauffman currently presiding as the Chairman of the RTA. Applications for acceptance into the Alliance have not yet become available for other teams, however, the group will begin to take applications from current full-time teams on the grid soon.

The RTA’s purpose is to serve as a liaison between the interests of these nine founding members of the Alliance and NASCAR. One of the RTA’s goals is to improve the financial standings of all of it’s member teams by increasing revenues for it’s members. In an interview on Marty Smith and Ryan McGee’s ESPN podcast, Marty & McGee, co-owner of JTG Daugherty Racing and current ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty confirmed that the some of the motivation as of now behind the RTA is to secure a greater share of NASCAR’s 2015 television deal (a combined package with FOX & NBC worth $8.2 billion) for the teams than they currently receive under the current, expiring deal.

Another of the RTA’s goals is to not only increase revenue for the teams, but to cut costs as well. With NASCAR in the planning stages of making massive overhauls to the engines used in the Sprint Cup Series (overhauls that would cost teams several millions of dollars), the RTA could oppose this move by NASCAR in order to save money on another change to the race package. Keep in mind, in a little under a decade, the Sprint Cup Series has switched between three distinct chassis for their vehicles (not including minor tweaks year-to-year with each chassis.)

Another objective for the RTA when it comes to cutting costs is to find more efficient ways of cutting expenses when it comes to travel. Nothing in terms of a concrete agenda to address this issue has been set forth by the Alliance yet.

To those who may be thinking: “It’s just a bunch of rich team owners trying to get more of the pie”, you have to realize that NASCAR’s not a cheap sport to participate in. While on the Sprint Cup side the sponsorship situation is not as dire as it was several years ago, sponsors have begun to opt for deals for a quarter to a third of the season rather than a full-season deal – leaving teams with an omnipresent sense of insecurity in terms of sponsor revenue. Keep in mind that it’s still expensive to build and race stock cars at the premier level of the sport.

Some have labelled the Race Team Alliance as a NASCAR labor union. Truthfully, that’s not exactly the case. Labor unions are a liaison between a business and its employees; if we take a look at the RTA-NASCAR relationship, NASCAR does not employ its teams and the RTA represents the interests of team owners rather than employees directly.

The presence of an alliance of sorts between race teams and drivers is not unprecedented. Richard Petty was the leader of the Professional Drivers Association, an organization that was formed in 1969 for drivers to address safety issues to the sanctioning body. The group was formed prior to the inaugural race at the Talladega Superspeedway and would take NASCAR to task over issues with the durability of the tires made available for the 2.66-mile superspeedway, many tire blowouts occurred in the days leading up to the race. This prompted the PDA to press NASCAR to fix the issues with the tires by threatening to sit out of the inaugural race at Talladega – NASCAR refused to budge and thus many of the championship contenders, including Petty, sat out of the 1969 Talladega 500.

The driver strike would only last so long as the contenders would return by Martinsville, the next race on the calendar. The PDA itself would be disbanded by the early 1970’s.

With the formation of an association similar to the PDA, could we see another situation like the 1969 Talladega 500? A one-race sit-out by the teams is not likely, however, we could see something similar to the old USAC/CART split in 1979.

CART, the then premier American open-wheel racing series, split from the United States Auto Club in late-1978 after team owners began to grow frustrated at USAC’s running of the sport. Team owners, including current Sprint Cup owner Roger Penske, would elect to leave USAC and form their own racing series – Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART.)

Now, I’m not saying that something along the lines of that 35-year old split is bound to happen – after all, Penske would know better than anyone the struggles open-wheel racing went through in American after the further splitting of CART into both CART and the IndyCar Series in the mid-90s (and the subsequent unification of both series in 2008.) It certainly wouldn’t be a shock to see the RTA threaten to leave NASCAR if their requests are not met or debated on, however, the actual chances of the RTA’s members actually going forth and doing so would be slim-to-none.

Not many more details on the organization and the runnings of the Race Team Alliance are known as this time. More details will likely become available in the upcoming weeks.

After the announcement of the formation of the RTA, NASCAR released a statement regarding the new organization: “We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose. It is apparently still in development and we’re still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now. NASCAR’s mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete. 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.”

Kyle Pokrefky
Follow Kyle Pokrefky on Twitter at @KPokrefky

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