News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Auto Racing

July 16, 2014

Joe Buckles: New alliance features powerful figures trying to lower costs

TERRE HAUTE — Possibly no off track developments involving NASCAR racing  over the past 20 to 30 years has generated as much interest and speculation as last week’s announcement regarding the formation of the new Race Team Alliance organization.

The story regarding a group of nine of NASCAR’s most powerful and winningest car owners who have banned together to work for what they term is for the betterment of their sport.

Their goal is to lower the costs of going NASCAR racing while working to better promote their sport.

The teams involved include heavy rollers Joe Gibbs Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Hendricks Motorsports, Roush-Fenway Racing, Stewart-Hass Racing, Penske Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Richard Petty Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing.

According to RTA Chairman Rob Kauffman, other teams are expected to join soon. Eligibility to join the organization is that a team must have attempted to qualify in 95 percent of the 72 Sprint Cup shows over the past two years.

When word first leaked our about the new group, the initial thoughts of many was here we go again trying to unionize NASCAR. Any attempts to do so in the past have never gotten much past the talking stage and all have failed miserably.

The RTA mentions no intention of trying to unionize their drivers or franchising the teams.

As expected rumors have run rampant about the new group and what actions they might take and what effect it will have on America’s most popular form of racing.

The sudden chain of events hasn’t gone without close scrutiny by those within in the sports, including three NASCAR drivers who competed in the UMP modified part of the UMP Summer Nationals stock car card at the Terre Haute Action Track last Wednesday.

Ken Schrader, Kenny Wallace and Justin Allgaier all expressed their views on developments. Two voicing approval of the actions, the third expressing a measure of skepticism.

Schrader, the long-time veteran of NASCAR racing says he favors the move, citing the need for reducing the out of control costs associated with running in the upper tier of NASCAR racing.

He says previous attempts by car owners and drivers to get a bigger say in the future of the sport have failed, but this move by the RTA stands a much better chance of making a difference.

“It’s not a group effort trying to beat up on NASCAR. It’s about an attempt to cut costs. They [RTA] want this to be betterment for everyone. I’m sure NASCAR has some concerns about the announcement,” voiced Schrader following his third place finish in the modified feature.

“Its not like 1972. These guys are sharp businessmen. When you have the Roger Penskes, the Rick Hendricks, the Joe Gibbs and Jack Roush you know its serious,” Schrader said in reference to an ill-fated attempt to unionize the drivers in the past.

Allgaier says the need for change goes beyond the cost factors. He feels his sport hasn’t met the stature of other sports and that there’s a need to better promote NASCAR racing.

“We need to know what to do to compete with the other sports,” voiced Allgaier. “We have to work together to better promote NASCAR. We need to connect with the younger fans better.”  

One never lost for words, Wallace wasted little time in voicing his say on the new organization and their reported goals in addition to the battles they might face when going up against the NASCAR establishment.

“The reason this has come about is because the richest people in the country own these race teams. If they were to lose their sponsors, they would get out of racing. That’s nine teams with four cars each. If that would happen it would paralyze NASCAR,” warned the concerned Wallace.

“If the RTA is saying were trying to come together to find sponsorships, find a way to buy our parts cheaper that’s fine. If there coming together to try and strong arm NASCAR, I want no part of it.”

“It’s an ugly deal right now. I never would have thought this would happen in 100 years. All I can say when you start to strong arm NASCAR it doesn’t turn out pretty,” cautioned the winner of Wednesday’s modified feature.

How the RTA story unfolds in upcoming days is sure to draw its share of interest throughout the motorsports world and one that is not about to go away any time soon.

 

Joe Buckles can be reached at jbuckles4@frontier.com.

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