Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Podcast: Behind the scenes of the Race Team Alliance and its negotiations with NASCAR

Leave a comment

Inside an airplane hangar that’s a shrine to the P51 Mustang fighter pilots who helped win World War II, NASCAR’s most powerful team owners gathered to plot seismic events.

Rick Hendrick, Roger Penske, Richard Childress and Jack Roush met at a conference table in Roush’s personal hangar at the Concord, N.C., airport more than two years ago, identifying the stiffest economic headwinds facing their Sprint Cup organizations.

That was the genesis of the Race Team Alliance, an initially controversial consortium that brokered the landmark charter deal with NASCAR this season, recalibrating the team business model with more dependable and predictable revenue streams.

“It was fascinating,” Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark, who attended the meeting, said in the latest NASCAR on NBC podcast. “As the owners were discussing the challenges they had on sponsorship and some things they saw coming down the pike, they all had similar views of what was going on. These were very successful businessmen both in racing and outside of it.”

In the podcast, Newmark details the behind-the-scenes machinations and negotiations that led to the formation of the RTA and team charters.

The meeting in Roush’s hangar was preceded by a February team owner meeting called by NASCAR at its headquarters in Daytona Beach, Fla., during Speedweeks 2014. Childress then lobbied his peers to gather independently.

“It evolved from there that the owners got together,” Newmark said. “We tried to figure out how to achieve some more synergies in the sport.

“Part of the initial purpose was to talk about we’re all spending ridiculous amounts of money on hotels, rental cars. Is there a way we can leverage our purchasing power on some of these items to do a better job?

“That was one of the primary discussion topics. It wasn’t these meetings were intended to discuss ‘How can we overthrow NASCAR?’ That was some of the suspicions, and I understand that, but that wasn’t the origin or purpose.”

By June, the RTA (chaired by Rob Kauffman) was formed and announced on July 7, 2014, in the form of a news release.

Newmark said it was a much more complex process than it seemed.

“That was more work than anyone envisioned,” he said. “Even the simple act of selecting a name. I’ve still got an email with 50 names on it with everyone trying to create an acronym that made sense. Ultimately we settled on Race Team Alliance. We had to have attorneys guide us because we didn’t want to trip up on antitrust issues. We didn’t want to be anticompetitive, and there were lots of issues that we were told, ‘Hey, the teams together cannot talk about that.’ ”

Though the RTA had made NASCAR aware of its existence, it was met by a chilly reception from the sanctioning body, which initially indicated there would be no plans to recognize the group.

“We’d talked to NASCAR in advance, made sure they were aware, tried to alleviate concerns,” Newmark said. “But it was natural because it was such a sea change from how we operated in the past.

“I do think there was initial trepidation for certain folks in NASCAR. To be blunt, probably the concern was because you saw this whispered in the press. If I were in NASCAR, that would have been a legitimate concern. Is this what they are aiming to do? We had to have a learning process and build trust. There was a constant dialogue. After initial concern and pushback, it transformed very quickly.”

Within a year, the framework had been built for the charter system that would assign value to teams while allocating revenues through a new structure based partly on historical performance.

But while the numbers in the deal were worked out relatively easily, governance – or how much influence teams would have on the direction of NASCAR competition and rulemaking – was a sticking point that caused negotiations to last well into the offseason.

“One of the more contentious days, where I wondered if we’d be able to have a meeting of the minds, was Christmas Eve,” said Newmark, who was heavily involved with Kauffman in negotiations. “Rob and I, with some lawyers and some other team presidents, we were sending issues lists on Christmas (to NASCAR). We were able to bridge some of the gaps that came up then. That was a fairly constant process. It was fun doing it. It was grueling.”

Newmark recalled an all-night session at The Ballantyne Lodge in which talks with NASCAR went until 3 a.m. and resumed at 6 a.m. He took a nap at the hotel rather than make the 3-mile drive to his Charlotte home.

“Ask my kids, they’d get used to my phone lighting up with Rob Kauffman on it,” Newmark said. “It was very different than a lot of negotiations I was involved in with walkout moments. This had a more collaborative spirit. That doesn’t mean we didn’t have a difference of opinions, and we didn’t have some tough moments. But there really was an openness that I think was unprecedented in the sport.”

Other topics discussed by Newmark on the podcast:

–How the merger between Roush Racing and Fenway Sports Group transpired and how the entities still are working together;

–The evolution of team owner Jack Roush’s role from demanding leader to mentor;

–How NASCAR might be positioned to hook Millennials in the face of possibly declining car culture;

You can listen to the podcast by clicking below or download and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here.

The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here and also can be found on Google Play, Spotify and a host of other smartphone apps.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: New Jersey

Leave a comment

After a week of NASCAR America returns today with the next edition of “50 States in 50 Show,” with a look at the state of New Jersey, which is the home of Martin Truex Jr., Hall of Fame nominee Ray Evernham and the subject of today’s segment, Wall Stadium Speedway.

The 1/3-mile speedway is located in Wall Township, which is about 40 miles east of the Trenton.

Evernham called into NASCAR America to discuss the track, which has been hosting races since 1950.

“Growing up on the Jershey shore, there was a lot of stock-car racing in that area,” Evernham said. “That was a pavement track and it was a Saturday night place to go. .. The racing was great. It’s because of the banked track. There was a lot of dirt tracks and flatter tracks around there, but at the time Wall promoted that it was banked just like Daytona (International Speedway).”

Watch the video for more from Evernham, Truex about the track.

 

 

NASCAR America: Aric Almirola recounts Kansas crash that caused back injury

Leave a comment

Last Saturday, Aric Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports announced Almirola would miss at least eight to 12 weeks with a T5 compression fracture in his back. The injury is a result of a violent three-car accident the previous weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Following the announcement, Almirola sat down with NASCAR America to gives his account of the accident. The interview can be watched in the above video.

MORE: Almirola’s greatest pain is not being able to fulfill children’s wishes

Following Almirola’s account, NASCAR America analysts Parker Kligerman and Kyle Petty discussed the accident and the state of safety in the sport today.

With the many years his family has been in the sport and the tragedies it has experienced seen, including the death of his son Adam Petty in a 2000 Busch Series practice session at New Hampshire Motor speedway, Kyle Petty said Almirola’s accident hits “close to home.”

“When you’ve been in the seat and another family trusts you to take care of their son or their husband or their father, whatever it may be, and it’s our responsibility to look after Aric,” Petty said. “We talk about frontal impacts, we talk about rear impacts, we talk about side impacts. There’s been so much written and spoken about concussion. … But how many times do you see a car fall out of the air? You can’t cover everything. That’s what NASCAR continues to look at, that’s what we all continue to look at. But this sport is never, ever, ever, ever going to be completely safe.”

Watch the rest of the video below for all of Petty and Kligerman’s thoughts on the Almirola and safety in NASCAR.

Ryan Blaney to drive Kyle Petty’s 1987 paint scheme in Southern 500

1 Comment

The countdown to this years’ throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway began Monday with Ryan Blaney revealing his retro paint scheme on NASCAR America.

With the help of NBC Sports analysts Kyle Petty, Blaney announced his No. 21 Ford will have Petty’s 1987 paint scheme in the Sept. 3 Southern 500, which will air on NBCSN.

This is the third year for NASCAR’s throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway

Kyle Petty’s Ford Thunderbird from the 1987 season. Source: Wood Brothers Racing.

Petty drove for Wood Brothers Racing from 1985-88, when he earned two of his eight Cup wins with the team and scored 19 top five and 48 top-10 finishes. He placed in the top 10 in points in three of his four seasons with the Wood Brothers.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Petty’s win in the Coca-Cole 600.

Blaney will be making his third start in the Southern 500. His best finish in his first two starts was 13th last season.

“When he was with us, Kyle used to build his own aluminum seats,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said in  press release.. “He won a total of eight Cup races. He’s a talented singer and guitar player. He’s done great work with the Victory Junction Camp and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride, and he’s an excellent TV commentator.

“Kyle can do anything he wants to do. He’s that talented. We’re happy to have his name back on our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion for the Southern 500 at Darlington.”

 and on Facebook

See the characters NASCAR drivers will voice in ‘Cars 3’

Disney
1 Comment

Last February it was announced that NASCAR drivers Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr. would lend their voices to Pixar’s new movie Cars 3.

Now it’s less than a month from the film’s June 16 release date.

While the character’s names were part of the February announcement, NASCAR revealed the character designs Monday afternoon on Twitter.

Blaney’s character is Ryan Inside Laney.

Wallace’s character is Bubba Wheelhouse

Elliott’s character is Chase Racelott

Suarez’s character is Danny Swervez.

The animated movie will also feature the voices of Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Darrell Waltrip, Kyle Petty, Ray Evernham, Humpy Wheeler, Mike Joy and Shannon Spake.

Richard Petty and and Waltrip were voices in the original Cars (2006) in addition to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mario Andretti.

 and on Facebook