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: Scan All from the Brickyard 400

Leave a comment

Kasey Kahne has dreamed of winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ever since he first visited the track in 1999 as a kid fresh from his home in Washington.

The dream came true on Sunday with his victory in the Brickyard 400.

Kahne recounts how he won Sunday’s race in this week’s “Scan All,” which again presents the best scanner traffic from the 24th Brickyard 400.

The highlights include.

  • “That will make for a fun Tuesday.” – Matt Kenseth‘s reaction to the Lap 111 crash involved his teammate Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Tuesdays are when Joe Gibbs Racing holds a weekly meeting between drivers. It’s also happens to be the day “Scan All” airs.
  • “The 41 is melting down right now.” – Jame McMurray’s assessment of Kurt Busch after a bit of close racing between the two of them on a restart. Busch sarcastically clapped as McMurray drove by him under caution.
  • “(Expletive) Danica! (Expletive) her!” – Clint Bowyer‘s reaction his hard crash that involved Kurt Busch and Erik Jones. Patrick, who was running in front of Bowyer, wasn’t involved in the crash.
  • “Damn it, we had that thing won!” – Jimmie Johnson after his crash in Turn 3 on Lap 158 while racing three-wide with Kahne and Brad Keselowski.

Watch the above video for the full “Scan All” experience.

Landon Cassill: ‘Still haven’t really wrapped my head around’ Brickyard penalty for disobeying red flag

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Landon Cassill said Tuesday he is still trying to understand the situation that resulted in his Brickyard 400 ending in the garage after NASCAR parked his No. 34 Ford for not heeding a red flag during the overtime period of the race.

Cassill was parked on Lap 162 after he continued to pit road when the red flag had been displayed for a wreck on the first overtime restart. The field was stopped in Turn 4.

After the race Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Cassill was parked because he “disobeyed a red flag.”

NASCAR’s official infraction report says Cassill was parked for “pulling up to pit.”

Cassill, taking part in a Goodyear tire test at Dover International Speedway, said he, his crew chief Seth Barbour and the team’s two spotters did not see the red flag displayed.

“I still haven’t really wrapped my head around it completely,” Cassill said. “They themselves did not see the red flag while I was rolling, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t out, I guess. The button they push in timing and scoring to trigger the red (flag) in their system is different than the flag man actually displaying the red flag. The flag man displaying the flag is what we have to work off of as drivers. It could have been the flag man had the red flag out the whole and the four of us as a team just missed it. That’s kind of why I kept rolling. I am very understanding of the rule and why it is what it is.”

With Cassill parked, the race ended on Lap 167. The Front Row Motorsports driver placed 22nd with his third DNF of the season.

Despite how it ended, Cassill earned his best result at a track other than a restrictor-plate track since he finished 21st at Kansas Speedway in May.

and on Facebook

NASCAR America airs live 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Brad Keselowski extension, Scan All

Leave a comment

Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs for an hour beginning at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to breakdown all the big stories from the Brickyard 400.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Steve Letarte, Slugger Labbe and Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut.

On today’s show:

· The Silly Season brings more news for next season. Brad Keselowski will stay with Team Penske after agreeing to a multi-year contract extension. How does this impact others drivers potentially needing rides for 2018?

· Kasey Kahne became the 12th driver to virtually guarantee himself a playoff spot due to his Brickyard 400 win. Steve and Slugger will see how Kahne’s win impacted the playoff picture and focus on those drivers who have to clinch a spot.

· If you thought the Brickyard 400 was chaotic. Just wait until you see the race from the teams’ point of view in today’s edition of Scan All: Indianapolis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends crew chief Greg Ives’ performance

Leave a comment

Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he had heard enough “chatter” from fans about crew chief Greg Ives that he needed to tell them to “shut THAT (expletive) down.’’

Earnhardt, in his final full-time season driving in Cup, sent the tweet after exiting Sunday’s Brickyard 400 because of contact on a restart damaged his car. He finished 36th.

Some fans were upset about Ives’ pit strategy before the incident. Earnhardt could have stayed out on a caution at Lap 72 with others. Had he done so, Earnhardt would have restarted fifth. Instead, Ives called him to pit road and Earnhardt restarted 24th.

Ives told NBC Sports that it was an easy call because of what he felt was the difference between old tires and new tires. With what he thought would be a limited cushion of cars between Earnhardt and those with new tires on the restart, Ives said it was best to pit.

On the restart, the field got jumbled and Earnhardt ran into the back of Trevor Bayne’s car, damaging the radiator on Earnhardt’s Chevrolet.

It was another disappointing finish for Earnhardt, who needs a win to make the playoffs. He is 22nd in the points with one top five and four top-10 finishes in 20 races. He’s led 24 laps this season. 

As some fans complained about the strategy, Earnhardt reacted with the tweet.

Earnhardt explained during a break in tire testing Tuesday at Dover International Speedway why he sent the note to his fans.

“I just have heard the chatter over the season,’’ Earnhardt said. “We’ve had a difficult year and there’s just been a little rumbling in the background from the fans. They just love to target the crew chief. Our struggles are no one individual’s responsibility.

“I think that being my crew chief, we have such a very passionate fan base, very large fan base, it’s a challenging position for anybody. I’ve seen that with all the guys that I’ve worked with and they’ve all had to deal with criticism, was it the right call this week, what about the next week? They just get really picked apart.

“This is our last season. We’ve had some pretty difficult results and had opportunity to be frustrated and miserable, but I don’t want this season to be remembered by my crew chief, by myself, by my guys as a miserable time. The fans have an influence on that. They can definitely ease up a little bit on Greg and realize that he’s extremely talented, he’s in that position for a reason.’’

Ives has been praised for how he kept the team together after Earnhardt was out 18 races because of concussion symptoms. Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman drove the No. 88 Chevrolet in Earnhardt’s absence. Hendrick Motorsports announced last week that Bowman will take over Earnhardt’s ride next season.

Earnhardt, who will join NBC Sports’ broadcast team next year, said he can’t wait to watch Bowman and Ives next year.

“He’s going to have incredible success beyond my driving career as a crew chief at HMS, and I look forward to seeing that happen as soon as next season with Alex,’’ Earnhardt said Tuesday of Ives. “He was able to work with Alex in a matter of a few weeks and have Alex up to speed, confident and fast and almost winning races. (Ives) won a championship with Chase (Elliot) in the Xfinity Series. He won five championships with Jimmie Johnson as the lead engineer.

“Maybe Twitter ain’t the place to be drawing attention to things like that. You just hear enough chatter through the course of a long period of time. It wasn’t something that happened that particular weekend. … It’s not OK to be a fan and dog the crew. You’re a fan of the team. I know it’s important that they embrace the crew chief, the guys on the crew, the mechanics, the tire changers, they’ve got to embrace the whole thing.’’

 and on Facebook