When the Race Team Alliance was announced in July, the group of teams included the most powerful multi-car teams in the Sprint Cup Series. Now, after Wednesday's announcement, it includes most every full-time team in the garage.
The original group included Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and Richard Childress Racing. Wednesday's announcement brought JTG-Daugherty Racing, BK Racing, Circle Sport, Front Row Motorsports, Germain Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing, Go Green/FAS Lane Racing, HScott Motorsports and Phil Parsons Racing into the fold.
The outlier from that group? Furniture Row Racing.
"We spoke to [Furniture Row owner Barney Visser] and he had the information," Michael Waltrip co-owner Rob Kauffman told USA Today on Wednesday. "He thought it didn't make sense at this time. It's a free world, and I respect that. I think that's his prerogative, so it's completely fine."
Kauffman has served as the RTA's spokesperson since the group's inception. According to the statement from the RTA when its formation was announced, the goal is that "By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport. Whether it be looking for industry-wide travel partners or collaborating on technical issues – the idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more efficiently, and deliver more value to our partners."
Following a luncheon on Wednesday, Rick Hendrick said that the RTA allowed teams to meet with each other before talking to NASCAR and that teams had been informally working together on issues before the arrangement was formalized.
"I think NASCAR has always asked us, and I’ll give [NASCAR president] Brian France tremendous credit, the fireside chats he has with the owners and the drivers, we never had that before," Hendrick said. "And so he’s done a lot to promote us having input. But if you talk to 20 different guys on different day, all of them are going to have a different opinion.”
"In this setting, we kind of come together before we come up with an idea, let’s talk about it and this is what we agree on and it makes it easier for NASCAR. And so far with us, we’ve already seen a lot of savings in expenses working together. Our CFOs have been doing this now for probably three or four years, so I think it’s been good and we’re trying to identify all that low-hanging fruit and so far some of their ideas that my CFO told me would work and I didn’t believe him, now I hear it from somebody else and we do it. And we save a lot of money."
Some of that low-hanging fruit could be travel expenses, which Kauffman estimated is between $50-$100 million for Sprint Cup teams. A July Sports Business Journal report documenting Stewart-Haas' race weekend in Kentucky said the team's weekend expenses were $1.5 million not counting personnel salaries.
However, France isn't a fan of a unified voice. Throughout the RTA's existence, NASCAR has largely declined public comment save for a France appearance on SiriusXM where he said listening to one voice "would probably be the worst thing that we could ever do." Otherwise the sanctioning body has said all communication would be done through attorneys.
The RTA is about more than just travel costs, however. Other issues will likely include sponsorships and the costs of operating a race team. In an appearance on ESPN's Marty and McGee podcast after the RTA was formed, JTG-Daugherty co-owner and ESPN analyst Brad Daugherty said the value of a team was dependent on the team's sponsors because of the current cost structures for team owners in the sport. NASCAR teams are not franchised.
Hendrick said over two-thirds of his team's income came from sponsors. Earlier in the week, HMS announced that 3M was moving over to sponsor Jeff Gordon in 2015, meaning that Gordon would have three primary sponsors next season with 10 or more races each. In 2009, Gordon's primary sponsor was DuPont, which had over 25 races to itself on Gordon's car.
"I don’t think that's all of the value, but surely you do depend on sponsors, that’s probably 70 percent of your income comes from that," Hendrick said. "If you don’t have sponsors, you have parts and pieces."
"Sometimes you say you’d rather have just one big sponsor, but the way this is kind of playing out, you may have three on a car and one decides he wants to leave, so the other two can step up, maybe one of those can take the other part, the other guy’s place. So our company does a lot of busines-to-business things with our sponsors, whether it’s with the automotive group or we sell Valvoline oil in our dealerships, we paint with Axalta paint in 30 collision centers. I like having multiple sponsors, I like having many opportunities to grow our relationship. It’s easier when you just have one, but I think in the climate today and in the cost of what we do and the way a company’s going to spend their money, you have to do what you have to do to make it work."
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