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Helton: NASCAR Plans To ‘Stay The Course’

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 11 2014

NASCAR president Mike Helton says his series is not at odds with new team-owners group.

LOUDON, N.H. _ NASCAR president Mike Helton made it very clear Friday morning that the stock car sanctioning body does not believe this week’s announcement that its top car owners have formed an alliance poses a threat to the sport or to NASCAR.

“We’ve got great respect for all or stakeholders,’’ Helton said. “Any perception of animosity is incorrect and unfortunate.’’

An announcement was made earlier this week that the nine most powerful team owners in NASCAR have formed the Racing Team Alliance (RTA) “to create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote, and grow the sport of stock car racing.’’

The official announcement went on to say, “In providing a vehicle for the teams to work together, the organization creates for the first time a single entity to engage with stakeholders on creative ways to market and experience the power of the sport’s teams and drivers. As part of its focus, the RTA also plans to explore innovative ways to harness the combined purchasing power and scale of the teams’ operations to drive efficiencies in costs.’’

Some observers have speculated that this could lead to some kind of unionization or franchising of the teams, both of which have been rejected by NASCAR over the years.

Helton said it was important to answer some of the questions that have arisen since the RTA was announced. He made a statement and answered questions from the rear of the NASCAR hauler in the garage area at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series race this weekend.

Helton says NASCAR “will stay the course” in its governance of the sport in wake of RTA formation.

“We believe the way we’ve grown motorsports has worked … we will stay the course on how we do business,’’ Helton said.

Helton said the RTA, which includes Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motor Sports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motor Sports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske, advised NASCAR of the announcement in advance but has not had any discussions with the organization.

“I caution everyone on the perception of things,’’ said Helton, adding that there is no animosity from either NASCAR or the RTA.

Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, has been elected the first chair of the RTA.

“With the encouragement of NASCAR and the manufacturers, the teams have met in various forms and forums over the years to explore areas of common interest. This simply formalizes what was an informal group.” Kauffman said. “The key word is collaboration. We all have vested interests in the success and popularity of stock car racing.

“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.”

Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said Friday that he sees ,“No downside in the owners working closer together.’’

But Johnson did say the move has possibly opened, “A Pandora’s box. We’ll see where it leads.’’

Asked about the possibility of this situation leading to the drivers organizing, Johnson said, “That opportunity is definitely there.”

– Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, July 11 2014
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