NASCAR issued a statement Monday shortly after a press release announcing that a group of nine multi-car teams participating in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) announced they have formed a collaborative business association called the Race Team Alliance (RTA).
According to a press release, the purpose of the organization is 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.”
Current teams who are the executive members of the RTA include 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.
The organization said it intends to open up its membership to all full time NSCS teams in the “very near future.”
“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,” Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, who has been elected the first chair of the RTA, said. “This simply formalizes what was an informal group.” said Kauffman. “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.”
NASCAR has typically resisted any sort of organization among its teams or drivers. Most famously in 1969, the drivers formed a union known as the Professional Drivers Association (PDA). Members of the PDA boycotted the inaugural race at Talladega in 1969; the race ran with no issues after NASCAR chairman and founder William “Big Bill” France put was able to put together a field that had no star drivers on it. The PDA disbanded shortly after.
It was the second time the drivers tried to unionize. In 1961 NASCAR pioneer Curtis Turner along with the Teamsters Union tried to organize drivers; France destroyed any thoughts of a union and banned Turner for “life” a sentence that lasted only four years.
Although not an actual union the new RTA seems to be drawing the attention of NASCAR in what might considered a cautious way:
“We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose” Brett Jewkes, NASCAR Vice President and Chief Communications Officer said in an emailed statement. “It is apparently still in development and we’re still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now. NASCAR’s mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete. Our job is to support and strengthen all of the teams, large and small, across all of our series and we’ll continue to do that. NASCAR is a unique community with hundreds of stakeholders. They all have a voice and always will.”
Kauffmann later insisted that the RTA is not a union in any shape or form. He said in a Monday phone interview with the Associated Press that the RTA is a business alliance between the Sprint Cup teams