NASCAR’s reaction to the announcement Monday of the formation of the Race Team Alliance – a business alliance composed of nine of the biggest teams in the Sprint Cup Series – seemed to surprise many.
A series spokesman said the sanctioning body was aware of the alliance but since it had provided few, if any, details on what is was going to do, NASCAR would withhold any immediate comment.
To be honest, it was surprising NASCAR said anything at all.
Why should it?
Time and time again we’ve heard from drivers and owners that this is NASCAR’s sandbox – they set the rules, and drivers and owners have to live with them.
That’s all too true.
NASCAR is a privately owned sanctioning body in which teams and drivers pay to participate. They are not required to, and if a driver or owner doesn’t like the way it’s run, they are free to no longer participate.
Some might say that’s unrealistic, since NASCAR remains the only viable top-level stock car racing entity.
It may be a bad choice, but it’s still a choice.
So, if owners have the choice now to walk away if they don’t like the way things are run in NASCAR, what incentive is there for NASCAR to pay homage to a group of owners, who could use that choice as a way to make NASCAR change its rules?
There is none.
If teams want to work together to reduce costs or collaborate on how best to get the most out of the dollars they and their sponsors spend, it should be seen as a laudable goal by NASCAR.
But if the goal at some point of the new organization is to enact changes in NASCAR policy, the sanctioning body has no incentive to engage in the debate if it believes – perhaps rightfully so – that owners have nowhere else to go.
In other words, the question of whether the formation of the allianceproduces vast changes in NASCAR depends entirely on how far the collective group is willing to push its agenda.
There is a reasonable argument to be made that it’s in the sport’s best interest that everyone involved not allow any disagreements to get to that breaking point.
There is also plenty of precedent indicating someone will be forced to show their hand before it’s all over.
Last week’s race at Daytona set the first four eligible drivers – Regan Smith, Ryan Sieg, Ryan Reed and Jeremy Clements. The highest finisher of those four at New Hampshire wins the bonus and qualifies for the next bonus at Chicagoland.
The 30-minute timed race will feature 20 to 24 cars, with previous winners and champions from the national and Southern touring series along with the 2013 rookies of the year for both tours.
Rhodes’ four straight wins are tied with Ricky Craven (1991) for most consecutive wins in the series, and the 17-year-old driver is one win away from tying Dylin Kwasniewski’s record of six wins in a season set last year.