Helton Says No Animosity

Mike Helton

NASCAR President Mike Helton discussed the Race Team Alliance with reporters Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Photo: Getty Images)

LOUDON, N.H. - NASCAR President Mike Helton said that there is no animosity toward the nine car owners who announced the formation of the Race Team Alliance this week but he noted that “we continue to operate the way we have for the last six decades.’’

Helton stressed during a five-minute session with reporters Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that NASCAR continues to have a dialogue with teams and owners.

“Part of our method of operation over the last six decades is to make decisions and we make those decisions by listening to a lot of individual stakeholders in the garage area,’’ he said.

“Every car owner in (the garage) has a voice, crew members, drivers, crew chiefs. We take that input and we make what we think are the best decisions that are good for the whole sport. We’ll continue to operate that way.’’

The Race Team Alliance comprises Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske. Those teams fielded 25 of the 43 cars in last weekend’s race at Daytona International Speedway.

Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, chairs the owner’s group. He said the alliance’s intention is to cut costs, noting that teams would work together to cut travel and insurance costs as examples. 

Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., was outspoken in an interview Friday with USA Today about the Race Team Alliance.

“What I know about it, of course I don't like it,’’ said Smith, whose company owns eight tracks, including New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I don't know anything about it that's good for what we do. I don't see anything that's going to be good for the sport. Nothing.’’

Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson said the Race Team Alliance is a good thing.

“I’m excited for the teams and the opportunity that they have to work together and hopefully drive costs down and have a more clear, concise voice on a variety of aspects,’’ Johnson said Friday at New Hampshire.

So, what is keeping drivers from organizing then to have a more clear, concise voice Johnson was asked.

“That opportunity is definitely there,’’ Johnson said. “I don’t know where others stand or feel with it. I haven’t put any thought into it. I guess in some ways, Pandora’s box has been opened with this topic and discussion and we’ll see where it leads.

“The way I see this is everybody cares for our sport and people are trying to be more organized to help lead and direct our sport in all ways. We’ll see what the future holds.’’

Helton was asked Friday what he knew of the Race Team Alliance and if he considered it a union. 

“You know everything we know,’’ he said.

Helton said that the group told NASCAR ahead of its announcement its plans to go public.

“They’ve made clear their intentions are to grow the sport and make it stronger,’’ Helton said. “We have respect on what they do. 

“We believe the way we do our form of motorsports has worked. We continue to add assets and value to create and grow the sport, and we’ll continue to do that and we’ll also continue to do that with the input of as many as people as we can talk to individually. A lot of that is to limit the barrier of entry the best we can. Particularly in the garage and all of our series, to encourage people who want to be owners, or drivers or crew members to be a part of this sport.’’

The Race Team Alliance’s formation comes half a year before NASCAR begins its new TV contract with Fox and NBC Sports that will pay a reported $8.2 billion over the next 10 seasons.

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said last week that officials are “rethinking ... a little bit” how the TV money is distributed. Tracks receive 65 percent, teams 25 percent and NASCAR 10 percent of the TV payment.

Asked if possible changes to the distribution of TV payments is something the Race Team Alliance members are seeking, Kauffman told Motor Racing Network this week: “I think those are excellent ideas and points, but I think where we are is kind of many, many, many miles from anything like that.’’

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