Kauffman Reveals Guidelines To Join Race Team Alliance
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on July 12, 2014 | 4:37 P.M. EST
Rob Kauffman, chair of the Race Team Alliance, with members Rick Hendrick and Richard Childress last season. (Photo: Getty Images)
LOUDON, N.H. - Rob Kauffman jokes he’s the short, silent partner at Michael Waltrip Racing. Of course, compared to co-owner Michael Waltrip that would describe most people.
Kauffman’s stature, though, has changed since the formation of the Race Team Alliance this week and his role as chair and chief spokesperson for a group that features nine multi-car NASCAR Sprint Cup teams, including Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske.
Saturday, Kauffman talked more about the group, what it hopes to do, who will be a part of it and more.
One of the questions about the group was why only nine organizations were originally invited. Kauffman said the Race Team Alliance has since invited small teams that qualified or attempted to qualify for 95 percent of the races the past two years.
That makes JTG Daugherty Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing and Front Row Motorsports eligible but not the Wood Brothers.
The Wood Brothers cannot be a member because they have not run enough, having competed in 28 of 72 races (38.9 percent) in 2012 and ’13. The Wood Brothers, who first fielded a Cup team in 1953, do not run a full schedule because they do not have the funding to do so.
“It’s about who has the most common interest,’’ Kauffman said of the 95 percent requirement. “If you’re a full-time team, trying to run full time, there’s a common set of issues around that.
“If you’re just going to do the Daytona 500 or one or two races, there’s nothing wrong with that, you just have a different set of issues. You’re going to have a lot of different things going on at the top of your list than a multi-car team trying to manage hundreds of people.’’
Any team that joins also will pay dues to offset the not for profit’s expenses.
Kauffman reiterated that the Race Team Alliance is intended to help teams reduce costs in various areas, citing travel as an example. He estimated Sprint Cup teams spent $50 million or more combined on travel per year.
Not everyone sees the Race Team Alliance as a benefit. Bruton Smith chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., was critical of the group in an interview Friday with USA Today.
“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.’’
“Colorful personalities are part of what makes life interesting and he’s certainly one of them,’’ Kauffman said.
“I didn’t really focus on SMI and their issues, that’s really for them. Their business model to me seems pretty difficult, so I can understand if they feel under pressure. I think our issues overlap with theirs but it’s different. They have huge investments with these tracks and very short visibility in revenue. That’s a tough model for sure. I respect the issues those guys have. But as far as the Race Team Alliance is concerned, we want to work collaboratively with the tracks.’’
What about fans who suggest that if owners are decrying the costs then they should exit the sport?
“I would say there be careful what you wish for,’’ Kauffman said. “No one forces you to run a stock car in NASCAR. If it doesn’t make sense, it’s not likely people will do it for a long time.
“It’s not the responsibility of NASCAR or anyone else to make sure that teams have a financially sound business model and in a lot of forms of sports there isn’t one. There’s nothing written in stone that says it has to be a good business model. I think that given it’s a big professional sport, like a lot of other ones around planet Earth, if you want to grow it over the long term, the more stable it is the better.’’
Friday, NASCAR President Mike Helton said that there was no animosity toward the group and that NASCAR would continue to operate as it has in consulting with those in the garage before making decisions.
“I think if the NASCAR folks said what they said (Friday) on Monday, there would have been a lot less hoo-ha,’’ Kauffman said. “But that’s their prerogative and that’s fine.’’
Kauffman says his focus is elsewhere.
“We want this to be more popular,’’ he said of NASCAR. “We want more people in the stands, more people to watch racing. That’s what it’s all about.’’