Opinion: An Unchartered Course
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on February 10, 2016 | 9:00 A.M. EST
"To me, this is the second most important thing that has happened in NASCAR,” said Richard Petty, putting the agreement behind the actual creation of the sport in 1949. (Photo: Getty Images)
Mark down the day; Tuesday, February 9, 2016. It’s one that will be etched in NASCAR history for eternity.
The announcement the sanctioning body had come to an agreement with Sprint Cup Series team owners on a Charter system has been called by one esteemed member of the NASCAR community about as important a decision as they come.
"To me, this is the second most important thing that has happened in NASCAR,” said Richard Petty, putting the agreement behind the actual creation of the sport in 1949.
The system gives owners an opportunity to have something tangible in hand for their investment. A Charter provides equity and stability and the ability to create a business plan that has the potential to attract both new sponsors and potential additional ownership as well.
It also ushers in an era where owners will have a bigger say and voice in how the sport is governed, furthering a line of communication between NASCAR and the garage area that has flourished in recent years.
The sanctioning body also has a more solid foundation of ownership in place while remaining firmly in control of governing the sport.
It’s the NASCAR version of a “High School Musical” number; “We’re All In This Together!”
“It sort of like the Democrats and Republicans, they've been doing their thing, we've been doing our thing, meeting in the middle a little bit,” said “The King,” whose family has been part of the sport since its inception. “We're getting rid of that. We're all going to be in the middle of the deal now.
“Now we're going to be in the same room talking about the same problems and solving the problems together. From that standpoint, it's going to be one of the greatest things that's ever happened to NASCAR and Cup racing.”
The man who was the impetus for what came to a crescendo when the agreement was finalized a few days ago is Rob Kaufman, the former co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing who helped organize the Race Team Alliance (RTA). What started out as a bit of an adversarial relationship between the teams that comprised the alliance and NASCAR, eventually evolved into a relationship that saw the benefit of working together for the greater good of the sport.
“I’ve been in this sport for a long time and am thrilled at the unprecedented collaboration that we’ve seen in the last year between the teams, drivers, NASCAR and the tracks,” said team owner Jack Roush in a statement. “This system propels us into a new era by putting in place a structure that more closely resembles that of the other major professional sports, while at the same time maintaining the characteristics of our unique history and tradition.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that the length of a Charter is nine years, which is the exact number of left on NASCAR’s current television deal with NBC and FOX that pumped $8.2 billion into the sport. That revenue for the sport will touch many different levels including the sanctioning body, tracks and team owners, all who now have the benefit of a longer-term planning process to help the sport find ways to continue to grow.
“I think everyone gave their pint of blood, so to speak,” said Kaufman, now a co-owner at Chip Ganassi Racing on the negotiations that led to the final agreement. “Like a lot of transactions I've been lucky to participate in over time, at the end of the day a fair deal is where everyone compromised, no one is a hundred percent happen, but everyone says, This is a fair balance, I think we can live with it, go forward with it.
“From my standpoint we got something everyone can live with it, it's not perfect, but it's certainly a great step in the right direction and I think everyone's happy to move forward now.”
Make no mistake there is peace around the NASCAR world as the 2016 season gets set to begin this weekend at Daytona. How long it lasts is yet to be determined but wherever the sport heads from here, February 9, 2016 will be remembered as a day things changed forever.
Most believe for the best.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Motor Racing Network.