As for shots across the bow, we’ve seen much heavier ammunition than this.
But the opposite of fire is the opposite of fire, so attention should be paid to its presence, even if it only feels like a warning shot.
NASCAR’s top teams, under the umbrella of the Race Team Alliance, have strategically put out the word that they are exploring the possibility of running their own exhibition races as early as one year.
It’s a nice little wave, I’d say.
According to a report this past week in the sports world’s premier organ for such things – the Sports Business Journal – the RTA has hired a marketing agency to “explore exhibition race opportunities domestically and internationally.”
The request was deemed “too exploratory.”
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And very interesting, given what this signal contains.
NASCAR’s current network TV contract — the cash spigot that fuels most of the parade — runs through 2024, and major teams have said the old way, which is also the current way, can no longer be the only way.
The distribution of long-term TV money is 65% to the track, 25% to the teams, 10% to NASCAR.
That 25% has never paid much overhead for the teams, which have always filled huge gaps with corporate sponsorships from big companies. And some small ones. They say that 60 to 80% of their racing budget comes from beating these horses.
Racing is not cheap. If you want to compete earlier, it is less expensive. You want to race head-to-head on America’s biggest stage, you’re talking eight-figure budgets per car.
So RTA leaders are talking to NASCAR about changing the division so they don’t have to spend so much of their time acting like members of Congress—kissing trees and laying hands, looking for donations. Instead of offering proper legislation, they suggest placing the logo on a fender and offering a meet and greet with Joe Racer at your company’s next wellness retreat.
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In short, teams do it themselves. No one forced them to open a new engineering suite, add another 10,000 square feet to the shop, or find an advanced hauler good enough to buy them three. They can buy their own TV and wallet and live on their own devices.
But in reality, there is a scoreboard, and it still pays more – a lot – to be on the north end of that board rather than the south. And it costs a lot to get there. Cubic dollar is an old term.
When talks with NASCAR didn’t progress at the desired pace, some RTA executives — including Jeff Gordon, now the vice president of Hendrick Motorsports — went to the media to discuss their concerns and possible revenue cuts for the network. Help to have a serious conversation about changing the distribution. .
Clearly, the common ground is still significant, which has led to recent discussions about possible exhibition races, independent of NASCAR.
At first, you want to say, “Good luck trying to do that.” There’s so much involved in producing a major league auto race, it’s hard to imagine it being profitable, much less the financial loss teams want to keep the lights on and the cars at top speed.
Hasn’t Tony Stewart’s SRX already shown it can be done?
But then you realize that there’s already something NASCAR doesn’t have — the Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) — which has run a six-race, network-televised series with big-league names each of the past two summers.
And one of the owners of the SRX series is Tony Stewart, who is also a co-owner of the NASCAR team and part of the race team Alliance. What’s more, Tony spent much of this past season personally frustrated (to put it nicely) with NASCAR.
You create some animosity when your team gets fined $300,000 in one week, regardless of the legitimacy of the ban.
If the findings prompt the RTA to invest in off-season racing, its pit crews will surely include a lawyer or three, as it can obviously get sticky in the fine print.
Until now, NASCAR has relied on cost savings to make things easier on the teams. The teams say it’s not enough and they need more TV money.
The guess is here, the compromise will have a somewhat lenient cost cap with a friendly TV split for the teams.
Men like Tony Stewart and Roger Pensky spent most of their lives in the Midwest. They know where to find the walking wounded who didn’t quite survive the indy-car wars of the 1990s—light-eyed, angry, or both.
Indeed, there are enough reminders of this to compel sane people to avoid repeating this history.
– Reach Ken Willis at [email protected]