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Volume 22 No. 32
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RTA gets new access to NASCAR financial data

Editor’s note: This story is revised from the print edition.

In the year since it was formed amid much publicity, the Race Team Alliance of 18 NASCAR teams has remained largely quiet and below the radar, causing some to wonder if the organization was making any progress in its quest to work with the sanctioning body. But the group has gained insight into key aspects of NASCAR’s business, according to multiple sources.

Led by Rob Kauffman, chairman of the group and president of Michael Waltrip Racing, the RTA and other team owners have been presented an overview of NASCAR Media Group’s operations, including some top-line financial information.

The RTA’s financial subcommittee now receives reports from NASCAR relative to its Media Group, sources said, though what type of financial statements and the level of detail could not be determined. The timing and frequency of the reports are unclear. A NASCAR spokesperson disputed that and said no reports are being distributed, but that the organizing body continues to keep an open dialogue with all teams on various matters relevant to the sport.

Multiple sources said that during the sport’s offseason, Kauffman discussed sharing information related to NASCAR Media Group to a larger group of team principles with NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar in order to gain a greater understanding of the unit.

In the discussions, NASCAR received assurances that the RTA would go about its business quietly, according to a source, who added, “The giveback to NASCAR is that the RTA is behind the scenes, under the radar.”

“It’s a fairly calm situation, which is good,” the source close to the talks said. “The teams are smart enough to know that a civil war is bad for everybody, so they’re being firm, nice and professional.”

While acknowledging the sharing of selective financial data, Kauffman admitted he is pleased by the cooperation between the groups.

“There’s definitely been an increase in communication. It’s in everyone’s interest because we’re all in the sport together,” he said. “There’s been a better understanding between NASCAR and the teams of, ‘Where are the costs? What are the big cost drivers? What are the revenue drivers? Where are there opportunities to save and grow?’ And the only way you get that is by having fairly open dialogue. … We’re trying to work together to address an issue.”

Brett Jewkes, NASCAR senior vice president and chief communications officer, said company executives are “in constant dialogue with team owners, drivers, promoters, network partners and so forth in regards to every aspect of the sport” and are “very pleased with the productive interaction we’re having … as we work together to grow NASCAR.”

The development comes at a time when executives throughout the industry almost unanimously point to increased amounts of cooperation by the sport’s various stakeholders.

Sources said that has been helped significantly by Dewar, who has signaled a willingness to work with the RTA despite the chilly reception the group encountered upon its inception last year.

Marcus Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., while not aware of any agreements between the RTA and NASCAR, agreed that there has been a more tangible and concerted effort toward transparency and cooperation among the sport’s stakeholders in recent years — financially and otherwise.

Smith said of Dewar, “One of his big objectives since he was appointed has been to be more transparent, and I think that’s coming through to the promoters and teams and the other stakeholders in the sport.”

For the teams, getting a glimpse of NASCAR’s financial data marks a watershed moment. In turn, this could alter the amount of leverage both sides have for future negotiations and could be critical to any efforts by the RTA to extract a greater percentage of TV and ancillary-rights revenue from NASCAR.

The portion of the pie many have assumed would be most attractive for the RTA to go after is the sport’s television money, which has swelled to more than $700 million annually after NBC Sports and Fox Sports signed media-rights deals in 2012 that last through 2024 and 2022, respectively. Under the current structure, tracks get approximately 65 percent of television and ancillary-rights revenue; teams get 25 percent; and NASCAR takes the remaining 10 percent.