Rob Kauffman, head of the Race Team Alliance, discusses the "F" word, testing and the newly announced Drivers' Council.
Rob Kauffman has a lot on his plate these days.
In addition to his responsibilities as majority owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, nearly one year ago Kauffman was introduced as Chairman of the Race Team Alliance.
On Sunday, Kauffman, 51, spoke with motorsport.com regarding the possibility of franchising, testing and the health of the sport from the RTA's perspective.
Initially, Kauffman downplayed the possibility of equity and revenue sharing among the teams. But in the last 11 months, the car enthusiast and gentleman racer has since warmed to the idea.
“I think the conversation regarding some long-term equity program for the teams — everybody is on board with the general concept,” Kauffman said. “Of course the details will take some time to work out, but conceptually I think it’s something that everyone agrees makes sense. So it’s good progress, good dialogue.
“Like a lot of other sports, everyone has to work together to make it better. The goal is popularity and to draw more fans, to make better racing and promote better storylines. We’re all in it together.
“I can’t really comment specifically on where things are but getting things organized as quickly as you can is always in everyone’s best interest. It’s a fast moving sport but the sport needs to get things right.”
Kauffman has noticed a shift within NASCAR to offer continued open dialogue with the teams.
When NASCAR Chairman Brian France was asked at the beginning of the season if franchising was in the sport’s future he replied, “They’re on their own timeline with all that, and we’re doing what we normally do, which is get input from everybody so we can make really good decisions. That’s the way it was and that’s the way it will be.”
There’s been plenty of discussions as to how NASCAR teams would be valued once the system was put in a place. Would a four-car operation such as Hendrick Motorsports be on the same footing as a three-car team such as Roush Fenway Racing? Or would another three-car team such as Richard Childress Racing be valued at the same level as a BK Racing? If a medallion system was devised what would be the criteria for distribution?
Inevitably, NASCAR would have to approve whatever program the RTA devised. But certainly, France’s opinion has changed considerably from 2009 when he said, "A franchise system would likely create a system that values a franchise more than the need to perform each week at the racetrack. This of course runs counter to everything NASCAR is based upon.”
On the right track
NASCAR has never worked as closely with the teams as it has of late. The challenge to develop a race package that creates closer, more competitive racing has been a hot topic for the RTA as well who, like the drivers, are working to improve the on track product.
“We’ve been working with NASCAR on this whole rules package test for Kentucky,” Kauffman added. “We’ve been trying to make sure that that’s organized and all the teams are up to speed with what’s going on and what the goals are and help coordinate stuff.”
Formation of Driver Council
Not long after the RTA was announced last July, talk of a drivers’ council began. Although the drivers council just surfaced publicly earlier this month at Dover, there has been a group effort behind the scenes between the competitors and NASCAR.
“I think there is good coordination between the teams and the drivers in general,” Kauffman said. “There are a lot of individual personalities involved which always makes it fun, but at the end of the day the drivers and the teams are generally on the same wavelength, right?.
“Everyone wants the same thing. Good racing and a good show for the fans. Everyone is open-minded about it. If you wanted to talk about, ‘how do you change the show?’, I think talking to the drivers makes a lot of sense because they’re the guys and gals doing it. What’s good is over the past year there’s been a whole lot more communication. That’s the best way to solve issues is with better communication.
“Brent Dewar (NASCAR COO) and Steve O’Donnell (NASCAR EVP) and all the folks at NASCAR have been great and making a big effort to be more communicative with everybody whether it’s the people at Toyota, Ford or Chevy or our partners — it’s been good.”