What is the purpose of the Race Team Alliance?
The Teamsters Union
The Professional Drivers Association
The Race Team Alliance
These three orginzations all share one common factor that was the catalyst to their creation; getting something out of NASCAR that they couldn't get on their own. The first two were killed off by NASCAR's founder Bill France in the 1960's. The third just now came into being.
The RTA claims not to be a union, and I can understand not wanting to be associated with such a title. Unions and NASCAR mix just about as well as oil and water do, in case you didn't know.
By definition though, a union is 'an organized association of workers formed to protect and further their rights and interests.' Is the RTA not an organized group of team owners that's purpose is to protect and further their rights and interests in NASCAR? Just saying...
Now don't mistake me for one of those who erroneously believe that the formation of the RTA will destroy the sport and lead to the the end of a NASCAR, or a split similar to CART and IndyCar. I doubt they will have such a pernicious effect on the sport.
To put it plainly, this group was formed in order to help owners achieve what they failed to on their own. It's almost like they suddenly realized that if they stood together, they would have more leverage when trying to attain what they want.
Now that's the question, isn't it? What does the RTA want?
What does the RTA want?
RTA chairman Rob Kauffman made it very clear that the RTA does not wish to be controversial or confrontational with NASCAR.
What the RTA is pushing for is simple. They want a piece of NASCAR's pie in order to help their teams not just survive, but flourish. The way it is now, every team is held up primarily by sponsorship funds. Even for teams the size of Gibbs and Roush, losing one major sponsor with no replacement lined up could severely wound them, and it would be years before they fully recovered. For smaller teams, it would most certainly lead to their demise.
Remember during the Recession when we saw a rash of team mergers? It was the only way they could make it, but even that wasn't enough to save legendary race teams such as DEI and Petty Enterprises.
The RTA has yet to reveal their full agenda and still being in their infancy, that is understandable. From Kauffman's comments however, we can gather that they will push for a piece of the the new TV deal with NBC and FOX that recently came together. They also want to work with the powers that be to save money on travel and testing. Nothing wrong with that.
Where it might all go wrong
But this is where it might all go wrong. These intentions seem honest, and they are, but we may have, as the title suggests, just opened Pandora's Box. This isn't the year 1969. The stakes are a lot higher now. There are millions of people involved, billions of dollars invested, and everybody wants to get their hands in the cookie jar.
Their intentions are sincere, I believe that. But just like anything else, there's the potential for it to all go very wrong. What happens when NASCAR says no to one of their proposals? They aren't just going to take that answer anymore. They don't need to now that they've joined forces. What happens when they start butting heads and the relationship between the two parties is strained?
Remember that little phrase that NASCAR somtimes uses on drivers who step out of line; 'you need us more than we need you?' Well, unless the RTA gets what they want, they're liable to throw that very same line back in NASCAR's face.
As I stated earlier, I highly doubt it would escalate to this, but the potential is always there. NASCAR runs the sport, but these teams/drivers are the reason why people watch and the reason why sponsors pour money into it. NASCAR has always been run as a democratic dictatorship of sorts. It's kind of like, 'we want to hear what you have to say, but we're still going to do what we want if we don't like your idea.' Now they no longer have complete control over their sport. Their power is suddenly being challenged.
The RTA is the equivalent of a nuclear deterrent, created by the most powerful team owners in the sport. Do what we want, or we might push the button. They'd most likely never do it, but they always could, and NASCAR knows it.
The balance of power in the sport of NASCAR is shifting, and it's anyone's guess as to how this is all going to shake out.