Mike Helton: “We’re going to stay our course.”
LOUDON, N.H. – Emphasizing that NASCAR respects the needs, rights and opinions of all stakeholders in the sport, NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday that the formation of the Race Team Alliance by nine leading owners will not significantly alter the way the sport conducts business.
“We’re going to stay our course,” said Helton, who warned against public misconceptions and indicated that stock car owners and the sport’s governing body have much in common and every reason to work together.
“We have great respect for our stakeholders, so any perception there could be animosity based on this topic is incorrect,” said Helton, speaking from the steps of the NASCAR hauler before that start of the weekend action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“Part of our method of operation over the last six decades is to make decisions by listening to a lot of individual stakeholders in the garage area. Every car owner in here has a voice – crew members, drivers, crew chiefs. We take that input and make what we think are the best decisions that are good for the whole sport. We will continue to operate that way. Our intention is to build NASCAR collectively.”
In that regard, Helton said the sport and the RTA seem to be on the same page.
“We take very serious our responsibility to make decisions in this sport, in the garage area, for the race tracks and the other partners that we have,” Helton said. “Part of that responsibility is to have a sport that has a great product at great race tracks for our fans – and the owners have been very clear that that is their intention, too. So, we stand together, very clearly, on that.
“We believe that the way we (manage) our form of motorsports has worked. We continue to add assets and value in order to create and grow the sport.”
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson said he did not foresee the formation of the RTA driving a wedge between owners and the sport’s management and views it as a positive step, particularly in attempts to contain escalating operating costs.
“I’m excited for the teams and the opportunity they have to work together, try to hold costs down and having a more clear and concise voice in the industry,” Johnson said. “I’m happy that the teams are working to drive costs down in this very expensive sport. “I’m fortunate to drive for Hendrick Motorsports and have the best of any situation and it’s still tough.”
The RTA is currently composed of nine multi-car teams. Helton made it clear that while it will always listen to the opinions of those major teams, it must also continue to consider the needs of smaller operations and individuals.
“We’ll continue to (grow the sport) with the input of as many people as we can talk to, individually,” Helton said. “A lot of that is to limit the barrier of entry the best we can, particularly in the garage area in all of our series – to encourage people who want to be owners or drivers or crew members to be part of this sport.”
Helton said that NASCAR has not heard from the RTA since the public announcement that the organization had been formed on July 7.
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske were announced as first members of the RTA which stated that its purpose is to “create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote and grow the sport of stock car racing.”
“The key word is collaboration,” said Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, who was elected as the RTA’s first chairman. “We all have vested interests in the success and popularity of stock car racing. By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved in the sport.”
Seth Livingstone - NASCAR Wire Service