As far as cross-bow shots go, we’ve seen heavier ammo than this.
But resisting fire is resisting fire, so one must be aware of its existence, even if it has the feel of just a warning shot.
The top NASCAR teams, under the umbrella of the Race Team Alliance, have strategically stated that they are exploring the possibility of holding their own exhibition races as early as a year from now.
It’s a decent little flare, I’d say.
According to a report this past week in the sports world’s favorite organ for such things – the Sports Business Journal – the RTA has hired a marketing agency to “explore exhibition race opportunities, both nationally and internationally.”
The request was deemed “highly exploratory.”
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And very interesting, given what it signals.
NASCAR’s current network television contract — the money spigot that fuels the bulk of the parade — runs through 2024, and the major teams have said the old way, which is also the current way, can no longer be the only way.
The long-standing TV money split is 65% to the tracks, 25% to the teams, 10% to NASCAR.
The 25% have never paid most of the overhead for teams, who have always filled the big gaps with corporate sponsorships from big companies. And some small ones. They say 60-80% of their racing budgets come from beating these bushes.
Racing is not cheap. If you want to drive in the front, it’s less cheap. You’ll be driving at the front of America’s biggest stage, you’re talking eight-figure budgets per car.
So the RTA executives have been talking to NASCAR about changing the division so they don’t have to spend so much of their time acting like congressmen — shaking trees and shaking hands and looking for donations. Instead of offering favorable legislation, they offer logo placement on a fender and a meet-and-greet with Joe Racer at your company’s next wellness retreat.
NASCAR teams don’t run on gas alone
In the abstract, the teams do it for themselves. No one forced them to open a fresh can of engineers, add another 10,000 square feet to the shop, or find an upgraded trucker so nice they bought three. They can take their TV and wallet and live within their means.
But in reality, there is a scoreboard, and it still pays more – far more – to be at the north end of that board rather than the south. And it costs more to get there. Cubic dollars is the old term.
With talks with NASCAR not progressing at a desirable pace, some RTA executives — including Jeff Gordon, now a vice president at Hendrick Motorsports — went to the media to discuss their concerns and perhaps help spark serious negotiations to change this network revenue split .
Apparently, common ground is still elusive, which has led to this latest talk of potential exhibition races, independent of NASCAR.
For starters, you’ll say, “Good luck trying to make it work.” There’s so much involved in producing a major league car race that it’s hard to imagine it being profitable, much less the kind of financial windfall teams want to keep the lights on and the cars running at top speed.
Hasn’t Tony Stewart’s SRX already shown that it can be done?
But then you realize there’s already a non-NASCAR entity out there — Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) — which has run a six-race, network-televised series each of the last two summers with major league names.
And one of the SRX Series owners is Tony Stewart, who also co-owns a NASCAR team and is part of the Race Team Alliance. What’s more, Tony spent much of last season personally (to put it nicely) with NASCAR.
You raise some animosity when your team gets fined $300,000 within a week, regardless of the legitimacy of that deterrence.
If exploratory results encourage the RTA to press ahead with an off-season race, its pit crews will surely include a lawyer or three, as this can obviously get sticky in a fine print way.
For now, NASCAR is leaning on cost-cutting to make things easier for the teams. The teams say it’s not enough and they need more TV money.
The guess here is that the compromise will involve some kind of soft spending cap along with a friendlier TV split for the teams.
Men like Tony Stewart and Roger Penske have spent much of their lives in the Midwest. They know where to find some walking wounded who didn’t fully survive the Indy car wars of the 1990s — hollow-eyed, angry, or both.
There are certainly enough of these memories to compel reasonable people to avoid a repeat of that history.
— Reach Ken Willis at [email protected]