For shots across the bow, we’ve seen heavier ammo.
But resisting fire is resisting fire, so its existence must be heeded, even if it only has the feel of a warning shot.
The top NASCAR teams under the Race Team Alliance umbrella have strategically said they are exploring the possibility of hosting their own exhibition races as early as a year from now.
That’s a decent little flare, I’d say.
According to a report last 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 domestically and internationally”.
The request was deemed “highly exploratory”.
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And very interesting, given what it hints at.
NASCAR’s current network TV contract — the cash spigot that fuels the bulk of the parade — runs through 2024, and major teams have said the old route, which is the current route, may no longer be the only route.
The longest-standing TV money split is 65% to tracks, 25% to teams, 10% to NASCAR.
That 25% never paid most of the overhead for the teams, with corporate sponsorships from big companies filling the gap. and some small ones. He says 60-to-80% of his racing budget comes from hitting those bushes.
Racing is not cheap. If you want to race up front, it’s less expensive. You want to step up on America’s biggest stage, you’re talking eight-figure budgets per car.
So RTA leaders are talking about changing the division with NASCAR so they don’t have to spend so much of their time acting like congressmen — moving trees and shaking hands, seeking donations. Instead of favorable legislation, they offer logo placement on fenders and a meet-and-greet with Joe Racer at your company’s next wellness retreat.
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In essence, teams are doing it themselves. No one forced them to open a new can of engineers, add another 10,000 square feet to the shop, or find an upgraded hauler so cool they bought three. They can live in their devices with their TV and wallet money.
But in reality, there is a scoreboard and it still pays more on the north end of that board than the south – more. And it costs more to get there. Cubic dollars is an older term.
When talks with NASCAR were not proceeding at the expected pace, some RTA leaders – including Jeff Gordon, now vice president of Hendrick Motorsports – went to the media to discuss their concerns and perhaps help lead serious negotiations to change the division of network revenue. .
Apparently, common ground is still elusive, making this the most recent talk of possible exhibition races, independent of NASCAR.
At first, you want to say, “It takes a lot of luck to make it work.” There’s so much involved in producing a big-league auto race, 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 speeds.
Has Tony Stewart’s SRX already shown that it can be done?
But then you realize there’s already a non-NASCAR entity — Superstar Racing Experience (SRX) — that has run a six-race, network television series each of the past two summers, featuring big-league names.
And one of the SRX Series owners is Tony Stewart, co-owner of the NASCAR team and part of the Race Team Alliance. What’s more, Tony spent much of this past season personally uncomfortable (to put it mildly) with NASCAR.
When your team gets fined $300,000 over the course of a week, you raise some animosity, regardless of the validity of the ban.
If the investigative findings prompt RTA to embark on an off-season racing initiative, its pit crew will surely include a lawyer or three, as this can obviously stick in the fine-print variety.
So far, NASCAR has been leaning on cost savings to make things easier for teams. Teams say that’s not enough and they need more TV money.
The guess here is that the compromise will include some sort of soft spending cap with a favorable 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 of the walking wounded who completely survived the 1990s Indy-Car Wars — hollow-eyed, angry, or both.
Surely those memories are still enough to compel sane people to avoid a repeat of that history.
— Reach Ken Willis at [email protected]