NASCAR, Race Team Alliance closing in on franchising deal

Race Team Alliance chairman Rob Kauffman said a deal with NASCAR to give teams more equity value in the sport is close. Tom Pennington/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- A new system that would award guaranteed spots to NASCAR race teams could be put into place by the start of 2016.

NASCAR chief operations officer Brent Dewar and Race Team Alliance chairman Rob Kauffman both said Wednesday they are "cautiously optimistic" a deal would get done in time for next season. They spoke during separate sessions of the SportsBusiness Journal Motorsports Marketing Forum, an annual event that coincides with championship week.

It appears any animosity between NASCAR and the RTA from its inception in 2014 has gone away.

"We're close," Kauffman said. "Definitely like most things, the devil is in the details. There is a large amount of contractual stuff. ... We are on a good track.

"We're very collaborative. Some of the early day [infighting] stuff is long gone. There is very productive and collaborative relationship between the sanctioning body and all the teams."

Dewar said he speaks with Kauffman daily and NASCAR is committed to giving the owners something that can increase value in their teams and help them sell either pieces or majority portions to interested investors.

Neither spilled any details of the plan, which at least initially was targeting a 40-car field with 36 guaranteed spots that would come with a certain portion of the television revenue. The split of television revenue -- 65 percent to tracks, 25 percent to teams through the purse and 10 percent to NASCAR -- is not expected to change.

"These are big investments, and the more you understand to attract investors into the sport, to attract ownership interests, we need that kind of [deal]," Dewar said. "We support that. We're trying to implement a system in our 66th year, so with that, comes some thoughtful navigation of how to do that."

Kauffman said it was important to have the deal formalized in a contract so teams could predict the revenues they get from purses. The teams still get, on average, 70 percent of their income from sponsorships.

A key point is to help mitigate the amount of change as far as rules, Kauffman said.

"What costs the most money for a team, away from the [driver], is change," Kauffman said. "The more you're changing bits and pieces and engine architecture or aerodynamic stuff, that's what really drives up the cost. ... Changing the stuff costs a lot.

"That's what primarily this is focused on, trying to be more predictable, a pace of change."

The charter system won't fix all of a team's ills. Performance and sponsorship will obviously remain key.

"A charter system doesn't turn night into day," Kauffman said. "It's a step in the right direction. It's like when you buy ... a company, then the work starts. Now you have to go do what you can do."