For nearly 68 years, it’s been NASCAR’s way or the highway.
Tuesday, the sport took perhaps its most significant detour ever when NASCAR announced a revolutionary new system—known as a charter system—had been agreed upon by NASCAR officials and team owners.
In the most basic sense, the charter system is the realization of decades of owners’ hopes to get some type of equity from NASCAR in return for all the years, if not decades, and the multimillions of dollars they’ve invested in the sport.
Now, when a team owner wants to sell his team—maybe because it’s time to retire or he’s decided not to spend any more money—that owner has a charter to sell to recoup much of his investment over the years.
That’s unlike the way it had been up to now. Owners who decided to leave the sport had little return on their investment other than to sell whatever equipment and cars they had left over.
Now, for example, if Joe Gibbs decides he wants to sell Joe Gibbs Racing to one of his sons or someone from outside the Gibbs family, he will get a substantial amount of money in return.
The charter system also has other key elements. Starting with the Feb. 21 Daytona 500, Sprint Cup race day fields will be cut from 43 to 40 cars.
Also, only 36 team owners will be granted charters. In return, they’ll get guaranteed starting spots in all points-paying races. That leaves just four spots for non-chartered teams to qualify for a race (meaning there’s more money in the overall pot for those teams with charters).
And speaking of money, the charter system will bring about higher race purses, rewards for performance (the higher you finish on a consistent basis, the more money you get) and more money from the overall season points fund.
Owners will also get more say in rules making and somewhat more input and oversight into what the sanctioning body does.
Interestingly, the charter system is not a new proposal. It’s been pitched to NASCAR several times over the last six decades, but efforts didn’t go far because NASCAR didn’t want to split the pot more.
Or as I said earlier, NASCAR wanted to keep the game on its highway and not deviate or detour or, most importantly, let outsiders become insiders.
NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. wouldn’t have gone for a charter system and neither would his son—Bill France Jr. But current NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France, the founder’s grandson, is an astute businessman and realized the importance of finally splitting the pie a bit more equitably.
Face it: NASCAR needs the teams, just like the teams need NASCAR. Even though it took far too many years to come to this point, a charter system seemed almost inevitable at some point.
Given the economic difficulties NASCAR and the sport suffered over the last decade, the old system just wasn’t viable any longer.
What’s interesting is that it took a guy like Rob Kauffman, former majority owner of the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing, to form the Race Team Alliance and get the ball rolling toward what manifested itself on Tuesday.
Kauffman was the right man at the right time and right place to not only unite all his fellow owners, but to also convince NASCAR it was better to get along and go along than to continue its nearly seven-decade hard line.
Some might think Kauffman and the RTA essentially held NASCAR’s feet to the fire until the sanctioning body caved in.
I don’t see it that way. This was nothing more than business—and it was nothing more than good business for both the team owners and NASCAR to go forward together rather than stay at polar opposites.
Yes, the charter system truly is a win-win for everyone. For once, everyone on both sides agreed to come together as one.
It’s such a feel-good story that it almost makes you want to roast Smores or marshmallows on an open fire and start singing “Kumbaya.”
Jerry Bonkowski | BleacherReport.com | February 9th, 2016