Rob Kauffman: Race Team Alliance seeks to be collaborative with NASCAR


This morning, nine of NASCAR’s biggest teams announced that they had formed the Race Team Alliance in a bid to address issues facing the sport with a united voice.

As we mentioned this morning, there have been multiple instances of groups forming within auto racing – Richard Petty and the Professional Driver’s Association in 1969, the group of open-wheel car owners that created CART in the late 1970s, and the recently disbanded Formula One Teams Association among them.

RTA chairman and Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman recognizes that some of those instances over the years have had tense moments. But in an interview with USA Today writer and NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan, Kauffman says the RTA plans to strike a more collaborative tone.

“Times have changed,” Kauffman said to Ryan, while noting that he asked Roger Penske (who helped form CART) and Petty about their experiences. “I think it’s all about what you try to do and how you approach it. I think the membership is quite united on there being lots of things we can do to help ourselves.

“We want to do this collaboratively. We’re in this together. That’s the high road and the right road, so why do anything other than that? There are other questions that are obvious and will be resolved over time. To the extent we’re a party to those, we’ll try to be productive and collaborative. We’ll see how it plays out. It makes for a less exciting story but a better business.”

Kauffman said that NASCAR was given a heads-up regarding the formation of the RTA over the last 30 days, and that the RTA will be open with the sanctioning body about its intentions.

As for the matter of seeking greater revenue with the onset of a new TV contract for the sport in 2015, Kauffman said to Ryan that the subject was “a million miles from where we are.”

“We just formed this thing,” he continued. “We’re working on our own stuff. We’re just getting going. That’s something outside our control. That’s something NASCAR is working on, and to the extent they want to engage at some level, we’d be happy to do so.

“We’re really primarily focused on our own things. Whatever happens on that will happen. We’re really focused on our own stuff at this stage.”

As for the time being, Kauffman mentioned the RTA working on future cost-saving projects for the teams involved, like better deals on travel expenses and on disability insurance and pensions for team members.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.