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

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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.

Hartley says debut F1 point would be ‘a dream’ from last on grid

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Brendon Hartley says scoring a point on his Formula 1 debut would be “a dream” after being resigned to last place on the grid for the United States Grand Prix following an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso to replace Pierre Gasly for the USGP when the Frenchman was ruled out due to clashing commitments in Super Formula.

Despite having not driven an F1 car since 2012, Hartley came within one-tenth of a second of making it through to Q2 on Saturday at the Circuit of The Americas, ultimately qualifying 18th.

“Obviously I’d love to be quicker but we knew we were starting at the back, so we put a lot of focus on long runs, getting the peak performance out of this Pirelli tire I didn’t get today,” Hartley told NBCSN after the race.

“In FP3 I had a good feeling. There’s a lot of quirky things to manage with these tires. Honestly I should be happy with how the weekend’s gone so far.”

The New Zealander will start last due to a 25-place grid penalty for changes made to his power unit ahead of practice on Friday, and is daring to dream of making the top 10 in his first race out of a sports car for more than five years.

“I don’t do the 24 hours completely alone!” Hartley joked. “It’s quick. It’s physical to drive. I’ll be happy to be done after an hour and a half.

“A point would be a dream starting from the back. If I can move forward and put a race together, I’ll be happy.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Sunday.