NASCAR’s Brian France on RTA’s formation: “We didn’t think it was necessary”

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Two weekends ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, NASCAR president Mike Helton said that, for now, there was no ill will between the sanctioning body and the consortium of multi-car Sprint Cup teams known as the Race Team Alliance.

But today, in a wide-ranging interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Helton’s boss – NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France – addressed the RTA’s formation by saying “we didn’t think it was necessary.”

“We think the benefits they would arrive at with this association would be much smaller than they do,” France continued. “They’re smart guys and they may figure out some things that we’re not aware of.

“But on balance, I would say two things – one, the idea that they don’t know how many employees they have or what their costs are and this is a way to tackle that, that’s terrific. We certainly want them to get those kinds of answers for sure.

“The one thing that is central to NASCAR though, is when you deal with one voice, that would probably be the worst thing we could ever do – and that’s to listen to one voice, even it was a consensus voice. Every decision that we’ve ever made that was important, the more input, the more people we heard from, the better the result.”

France answered another question by stating that while NASCAR would respect the owners involved in the RTA being “entitled to approach the business in different ways,” the sanctioning body planned to “go down the road dealing with all of the team owners – not most of them, not the big ones, but all of them.”

“…Whenever we do something – and we’re working on all kinds of things now – these are never simple things,” he added. “Drivers, crew chiefs, engineers – we always pick their brains on things because it’s not always black or white if we go one way or that way on whether it actually lowers costs or it actually improves racing.

“The last thing we would want to do is not talk to everybody so where we can find where the truth lies.”

This month’s emergence of the RTA, which is made up of nine of the sport’s most powerful teams, has generated a wide range of opinions.

Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, drivers for RTA squad Hendrick Motorsports, insist that the group’s efforts will help the sport. On the other side, race track owner Bruton Smith has expressed his annoyance.

So far, the RTA has remained silent on its long-term agenda outside of creating cost-cutting initiatives for its members. Its chairman, Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman, has said that the RTA wants to take a collaborative stance with NASCAR.

“…That’s the high road and the right road, so why do anything other than that?,” Kauffman said in a recent interview with NBCSN contributor Nate Ryan.

“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.”

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “