Nine multi-car Sprint Cup squads form Race Team Alliance

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Some of the biggest teams in the NASCAR garage have joined together in a “collaborative business association” known as the Race Team Alliance according to a release.

Nine teams in all have formed the RTA, which says in the release that “the purpose of the organization is to create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote, and grow the sport of stock car racing.”

The teams involved all field multi-car efforts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. They are: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske.

Together, those nine teams field 25 full-time Cup programs (Hendrick and SHR have the biggest camps in the RTA with four programs apiece). However, the release notes that the RTA will open up membership to all full-time Cup teams “in the very near future.”

MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman has been named as the RTA’s first chair.

“With the encouragement of NASCAR and the manufacturers, the teams have met in various forms and forums over the years to explore areas of common interest,” Kauffman says in the release. “This simply formalizes what was an informal group. The key word is ‘collaboration’. We all have vested interests in the success and popularity of stock car racing.

“By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved with the sport.

“Whether it be looking for industry-wide travel partners or collaborating on technical issues – the idea is to work together to increase revenue, spend more efficiently, and deliver more value to our partners.”

If this happens to sound like a union to you, you may not be alone in that sentiment. However, in comments this morning to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press, Kauffman insisted that was not the case:

Shortly after the RTA put out its release, NASCAR issued a statement of their own through the sanctioning body’s vice president and chief communications officer, Brett Jewkes:

“We are aware of the alliance concept the team owners have announced, but have very few specifics on its structure or purpose. It is apparently still in development and we’re still learning about the details so it would be inappropriate to comment right now. NASCAR’s mission, as it has always been, is to create a fair playing field where anyone can come and compete. Our job is to support and strengthen all of the teams, large and small, across all of our series and we’ll continue to do that. NASCAR is a unique community with hundreds of stakeholders. They all have a voice and always will.”

Open-wheel racing has had several major instances of teams joining forces in associations.

In 1978, a group of dissatisfied USAC car owners, spurred on by Dan Gurney’s famous “White Paper,” formed CART, which eventually took over and held control of American open-wheel racing until Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George formed the Indy Racing League (now the Verizon IndyCar Series) in 1994. Additionally, the Champ Car World Series that was born after CART’s demise at the end of 2003 was also headed up by an ownership group at the time.

This second split took a major toll on the sport, and while it reunified under the IndyCar banner in 2008, its former glory has yet to be recovered.

Over in Formula One, a group known as the Formula One Teams Association was formed in 2008 in order to work with the FIA and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. But while FOTA was able to help stop a possible collapse of the sport in 2009, it ultimately lost most of its political power and then went under completely.

These days, the F1 Strategy Group is the closest thing to a teams’ body in the series. However, only six of the bigger teams are involved in the Group – Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull, Williams and Lotus.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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