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.”

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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