CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – NASCAR teams boycotted a meeting with series leadership Wednesday as a show of frustration over the slow pace of negotiations on a new business model.
Three team representatives told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity that the owners collectively decided to skip the quarterly meeting because they don’t believe NASCAR has negotiated in good faith. The request for anonymity is due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The owners went public last October with their frustration over what they consider a broken business model in which racetracks and NASCAR make the bulk of the money and teams are forced to fund their organizations through outside sponsorship.
NASCAR has said it is willing to work with the teams on financial security, and reiterated that commitment Wednesday after no owners showed for the meeting.
“NASCAR is committed to open and productive dialogue on a regular basis with all industry stakeholders,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We remain committed to continuing discussions in the spirit of collaboration and with the shared goal of growing our sport for the benefit of all stakeholders.”
The AP learned Wednesday that the team owners do not believe NASCAR has negotiated in good faith and that they have taken a step backward in talks on an improved business model. Moving forward, they want NASCAR chairman Jim France and executive vice chair Lesa France Kennedy at the meetings, the team representatives told AP.
NASCAR has maintained that teams receive about 40% of industry-wide generated revenue.
The financial split from the $8.2 billion media rights deal signed ahead of the 2015 season sends 65% to the tracks, 25% to the teams and 10% to NASCAR, according to the series. There are two major track operators, NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports; NASCAR owns the majority of the venues on the Cup Series schedule, including the crown jewel Daytona International Speedway, and the France family owns NASCAR.
Teams have argued they have become “full-time fundraisers” seeking sponsorship to keep their organizations afloat and the only possible place to make further financial cuts is through layoffs.
NASCAR in 2016 adopted a charter system for 36 cars that is as close to a franchise model as possible in a sport that was founded by and independently owned by the France family. The charters give the teams something of value to hold – or sell – and protect their investment in the sport.
But the team business model is still heavily dependent on sponsorship, which the teams must individually secure. The teams revealed last October that sponsorship covers between 60% to 80% of the budgets for all 16 chartered organizations.
Because sponsorship is so vital, teams are desperate for financial relief elsewhere and have asked NASCAR for distribution from the league to cover baseline costs.
The current charter agreement expires at the end of the 2024 season, the same time that NASCAR’s current television deals expire.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps in February told AP that he was confident a resolution could be found between the sanctioning body and the teams.
“We have said publicly and we will continue to say publicly that we need to have financially healthy race teams,” Phelps told AP. “Financially healthy race teams will put a better product on the racetrack and that’s great for the sport overall.
“Those are the discussions that we’re having with our race teams right now.”
NASCAR is also in the thick of negotiating a new television contract. NASCAR in 2015 signed an $8.2 billion contract with Fox Sports and NBC Sports. NASCAR has an exclusive negotiating window with both networks that expires May 1, Phelps told AP.
From that date, NASCAR can explore television rights deals with outside partners.
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