By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and current team owner Richard Petty called Tuesday’s announcement of a new charter agreement between the sanctioning body and Sprint Cup team owners “the second-most important thing that’s ever happened in NASCAR.”
Second, that is, to NASCAR’s founding meeting at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach in December 1947.
Roush Fenway Racing President Steve Newmark characterized it as “a complete paradigm shift in how we operate.”
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France introduced the new charter system as “a model that fits the 21st century and I think will serve us well into the future.”
Joining France, Newmark and Petty on the dais for the landmark announcement at the Charlotte Convention Center were NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer Brent Dewar, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell, Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman and team owner Tommy Baldwin, all of whom have been working diligently to make the new system a reality.
The nine-year agreement, which mirrors the length of NASCAR’s current contracts with its television partners, will bring greater stability, predictability and value to the ownership model and a substantially enhanced level of cooperation between team owners and NASCAR.
“It’s sort of like Democrats and Republicans,” Petty said. “They’ve been doing their thing, we’ve been doing our thing, meeting in the middle a little bit. We’re getting rid of that. We’re all going to be in the middle of the deal now.”
The nuts and bolts of the agreement include the awarding of 36 charters to teams that have participated in the series full-time during the 2013 through 2015 seasons. Under that criterion, Hendrick Motorsports was the only team to receive charters for all four of its entries.
The charters are transferable, meaning that, pending NASCAR’s approval, they can be sold (or transferred short-term for one year within the first five years of the granting of the charter).
Each of the 36 charters guarantees a starting position in each of the 36 Sprint Cup points races. With the field size reduced from 43 to 40 cars for each points race, a total of four starting spots will be available to non-chartered entries.
The agreement also provides for the creation of a Team Owners Council, which will work closely with NASCAR on long-term governance issues. The sanctioning body will continue to make and enforce the rules of competition and conduct the races.
There will be performance requirements involved with retaining a charter, but, as Dewar put it, “Our goal is not to take charters away.”
Rather, Dewar said, there will be a notification process that allows teams to maintain the good standing required to keep a charter.
Owners also will have increased involvement with NASCAR’s digital operations. As Dewar pointed out, NASCAR.com generated more than one billion page views in 2015.
Greater interest in the digital operations will create even more revenue opportunities for the industry at large,” Dewar said. “The NASCAR digital model has been exploding over the last couple years. We’ve shared a lot of those metrics with you. In 2015 alone, we had 1.1 billion page views, 50 million video views, and 4.1 billion social impressions.
“An important element of this agreement is to align the team owner model with the growth of the digital business, from expanding whether it be racing products such as RaceView or NASCAR Drive, to creating new mobile apps, eSports, gaming, virtual reality, to looking at connecting the team sites through uniform platforms to both amplify and grow the digital fan base.
“This is just the beginning of what our imagination can possibly provide. The charter team owners will have an increased participation also in the NASCAR governance as part of the Team Owner Council, and a committee structure that enables a more disciplined collaborative process that will lead to better quality decisions across the industry ecosystem.”
Asked what his father (Bill France Jr.) or grandfather (Bill France Sr.), both of whom ran the sport with iron hands, would have thought of the new charter system, France replied diplomatically.
“He (Bill France Jr.) would have obviously been conservative about this,” France said. “That’s a nice way to say that. But on the other hand, I will say, I know this from my own career, I always brought him things through the years, whether it was consolidating our TV rights way back in the day, whatever it was — or the Chase, another good example — where you would have thought he wouldn’t have been in favor of it. But he always had enough confidence in me at the time and enough flexibility to know that he didn’t have all the answers.
“I’ll bet, once he saw all the things unfold, because, by the way, this is not a new idea that has been proposed to us recently, this has been an idea that was on the table in various forms for a long time. So we’ve never been able to sort it out.
“I’ll bet if he saw what I saw by some very talented people on this stage and on both sides of the aisle, wait a minute, if we thought about it this way, I bet he would have gotten onboard. That would be my prediction.”