By Jerry Bonkowski
It may be a while before many fans grasp the significance or importance of NASCAR’s new charter system, which was announced Feb. 9.
To put it simply, the charter system is arguably one of the biggest achievements the sport has ever seen. Not just because of what was accomplished, but it actually was the closest uniting between NASCAR officials and team owners since the sanctioning body was founded in the late 1940s.
Fans are still trying to figure out what the charter system is all about and how it will impact them. Frankly, it won’t impact fans very much – although in the long run it should make for stronger teams, which translates into stronger racing.
That’s a good thing.
But the charter system also is a good thing for owners, who in laymen’s terms finally get equity from the sport for all the years of time and multi-millions of dollars they’ve invested.
When an owner like Joe Gibbs or Rick Hendrick or Richard Childress decides to pass on their organization to a family member – or if they decide to sell the entire operation – they’ll be able to get a handsome financial return.
Whereas up to now, about the only return on investment an owner could extract from his team when it came time to hang out the for sale sign was being able to sell whatever car chassis, engines and equipment in the team shop.
In addition, the new system will guarantee that each charter holder will have an assured starting spot in every points-paying race for his team. Plus, the starting fields will be cut from 43 to 40, to further tighten up the competitive ability of all teams.
There also will be considerable revenue sharing, as well as allowing team owners more of a voice in the operation side of the sport, which could ultimately be as important as any other element of the charter system.
When the charter system was first announced by NASCAR chairman/CEO Brian France, the expectation was that each of the 36 teams that have been granted a charter suddenly were worth – on paper – in the lower million-dollar range.
But that’s just for starters. It’s almost a certainty that as more seasons go by and teams enjoy success, the value of their charter will increase accordingly. I’m willing to bet that a charter worth, say, $3 million today will easily be worth $50 million or more in less than 10 years.
One phrase that kept being thrown around during the charter announcement was that the new system is a “win-win” for everyone.
And indeed, it is a win-win.
NASCAR wins because in finally allowing owners a share of the financial pie that they had sought for so many years and decades, it assures the sport’s continued growth and good health.
The owners win because they now feel like they have a real share of the sport.
To date, NASCAR has been the only major professional sport that didn’t allow team owners a share of the controlling power. Owners in the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL have long enjoyed many of the privileges that NASCAR owners just received – and it will likely take a bit of time for NASCAR team owners to get used to knowing they truly have that kind of power and privilege.
When you see a pro sports team sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, two things are certain: the team owner is going to make a heck of a profit, and second, the new team owner couldn’t have joined the exclusive membership unless he had both the cash and willingness to buy the team.
To date, NASCAR team owners have had neither. But that is now changed, thankfully, and all I see going forward from here are bigger and greater achievements for the sport.
It truly is a win-win situation.
Jerry Bonkowski covers NASCAR and other motorsports series for NBCSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JerryBonkowski.