Is Franchising In NASCAR a Reality?

Richard Petty wants franchising in NASCAR, but I don't think it is a good idea. Granted, Richard is a far greater source of information about the workings of NASCAR than I am, and I would be delusional to think otherwise, but as the T-shirt says, "Everyone is entitled to my opinion" - or at least the ones who chose to read my blog.

Franchising is a temporary solution to the problems that some of the less competitive teams are experiencing, like lack of funding.

As Scott Riggs puts it, "We need to run well and once you run well, you're able to attract more sponsors and get more money to have more people. I think it's a Catch-22. You've got to run well to do it, but you need those resources and funds to be able to hire more people and make your team stronger to be one of those top teams." - Motorsport.com

Scott is correct, you have to run well to get sponsors, to get money to get the proper personnel and resources, but will franchising fix that? No. There will always be the haves and the have nots. Look at F1 for example, they have a franchising system and there is a great disparity between the top teams of Ferrari and McLaren, to the bottom teams of BMW Sauber, and Spyker (formally Jordan).

All that franchising does is guarantees your start in every race. Now by starting every race with no fear of going home, sponsors would more likely place their names on lesser funded teams, but these teams will still not be able to compete with the higher level teams. As Scott states, "No matter what problem you throw out there, no matter if it's the COT or a different tire, the better teams, the smarter teams, the teams that have more resources to learn it quicker are the people that are going to be up front. That's why you see the same people who were in the top 10 last year are the same guys in it this year. The same guys run in the top 10 every week. It's because they're top teams, not because the car made the difference." - Motorsport.com. Although this was in reference to a CoT question, his statement can be applied here as well.

I think that the teams that need more money to perform better need to find it from outside sources like what Roush and Childress have done. That is why Ray Evernham has been in negotiations with Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett. Since the Petty organization leases motors from Evernham, they would also indirectly benefit from any investment that Gillett might make in Evernham Motorsports. This is why Gillett had Richard as his guest last week at the Canadiens game against the Rangers (to see a hi-light video clip of the game go here).

"I think the only thing in my mind that keeps NASCAR from being completely legitimate, major league with golf or football or baseball or whatever, is franchising," Petty said at Martinsville. "All the other entities are basically franchised. As they are franchised, you get a lot of people's ideas thrown in the middle of the thing and in the long run it winds up better for everybody." - WJFB.com

Arguably Petty has a point, but what he is not considering is that every other major sporting league has, and the reason for franchising, is the fact that they are located in one place and they have a captive non-competitive market for their teams. That is why franchising works in these leagues. NASCAR is different, they travel around to various markets.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are arguably one of the most profitable organizations in the NHL. They sell-out every game. They have huge TV deals to air their games. Their merchandise sales are through the roof. And they have not won a Stanley Cup in 40 yrs. Economically they are are a success, why do you thing the Ontario teacher's Pension Fund has controlling interest in the organization? Because they make money, even when they lose. But they are a failures in the win column. In the case of the Leafs, franchising has made them an economic success but has made them complacent, and that has been the same for most franchised sports.

Sure franchising gives the 'appearance' of equity with salary caps, funding formulas, and the like, but the New York Yankees still are a better team than the Seattle Mariners. Why? Because winning teams attract winning players. No one wants to play for a losing team. If a player doesn't want to play for you he won't - just look at what Eric Lindros did with the Quebec Nordique when he was first drafted. He refused to play for them because they weren't in a large enough market for him to get the endorsements he thought he deserved. He sat out the whole year, until they traded him to Philadelphia and he got his much coveted endorsement deals.

The same can be said of sponsors in NASCAR. They will only want to be on winning teams - whether they are franchised or not - because they get the air time on TV, or they will want to be with the big-named drivers like Earnhardt and Gordon. And big-named drivers will only want to be on winning teams - franchised or not.

Photo Credit: Ian Barrett of the AP

P.S. - Sorry about not posting this earlier, but I accidently hit the 'save as draft button' instead of the 'publish' button. Duh!!!

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