UCI’s team reforms enacted — in NASCAR

NASCAR enacts major changes that are strikingly similar to what Velon is demanding, so why doesn't it work for cycling too?

NASCAR announced yesterday that it is moving away from its sponsor-dominated business model toward something intended to provide more stability for teams, as reported by the New York Times. Anyone who follows cycling will recognize the logic behind the move.

As the Times reports, NASCAR is “shifting to a franchise-like system that is intended to provide value and financial stability to team owners after decades of heavy reliance on sponsors.

“The change moves away from the independent contractor model that has been used since NASCAR’s inception in 1948. A car owner was responsible for all the financial obligations to race each week, depending on sponsorship to help pay the bills. When a sponsor pulled its funding, a car owner could potentially go broke.”

It makes total sense. And it is, in a nutshell, what the UCI and organizations like Velon are pushing for in pro cycling. So why would NASCAR teams be able to push through reforms like this while the UCI and WorldTour teams see every such move in cycling shot down? Why will NASCAR teams now own nine-year charters, while the UCI was barely able to increase the length of WorldTour licenses from two to three years? Because NASCAR doesn’t have an ASO to deal with.

Unlike pro cycling, NASCAR is a tightly controlled series with an empowered governing body. NASCAR does run into issues with the owners of the tracks that host its events. The organization frequently butts heads with the owner of Speedway Motorsports, which owns several of NASCAR’s most important tracks. But there is no race that casts a shadow over NASCAR the way the Tour de France does over cycling, and no track owner as powerful as ASO.

It’s worth noting that the new NASCAR model started as a proposal from the Race Team Alliance, a union of team owners formed in 2014 that both NASCAR and track owners said would undermine the sport, similar to criticisms of cycling unions like the CPA and Velon.

Like the UCI, NASCAR understands how vital team stability is to the future of the sport, which led to the new business model. Unlike the UCI, NASCAR — at the prodding of a team-owners organization — was able to do something about it.