RELATED: NASCAR announces landmark new ownership structure
If there was ever a perfect anecdote to illustrate how hard NASCAR executives and the alliance of Sprint Cup team owners worked to reach their historic Charter agreement this offseason, it's the one provided by Brian France himself.
The NASCAR Chairman and CEO offered a glimpse with his Tuesday remarks, providing visions of working the phones on Christmas Eve against the backdrop of gift wrap, trimmed trees and mulled cider. In addition to pushing through the typically sacrosanct time around the holidays, France also navigated around offseason knee surgery to help broker the deal.
But a more evident, powerful visual from both sides came during Tuesday's groundbreaking announcement. When the eight representatives -- four from NASCAR's executive board and four from the team ownership group -- took the stage, each sat intermingled across company ranks. No divisions.
When the Race Team Alliance formed in July 2014 with the hopes of providing owners a unified voice and a path to a better financial model, France was among the early skeptics, telling SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he didn't think such a coalition was necessary. A year and a half later and with any battle lines erased, the eight reps sat on stage in harmony -- loose, amiable, and with both sides sharing smiles and the feeling of mutual benefit.
"To me, this is the second-most important thing that's ever happened in NASCAR, because now the drivers and owners and stuff now can really work across the aisle," said King Richard Petty, who ranked Tuesday's landmark announcement behind only the meetings that set the foundation for NASCAR's formation in 1947 and '48.
"I was telling him a while ago, it's sort of like the Democrats and Republicans, 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."
Based on the newfound collegiality, the Congressional halls in Washington could take a cue from the boardrooms of Charlotte and Daytona Beach. Though both sides had to yield on certain points to reach a compromise, each emerged with a considerable number of positives to create a true win-win scenario from the nine-year agreement.
For team owners, the plusses include stability and palpable value for their Charters, an enticing selling point for sponsors. The agreement also provides a share of revenue, which may conceivably help smaller-budget teams reinvest and make modest performance gains on their well-heeled competitors within the Charter system.
For NASCAR, the premier stock-car series stands to benefit from seeing its current Charter members thrive, but also in seeing value build for prospective new sponsors and owners. The sanctioning body will retain a firm grasp on its governance of the on-track product, but the newly forged bonds of cooperation and open communication with its team owners should buoy the sport for many years.
"It's not surprising there were a lot of different opinions, lots of different perspectives expressed during the process," said Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark. "You expect that with the diversity in our sport that we have. There was always an unwavering commitment to a single goal, a single mission. That was to make our sport better and stronger for our fans and partners. That commitment translated into a willingness of everyone involved to pursue and explore a complete paradigm shift in how we operate and to create a much stronger and stable foundation going forward.
"If you poll everyone involved in this process, the prevailing sentiment would be the collaborative precedent we set during this process bodes very well for our future."
The spirit of collaboration -- with team owners, with tracks in reaching a five-year sanctioning deal last October, and with the drivers' council that was created just last season -- represents a major advancement for NASCAR's brass. It's a reason why France, when asked what his father and predecessor, Bill France Jr., would think about the Charter agreement, politely joked that he'd expect a largely conservative approach.
But this isn't your father's NASCAR, or even France's father's NASCAR. That both sides drew inspiration from the ownership models of other professional sports such as the NFL, European soccer and cricket -- cricket! -- rams that point home.
NASCAR has long operated under a system with its participants acting as independent contractors. Now team owners can claim a degree of equity for their investment in an expensive sport.
"We always have said, because we mean it, that our owners and their success and their viability is very important to us," France said. "That remains true yesterday; it remains true today. But these agreements and this new course that we're on today gives us a chance to really back that up. We get to align our interests in a way we never thought we could. I'm excited about that. We're going to be partners in a different way going forward. I couldn't be more thrilled."
France and the team owners may have interrupted their holidays to keep hammering away at negotiations in the face of a hard deadline -- the season-opening Daytona 500 -- looming just several weeks off. The culmination of those efforts made a historic holiday all its own, turning an otherwise ordinary Tuesday in February into a turning point for stock-car racing.