CONCORD, N.C. — The NASCAR Race Team Alliance, a coalition of most of the team owners in the NASCAR Cup Series, has hired its first executive director.
RTA chairman Rob Kauffman, a co-owner at Chip Ganassi Racing, swears he hasn’t hired Jonathan Marshall from the World Surf League as someone to be a thorn in NASCAR’s side.
“No, that is not our objective by any stretch of the imagination,” Kauffman said in introducing Marshall to reporters Saturday prior to the NASCAR All-Star Race. “The relationship between the team owners and NASCAR is a special and direct relationship.
“Jonathan’s role is not that at all. It’s to help coordinate, collaborate, work on alignments of interest and, if there are hot issues, bring them up to me and the board and we’ll figure out how to address them.”
Marshall has held positions with the USA Today Sports Media Group and Westwood One before becoming chief operating officer and general counsel of the World Surf League.
“I’m an objective observer at the end of the day that represents the race teams,” Marshall said. “I work for the race teams. That’s who I work for. … Their concerns are about the growth and health of the sport.
Marshall said he would spend the next 90 days listening to the owners and trying to understand their views.
“That’s great and I’m looking forward to all those conversations [about the sport’s health]. It’s going to be interesting,” Marshall said. “The RTA has a lot of emphasis in collaboration, and that is what this is about and advancing the sport.
“If you just take a step back and look at all the things in front of us, identifying this as a position that can spend more time in really understanding everybody’s position and, ultimately, where does everybody fall is key to making this whole thing work.”
It was important to have someone who doesn’t have an allegiance to any of the teams, Kauffman said.
“Teams rarely sometimes agree what day of the week it is,” Kauffman said. “So, it’s helping coordinate [our thoughts] and certainly talking to the senior executives at NASCAR. … What Jonathan’s role will help a lot will be getting a consensus view of the teams.”
Marshall has been a NASCAR fan and has contacts in the industry through his work at USA Today. The RTA was formed in 2014 and helped negotiate charter agreements — NASCAR’s version of franchises — with the sanctioning body.
“There’s definitely a learning curve, there’s no doubt about it,” Marshall said. “But at the same time, when someone approached to me, ‘Would you want to be executive director of the RTA?’ I didn’t think it was the Regional Transit Authority.
“I knew exactly what it was. Being a fan of sports and being a fan of the sport, the charter system was something I was following and I was impressed by it. … They were doing a lot of things right.”