ECONOMAKI: ARCA Gathering Is More Than Suits & Speeches


HARRISBURG, N.C. — While NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series banquet, which wrapped up the season Friday night in Las Vegas, often seems contrived and a mere formality to its participants, quite the opposite was on display Saturday night at the ARCA Racing Series banquet held in Covington, Ky., across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

There were no Teleprompters. There were no speech coaches. Everything that happened during the nearly four-hour ceremony was from the heart. It was as ARCA President Ron Drager said “real racers” celebrating, laughing and partying with their friends and rivals at the end of a long year. Most everyone, including champion Patrick Sheltra, who drove a car owned by his parents, talked about family. It wasn’t difficult spending the day at the banquet and its satellite events to realize the ARCA Racing Series is not just a bunch of families, but one large family. The money was big — Sheltra raked in nearly $175,000 in point-fund money and bonuses — but it wasn’t so large (Jimmie Johnson raked in nearly $6 million at the Las Vegas NASCAR shindig) the common man couldn’t fathom it.

While NSSN had the pleasure of sharing a table with legendary sprint-car racer Tom Bigelow, Winchester Speedway owner Charlie Shaw, former driver and event emcee Phil Parsons and ARCA’s hard-working Don Radebaugh, who (along with his co-workers) should be commended for the masterful job of producing the banquet, the room included former ARCA champions Andy Hillenburg, Frank Kimmel and Justin Allgaier. One of the highlights was the classy send off ARCA gave departing sponsor RE/MAX Int’l, which ended its involvement with the series after 10 seasons. RE/MAX Senior Vice President of Brand Marketing Mike Reagan was the night’s “guest of honor” and was gracious in his remarks to the gathering of more than 350.

Lots of folks were selling, buying and just plain catching up during the IMIS-Indy trade show last week in Indianapolis. From the opening night reception to the closing bell, exhibitors and attendees seemed pleased with the event’s second year, which doubled in size. From Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard appearing at a press conference to sprint-car Troy DeCaires selling Shane Hmiel t-shirts to Speed’s Robin Miller conducting interviews, the show was busy, busy, busy. Drivers abounded, and at among those stopping by our booth were Dave Darland, Kramer Williamson, Scott Bloomquist, P.J. Jones, Lucas Wolfe, Jason Meyers, Doug Wolfgang, Donny Schatz, Danny Smith, Bryan Clausen, Johnny Heydenreich, Bud Kaeding. An interesting off-season chat with Donald Davidson revealed the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s plans for its 100th anniversary include inviting every living participant of the event to next year’s 500. Representatives from ARCA, Auto Value Super Sprints, Must-See Racing, World of Outlaws, USAC, BMARA and others were also strolling the aisles. Nice show.

Interesting statistics concerning the televising of NASCAR races were released this week by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc., which has monitored every NASCAR telecast over the past 25 years. Five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson was mentioned 7,875 times by announcers during 36 live telecasts on TNT, Fox and ABC/ESPN. That represents more than 1,800 more mentions than Denny Hamlin (6,072), who was the second most mentioned driver. Johnson was interviewed more than any other driver with 88 interviews adding up to one hour, 31 minutes and 35 seconds of face time. Also interesting was the fact that ABC/ESPN, where the announcers appear to love the sound of their own voices, averaged a mere 10 interviews per telecast when compared to 13 for Fox and 15 for TNT.

Racing driver turned promoter Bobby Hamilton, Jr. has a gun and now the whole world knows it. Hamilton, in a rift with racers at Highland Rim Speedway in Greenbrier, Tenn., reportedly pulled a gun following a heated argument, which ensued after a super-stock competitor Anthony Walker was disqualified from a recent event. Accounts of the story varied depending on who was doing the telling and the Millersville Police, which investigated the incident, did not file charges because Hamilton has a carry permit. Hmmm!

As part of the festivities during the Turkey Night Grand Prix weekend, representatives of the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame presented a plaque to their peers at the Petersen Automotive Museum. The plaque, which was funded from donations by Ed Justice, Jr., Jason Leffler and Steve Lewis, includes the names of all of the members of the Hall of Fame. It will be displayed at the Petersen museum. A similar plaque was presented previously to the Eastern Museum of Motor Racing in Pennsylvania.

PDM Racing recently tested 19-year-old Californian Michael Ramies in its Indy Lights car at Indiana’s Putnam Park road course and a week later at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway. Ramies raced go-karts for four years and won the Skip Barber Western Regional title in 2008-2009. The up and comer, who has his sights on Formula One or IndyCar racing in his future, drove on an oval for the first time at Nashville and ran 250 miles without incident.

After running separately for the first time in 63 years in 2010, expect the Badger Midget Auto Racing Ass’n midgets to return to Angell Park Speedway for a number of select races in 2011. However, for the second year in a row, the track will not hold weekly events. The fifth-mile dirt track in Sun Prairie, Wis., is also expected to host several USAC midget races and its first USAC sprint-car race in nearly a decade.

If there was an older rookie of the year winner this season, we’d like to hear about him. Wisconsin’s Bob Zynda earned the rookie-of-the-year title in the hornet division at Central Wisconsin Raceway in Unity, Wis., at age 76 this season. He was also selected sportsman of the year by racers and track personnel.

The fact Bloomington Speedway hands out season-ending points fund and contingency checks is not lost on the recipients. Several drivers showed their appreciation by pointing out in their acceptance remarks during the Speedway’s awards dinner Friday night that most other dirt short tracks don’t do this. Promoters Mike and Judy Miles handed out $24,000 during the well-organized dinner. Emcee Kim Stewart kept things efficiently moving along while talking to all 30 drivers who received checks, trophies and special awards. Every top-10 driver in each of Bloomington’s three 2010 divisions attended, showing the respect and camaraderie the Miles have with their competitors.

Fans of racing Down Under will be interested in the new book from publisher Tony Loxley detailing the history of Sydney’s Liverpool City Raceway. “Liverpool City Raceway — the Place of Pace 1967-1989,” is a 352-page book, which includes more than 900 photographs. For more information contact Loxley at [email protected]

Racing photographer and historian Richard Loftis died recently following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 72. We also lost Lee Holst, who once served as president of the National Ass’n of Auto Racing Clubs and as president of the Hoosier Auto Racing Fan Club. Holst saw 63-consecutive Indianapolis 500s with his streak ending in 2010. He was 88.

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