Over the past seven decades, NASCAR and ARCA have worked together — and yet independently — as the top stock car racing sanctioning bodies in America.
That will all change when the ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 takes the green flag at Daytona Int’l Speedway on Feb. 8, as the race will mark the first time an ARCA event will be contested under the NASCAR corporate banner thanks to a deal initially reached between the two organizations in April 2018.
“For 67 years, ARCA weathered storms that at times tossed our boat around pretty darn good,” said ARCA President Ron Drager. “In 2018 when NASCAR presented us the opportunity of being on a bigger boat, a lot bigger boat, it felt right to us. John and Mildred Marcum were friends with NASCAR founding father Bill France Sr. in the 1940s. Bill was there for John and Mildred when they founded MARC in 1953.
“It was also Bill Sr. who told them to change the name of the company from Midwest Ass’n for Race Cars to Automobile Racing Club of America at the end of 1963, and then brought ARCA to Daytona for the first time in 1964,” Drager continued. “If there was ever such a thing as a best fit for ARCA in terms of having a parent company, it would be with someone that we’ve had a personal relationship with since before there ever was a NASCAR or an ARCA.”
Comfort was important in the decision for ARCA to become part of NASCAR.
“When NASCAR expressed interest in ARCA becoming part of their overall platform, we had to consider it,” Drager said. “Jim France made it clear from the onset that there was a lot of value in the ARCA brand and we were made to feel very comfortable and confident.
“Everyone that we had conversation with echoed the fact ARCA had equity and what it stands for. They were all about building on that. We will still have to continue to build ARCA, to do the heavy lifting and the work. But we now have access to resources that we never had previously. Now it is on us to do our best utilize those.”
Despite a host of changes implemented on and off the track, Drager was quick to indicate ARCA’s top division — the ARCA Menards Series — won’t look much different than the one that fans enjoyed last year.
“The biggest change fans will notice has been the rebranding of the NASCAR K&N Series East and West to the ARCA Menards Series East and West,” Drager explained. “There will be a reduction in the overall number of events for those series, but the opportunity to compete in additional events as part of the 10-event Sioux Chief Showdown that will be contained within the 20-race ARCA Menards Series is now there. For a driver and team looking to run more events, it is a great way to expand their racing schedules at a lot of different, quality venues and markets.”
Adding the NASCAR K&N East and West pieces to the ARCA Menards Series pie allows ARCA to crown champions in three national divisions across a much larger geographic footprint.
Meanwhile, the new Sioux Chief Showdown 10-race schedule, which permits cars from all three divisions to compete in the same event, will produce a fourth national titlist. It was here where NASCAR and ARCA technical officials faced the challenge of creating a set of common rules assuring equal performance over multiple vehicle platforms.
“We had months of meetings to discuss engines, chassis, bodies and bolt-on parts trying to come up with a package to get these cars as close we could get them technically and competitively,” Drager said. “At this — or any level of racing — you don’t want to come in with something and mandate changes that are overwhelming to your competitors.
“Most teams in the NASCAR Pro and ARCA Menards Series were basically running the NASCAR Generation 4 chassis and only a few changes outside of bolt-on hard parts were necessary to bring the cars into compliance with each other,” Drager continued. “It was the same with the bodies. The Five Star composite body program developed in 2014 was pretty much consistent with what we were all running other than we required our ARCA Menard Series to run roof and cowl flaps because of the high speeds at superspeedway events. NASCAR East and West didn’t have those and to require them would be an additional expense.
“Knowing that we were working toward common rules in 2020, we also had to address the tires right after we made the deal in 2018,” Drager added. “ARCA has been running the General Tires for the last four years and in 2019, the NASCAR East and West divisions also ran General Tires for a whole season. That’s provided another nice, consistent transition for our competitors in 2020. The end result is we addressed and got the chassis, body, tires and bolt-on items covered. All we had left was the engine package.”