NASCAR announced, prior to the start of practice at Talladega Superspeedway, that it is buying the ARCA Automobile Racing Club of America and its premier ARCA Racing Series. ARCA also owns race tracks in Ohio and Michigan, in addition to sanctioning two Super Late Model series based in Indiana and Michigan.
NASCAR’s ownership of ARCA is not intended to take effect until after 2019’s competition is completed, meaning the current structure remains through this and next season. NASCAR stated the move is intended to strengthen their cooperative relationships, dating back more than 60 years. Based in the Midwest, ARCA does have history with NASCAR, as founder John Marcum raced against NASCAR founder Bill France Sr and worked as a NASCAR official.
ARCA has long served as a stepping stone for young, talented drivers looking to move to NASCAR. In fact, at Daytona International Speedway last February, 20-year-old Natalie Decker became the third ARCA Racing Series female racer to win at the pole at Daytona and NASCAR Next alumnus Michael Self took the win.
Jim France, NASCAR vice chairman, executive vice president and a member of the sport’s founding family, spoke for the sanctioning body when he said, “Our NASCAR family has long had a special connection with our friends at ARCA and this is a logical step in demonstrating our commitment to the next generation of racers. This continues the legacy our sport was built upon and will deliver the great racing our fans expect.”
ARCA began racing at Daytona, NASCAR’s “home” track in 1964 – at the behest of Bill France Sr. The ARCA Racing Series kicked off its 66th season at Daytona in February and has a 20-race schedule set for 2018. Nine of those events take place at NASCAR national series venues; three occur at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series circuits. The series currently races on pavement, dirt and the occasional road circuit.
“We are proud of the history and tradition of the ARCA Racing Series and the relationship we’ve built over six decades with NASCAR,” Ron Drager, ARCA president and grandson of founder John Marcus, said. “We look forward to the opportunity to be more fully integrated with NASCAR and help shape the future of our sport.”
Several years ago, ARCA was known for using prior-generation NASCAR Cup series cars and engines. The engines were expensive to lease or buy; rebuilds were frequent and costly, as well. Drager wanted to address the concern with rising costs as racers challenged the organization to reduce engine budgets by as much as half.
After talking with many different engine manufacturers during the 2014 season, Drager decided to let racers either continue to use the “legacy” engines they’d stockpiled or switch to the ARCA Ilmor 396, built by Ilmor Engineering, Inc., the Plymouth, Michigan concern that’s also known for its INDYCAR, TransAm and off-shore powerboat racing engines.
The result has been good for ARCA, its racers and Ilmor, with far fewer engine catastrophes and far lower-cost rebuilds that are needed far less frequently. Using a traditional iron block with aluminum heads, the ARCA Ilmor 396 fit Drager’s – and the racers’ – desire for durability. And it’s proven to be reliable, less costly and easily raced.
Paul Ray, president of Ilmor Engineering, noted it’s definitely “too early to say, at the moment, what the ramifications of this purchase will be. With the NCWTS (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) engine being almost identical to the ARCA Ilmor 396, I would say that continuity seems likely, at least for the next couple of seasons. We’re not sure after that, as we have not had a chance to discuss this purchase with NASCAR yet.”