Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – TALLADEGA, AL – NASCAR announced Friday morning that it has acquired the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Series after a 60-plus year relationship between the sanctioning bodies that started with NASCAR Founder Bill France Sr. and ARCA founder John Marcum.
NASCAR Vice Chairman Jim France joined Marcum’s grandson, ARCA President Ron Drager, at Talladega Superspeedway Friday morning to formalize the announcement.
“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,’’ France said.
Much of the future between the two series is possible because of their lengthy and successful past relationship. The two founders raced against one another before founding their respective governing bodies.
“Our position in the industry over all these years – 67 years – has been really intertwined with NASCAR,’’ Drager said. “Before there was a NASCAR, before there was an ARCA, there was a relationship between the Marcum and France families.
“And over all these years and over all this period of time, we at ARCA have been fortunate to carve out a spot in the industry and to be able to be a constructive part of our sport. I think this is really just coming back full circle to where things started out. This provides ARCA with sustainability.
“We’re all looking toward the future and trying to figure out where we need to be and how best to stabilize and come together to make the sport stronger. I think a coming-together is a good way to do it.”
ARCA will continue to operate under its current structure through the 2019 season. Details of the 2020 season and beyond will be forthcoming. But much of what makes this union appealing is the unique market ARCA has long served and making that part of the NASCAR umbrella.
And Jim France, one of the crucial forces behind this new alliance, has proven himself a master of motorsports mergers. He brought together sportscar racing’s GRAND-AM Road Racing and American Le Mans Series in 2012, creating a thriving and “modernized” International Motor Sports Association (IMSA).
“There aren’t many industries, particularly sports franchises or leagues, that support an industry the way the France family and Marcum-Drager family has. And for them to join forces and come back together after all these years, I think that’s a compliment to not just their families, but a big message to motorsports participants, whether a car owner, crew member or participant, or fan,’’ NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton said. “I think it shows that both of those families believe in the future of stock car racing and motorsports.’’
For Drager, the future is about increased opportunity and the ability to feature the best of ARCA’s offering in drivers, venues and competition. It currently has a schedule of 20 races, including nine events at NASCAR national event venues. This February was a historic event at Daytona International Speedway with Natalie Decker, 20, becoming the third woman in ARCA’s long history to win a pole at Daytona. The race was won by a former “NASCAR Next” driver, Michael Self.
“The relationship is truly seven decades, and so as you wind on down the road and build relationships over an extended period of time, this was always a very natural relationship, something that just eventually made sense to formalize,’’ Drager said. “There was really no timeline on it. I think it’s just something that just very gradually and very naturally happened.’’