By David G. Firestone
In an article I did on a Frank Kimmel pit crew suit last year, I said this about ARCA: “Founded in 1953 in Toledo, Ohio the Midwest Association for Race Cars or MARC was created by John Marcum, who, at one point, was working with Bill France Sr. as an official in NASCAR. It operated from 1953 to 1964 as MARC, when it changed to the Auto Racing Club of America, or ARCA. Though an independent stock car organization, ARCA has had a long partnership with NASCAR.
While many racing fans see ARCA as a minor league racing organization, it has a dedicated fan base, and a dedicated series of drivers and teams. With a decent television contract, and good sponsorship, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menard’s has solid backing and will be a part of American auto racing for years to come.”
That’s what I thought at the time. However, that has changed drastically. On Friday, it was announced that NASCAR has bought out ARCA. ARCA, especially The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards will continue until 2019 in its current format, but will change in 2020, though no changes have yet been announced.
ARCA President Ron Drager said during the press conference: “Our position in the industry over all these years, 67 years, has been really intertwined with NASCAR. 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.”
This is not a good thing at all. ARCA’s fans are upset, and justifiably so. The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menard’s will go from independent promotion which provides an alternative for stock car drivers who can’t get a ride in NASCAR to just another NASCAR series. Everything that differentiated ARCA from NASCAR, and made ARCA unique will disappear, and ARCA will become nothing more than another set of NASCAR driver development series.
While NASCAR is celebrating, this is a bad day for stock car racing. NASCAR has pretty much monopolized the American stock car racing market. The only major national competitor to NASCAR has been bought out, and the rest of American stock car sanctioning bodies don’t have the strength to take NASCAR on. I’m wondering if this could lead to antitrust lawsuits. I can’t believe that this merger doesn’t constitute a monopoly. It may, I can’t understand how it wouldn’t.
If I am an ARCA driver, I’m really worried right now. If NASCAR is going to use ARCA as a developmental series, where is my place in ARCA? That isn’t a minor issue. There are drivers who have raced their entire careers in ARCA, and now they might not have a place in the new ARCA. This is not a minor issue. Drivers getting forced out by this merger have no place to go. This whole deal is awful, and I hope that all involved realize that.