Among fans of stock car racing and motorsports in general, the NASCAR championships are well-known across North America and the rest of the world as the pinnacle of the discipline. ARCA racing, on the other hand, is less famous – so here we look at the question, what is ARCA racing?
What is stock car racing?
Before we look at ARCA racing, its history, development and its relationship with NASCAR, first we need to take a step back and look at a more basic question: what is stock car racing?
Stock car racing was originally a product of the prohibition era in the US when moonshine runners secretly converted their vehicles to enable them to outrun the authorities. These cars had to avoid any ostentatious or obvious modifications so as to avoid drawing unwanted attention to themselves.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this led to the proud owners of these special vehicles organizing informal races among themselves to showcase their mechanical skills and show off their driving prowess.
From these beginnings, the concept of stock car racing was born. The basic premise has traditionally been to race in cars that are available to the general public rather than in special vehicles built for racing – this is the original meaning of “stock car”.
In the beginning, these racing meetups were informal affairs, but by the early 1930s, they had become much more organized. However, at this point, rules varied from race to race and event to event.
In an attempt to resolve this issue, a man named Bill France Sr. created the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, better known by its world-famous acronym, NASCAR, in 1948.
For many years, NASCAR racing remained faithful to the ideals of the “stock car” with rules to ensure that cars being raced were as close as possible to cars available to the general public.
This is no longer the case, however; modern high-performance stock cars are specially designed hi-spec racing machines with only a superficial resemblance to regular road cars.
So where does ARCA fit into this history?
From the very beginning, ARCA has always had a close relationship with NASCAR, even if it has not always been officially affiliated.
ARCA racing was originally founded in Toledo, Ohio in 1953 by John Marcum, a friend of Bill France and a former employee of NASCAR.
The original name Marcum chose for his organization was the Midwest Association for Race Cars (MARC), and as the name may suggest, it was launched as a regional alternative – although not necessarily competitor – to the Southern-based NASCAR races.
Close relationship with NASCAR
From its inception, MARC maintained its close relationship with NASCAR, and the influence of NASCAR founder Bill France was important in its development.
At the request of France, from 1964, MARC became part of Daytona Speedweeks. At the same time, the name was changed to the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) to give the organization more a national rather than merely regional appeal – again, following the advice of Bill France.
ARCA racing today
The close relationship with NASCAR has been maintained since the earliest days of MARC. Although ARCA is seen as only a minor professional racing league, it has become a proving ground for aspiring young drivers and has been seen as a feeder for the three more prestigious NASCAR National series.
Races take place on several different styles of track, including superspeedway and road courses. ARCA is also one of the last championships to still make use of dirt tracks.
The close relationship ARCA racing has with NASCAR can also be seen in the way ARCA uses the same cars as those used in NASCAR, although they usually older and slightly cheaper versions.
This makes sense, since ARCA does not have the exposure of NASCAR, and ARCA teams don’t have anything like the budget of top NASCAR teams to spend on their racing vehicles.
After such a long and close unofficial association between NASCAR and ARCA that had existed right from the very origins of ARCA when it was still known as MARC, in 2018, it was announced that the affiliation was to be made official.
In April of that year, the acquisition of ARCA by NASCAR was confirmed, finally formalizing what had been for many years an informal and mutually beneficial relationship between the two organizations.
When the announcement was made, it was stated that the 2018 season along with the 2019 season of ARCA would remain unchanged. After that, from the 2020 season on, new developments and changes are expected, although full details of what they will be have not yet been confirmed
From the information that has been released thus far – and what can be fairly assumed – is that the two will become ever more closely integrated.
The idea seems to be to offer a more natural evolution for the most talented drivers from ARCA into the ranks of the NASCAR professionals by giving younger drivers the chance to pit their wits against the experienced veterans of NASCAR.
In any case, it is to be hoped that the move will prove to be positive for both ARCA and NASCAR, with younger drivers being given their chance to show what they are capable of in the lower ranks and those who are good enough being given an even clearer path of progression.
An exciting sport – with a bright future
While at present, it is difficult to judge exactly how the recent official affiliation with NASCAR will affect ARCA racing, the results are likely to be extremely positive – meaning this exciting and beloved form of stock car racing is likely to keep us entertained for many years to come.