Racing on surfaces from asphault to dirt, Josh Richards races Chad McCumbee at Springfield, ARCA features a bit of everything. [Don Figler Photo]
60th Season Of ARCA Continues Challenging Drivers
by Paul Gohde
New Berlin, WI - In this, the 60th season of ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) racing, the circuit, dubbed "The World's Most Versatile Touring Series", will sanction 20 events on 18 tracks as it celebrates six decades of competition.
Versatile? Challenging? Most definitely. With races at circuits ranging from the dirt surfaces of Springfield and DuQuoin, to the high banks of Daytona, the challenge before ARCA teams is formidable for crew chiefs as well as drivers.
How would you like to set up your car for Talladega's 2.6-mile superspeedway in May, the short track in Elko, MN in June and the road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park in July ? That's quite a training ground for aspiring NASCAR car chiefs and drivers.
And while ARCA races are, at times, a preliminary event prior to Sprint Cup races, many NASCAR stars have won in ARCA on their way to the top. Benny Parsons, Davey Allison, Curtis Turner and Troy Ruttman have won on the circuit. So have Kyle Petty, Mark Martin and Paul Menard. And today's crop of young stars is just waiting to make their mark here before moving up to the world of NASCAR. In the next few years names such as Alex Bowman, Brandon McReynolds, Chad Hackenbracht and Chase Elliott are likely to be future NASCAR winners.
Founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum in Toledo, OH, the series was originally called MARC, and it gave Midwestern drivers and teams a chance to get their feet wet in late model competition during the same time that NASCAR was getting established in the southeast.
Over their 60 seasons, ARCA drivers have raced on over 200 tracks in 26 states; and two of those tracks have been in Wisconsin.
The series has competed in the past at the Milwaukee Mile; including several races co-sanctioned with USAC's long-gone late model circuit.
ARCA had also run three times (1970-73) on Madison International Speedway's half-mile before returning last year, nearly 40 years later, to the suburban Madison oval. Their 2011 trip to America's Dairyland saw Tucson, AZ youngster Alex Bowman hold off a late-race charge by Chris Buescher to win the Herr's Live Life With Flavor 200.
The series will make its 2012 return with Bowman locked in a points battle with current leader Buescher, Brennan Poole and nine-time champion Frank Kimmel who recently captured his 75th series win at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
Adding national interest to the race is the entry of 16-year old Chase Elliott, son of former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott. Chase has competed part-time in ARCA this season, earning a tenth at Mobile, fourth at Salem and second on the New Jersey road course where he lost the lead on the final lap. Before coming to Madison, he'll also compete at Berlin (MI).
"We've had some decent runs in the ARCA Series; I'm confident that the Aaron's Dream Machine- Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet will be fast enough to win at Madison," Elliot said. "We're capable of winning in the ARCA Series and I won't be satisfied until we do."
ARCA president Ron Draeger, grandson of ARCA's co- founders, is working hard to balance the history of the series with the present and future: "In the age of advanced technology, email, texting and social networking, becoming preoccupied with the here and now jeopardizes recognizing the contributions of the founders and pioneers," he said recently. "We're making a very conscious effort in this, our 60th season in motorsports, to show an appreciation for our company's rich racing history."
And the 2012 season will continue adding to that history.