ARCA Hasn't Mattered For Years

virtualbalboa

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INSPIRED BY A THREAD ON THIS FORUM~!: I'm just going to throw something out there that needs to be said. ARCA doesn't matter for driver development. ARCA doesn't develop meaningful, top tier Cup talent and has not successfully done so for a generation. This is hard for some people to accept, but one look at the car counts for current ARCA races doesn't lie. Nor do lists of past champions. Certainly it graduates drivers, but what kind of drivers does it graduate?

Well, I went ahead and looked at the Cup series in 2023 and pulled out all 16 competitors for the Chase. What did I find for their ARCA participation?

1700339250652.png


Only 3 of the 16 drivers had completed a full season's worth of races in the ARCA series, and only one of them (Buescher, who has had the longest route to relevance in Cup) won an ARCA title. There are no ARCA starts in the preceding 5 years, and half of the list has either never made a start in ARCA or last competed in the series ≥15 years ago. Ricky Stenhouse being on the list does make me LOL thinking about how his ARCA title bid ended.

In retrospect, ARCA (and Busch North and Winston West) were at their healthiest when the car regulations permitted cars which would be legal in other forms of NASCAR competition. That is long dead, and the cars now serve only the purpose of racing in 10K to win pavement oval events where the cost to roll off the trailer is significantly higher than what can be won. Everything that ARCA can "teach" is learnable either in late model racing or in the Truck series, and one look at just about this entire list of drivers to see their starts in either of those two forms of stock car racing would tell you a lot about how the Cup drivers themselves perceive the value of ARCA now. Even increasing purses and merging the rules with Xfinity wouldn't fix all the problems it has, since ARCA teams would still be hamstrung by the number of events taking place. I think it's time to put a fork in it and let the ASA/CARS/etc tours just take over it's position in midwestern racing.
 
Any driver and team development opportunities, particularly on tracks that NASCAR visits, benefits aspiring championship racers. ARCA has long chummed up to NASCAR... NASCAR finally buying it out in 2018 was essentially a formality. Besides, gotta keep a market for NASCAR teams to sell their used equipment to...

I did hope that NASCAR would put better effort into promoting and advancing the status and quality of ARCA drivers and teams, but apparently it cannot help itself let alone any of its feeder series.
 
A lot of the cup drivers today and in the past have passed thru ARCA on their way up the ladder. How long they stayed is ridiculous and immaterial. As they say about a man that picked up a horse shoe out of the fire and dropped it quickly. When asked was it hot? Nah he said, doesn't take me long to look at a horseshoe. Same thing with some of these drivers.
 
Arca has never mattered massively in terms of driver development. There's always been plenty of ways to get to a NASCAR national series without ARCA, that's not a new thing.

I do agree with your next point that NASCAR does not give a **** about ARCA. We will see if that changes though now that all the national ARCA events are televised. Now that Fox Sports knows they can broadcast from Charlotte that is a game-changer.
 
If you want to find out if a driver can drive a full fendered stock car on Nascar tracks, there isn't anything else but Nascar and ARCA is the easiest/cheapest way to do so.
 
A lot of the cup drivers today and in the past have passed thru ARCA on their way up the ladder. How long they stayed is ridiculous and immaterial. As they say about a man that picked up a horse shoe out of the fire and dropped it quickly. When asked was it hot? Nah he said, doesn't take me long to look at a horseshoe. Same thing with some of these drivers.
It absolutely matters how long they stayed because at this point, ARCA as an independent stock car series primarily for the midwest is not and has not been a thing for years now, and ARCA as NASCAR's lowest national touring rung is the only thing that it still is.

As far as it being cheapest: Is it? Sure seems like Trucks would be a better option since the purses are dramatically better and the costs for racing are probably close to identical.
 
Arca has never mattered massively in terms of driver development. There's always been plenty of ways to get to a NASCAR national series without ARCA, that's not a new thing.

I do agree with your next point that NASCAR does not give a **** about ARCA. We will see if that changes though now that all the national ARCA events are televised. Now that Fox Sports knows they can broadcast from Charlotte that is a game-changer.

A lot of ARCA coverage on Fox Sports is handled by NASCAR Productions, top-to-bottom. Made perfect sense for Fox to pick up the whole schedule. All they're doing is distributing it.

It's the same deal we'll be seeing with the Xfinity Series on The CW.
 
A lot of ARCA coverage on Fox Sports is handled by NASCAR Productions, top-to-bottom. Made perfect sense for Fox to pick up the whole schedule. All they're doing is distributing it.

It's the same deal we'll be seeing with the Xfinity Series on The CW.
For at least the last two years, they've been televising the races live on Flo and then editing them for NBC re-air. It's not that NASCAR forgot to televise it, it's that no one is rushing to televise a series home to aging child stars and the occasional teenage late model phenom.
 
It absolutely matters how long they stayed because at this point, ARCA as an independent stock car series primarily for the midwest is not and has not been a thing for years now, and ARCA as NASCAR's lowest national touring rung is the only thing that it still is.

As far as it being cheapest: Is it? Sure seems like Trucks would be a better option since the purses are dramatically better and the costs for racing are probably close to identical.
No it doesn't. Some stay who don't have the money or the skills to move up. It's supported largely be the larger teams in the upper Nascar series along with the respective OEM's.
 
It absolutely matters how long they stayed because at this point, ARCA as an independent stock car series primarily for the midwest is not and has not been a thing for years now, and ARCA as NASCAR's lowest national touring rung is the only thing that it still is.

As far as it being cheapest: Is it? Sure seems like Trucks would be a better option since the purses are dramatically better and the costs for racing are probably close to identical.

The entry blanks are on the competitors website. You're better off running CARS or chasing independent events over competing with the intention of winning actual prize money in ARCA. It's comical. Especially with travelling the damn country at this point.
 
For at least the last two years, they've been televising the races live on Flo and then editing them for NBC re-air. It's not that NASCAR forgot to televise it, it's that no one is rushing to televise a series home to aging child stars and the occasional teenage late model phenom.
Actually they are continuing to expand
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — ARCA and FOX Sports announced today an extension of their broadcast rights agreement through 2024 that will also expand the number of events covered. They also released the ARCA Menards Series 2023 broadcast schedule.

In 2023
For the first time in series history, FOX Sports will carry all 20 ARCA Menards Series races live on FS1 or FS2, an increase of 11 races from 2022 and 12 races from 2018-21. All races will also be available live on the FOX Sports App to authenticated subscribers.
 
For at least the last two years, they've been televising the races live on Flo and then editing them for NBC re-air. It's not that NASCAR forgot to televise it, it's that no one is rushing to televise a series home to aging child stars and the occasional teenage late model phenom.

NBC airing the regional races is just a formality at this point. They're just fulfilling contractual obligations, at the bare minimum. When they went all in on NASCAR in 2015, there was more value since they had NBCSN and had NBC Sports Trackpass for a while.

The only value the regional races serve NBC is to fill what would otherwise be dead air or paid programming on CNBC. I can't imagine NBC OR Fox picking these up in the next contract. Nobody wants to watch a handful of 14-year-olds race for 150 laps. Fox Sports might want to air some Modified races, but I don't even know about that. The amount of damns they give are about the same as the amount of damns I give about basketbore.
 
For at least the last two years, they've been televising the races live on Flo and then editing them for NBC re-air. It's not that NASCAR forgot to televise it, it's that no one is rushing to televise a series home to aging child stars and the occasional teenage late model phenom.
This maybe what you are talking about?

Ten ARCA Menards Series races airing live on FS1 and FS2 will stream simultaneously on FloRacing, the OTT home of all NASCAR Roots series.
 
Yeah it's dying lol.
The ARCA Menards Series celebrates its 71st anniversary season in 2023 and kicks it off with its 60th race at Daytona International Speedway.
 
This maybe what you are talking about?

Ten ARCA Menards Series races airing live on FS1 and FS2 will stream simultaneously on FloRacing, the OTT home of all NASCAR Roots series.
I got rid of satellite TV last year, so I haven't seen anything on FS1 or FS2. Wasn't even aware they were on there. I just watch the races on Flo.

Yeah it's dying lol.
The ARCA Menards Series celebrates its 71st anniversary season in 2023 and kicks it off with its 60th race at Daytona International Speedway.
NASCAR can keep running ARCA races as long as it wants to, but having sub-20 car counts year after year is not a sign of health! That's before even getting into the "Hey, where does ARCA East race compared to the old Busch North schedule?" question.
 
I got rid of satellite TV last year, so I haven't seen anything on FS1 or FS2. Wasn't even aware they were on there. I just watch the races on Flo.


NASCAR can keep running ARCA races as long as it wants to, but having sub-20 car counts year after year is not a sign of health! That's before even getting into the "Hey, where does ARCA East race compared to the old Busch North schedule?" question.
Well you keep worrying, I'll keep watching.
 
Well you keep worrying, I'll keep watching.
That's fine! And I'd like an ARCA that was healthy. But the series that exists now - the one that lost all it's northeastern races because the sanctioning fee is too high to justify bringing in a 15 car series - is not a healthy one. And getting rid of it and letting people spend their money instead on the Truck series is what the Trucks need. It would bolster participation, we'd see people getting sent home on a regular basis, it would be much closer to "must see TV" for fans, et al.
 
That's fine! And I'd like an ARCA that was healthy. But the series that exists now - the one that lost all it's northeastern races because the sanctioning fee is too high to justify bringing in a 15 car series - is not a healthy one. And getting rid of it and letting people spend their money instead on the Truck series is what the Trucks need. It would bolster participation, we'd see people getting sent home on a regular basis, it would be much closer to "must see TV" for fans, et al.
You obviously didn't watch many truck races on FS-1 either. Many races had 2 or more trucks going home.
 
Let's not act like there have ever been 30 cars running a full ARCA season. Based off racing reference which has race results dating back to 1979 for ARCA the high was 15 in 2003. Plus some of these years remember guys like James Hylton and Brad Smith "start" all the races but aren't competitive. The average is 7.66 drivers. Twice the champion didn't even start all the races.

2023-6
2022-7
2021-2
2020-4
2019-5 champion Eckes missed a race
2018-7
2017-8
2016-5
2015-9
2014-6
2013-9
2012-10
2011-11
2010-14
2009-11
2008-14
2007-9
2006-10
2005-9
2004-12
2003-15
2002-14
2001-8
2000-10
1999-9
1998-9
1997-4 champ Tim Steele missed a race
1996-5
1995-9
1994-6
1993-8
1992-9
1991-9
1990-6
1989-8
1988-7
1987-8
1986-7
1985-5
1984-4
1983-4
1982-4
1981- 4 (in an only 8 race season)
1980-3
1979- 2
 
It all depends on your perspective. I never looked at the ARCA series to be the end all career choice for most drivers. It costs too much for small home teams to run the whole season unless they have some money behind them, so they cherry pick a few races to run in. It IS a good place to scope out new talent as many run some truck races and even some Xfinity in addition to ARCA races.
 
It all depends on your perspective. I never looked at the ARCA series to be the end all career choice for most drivers. It costs too much for small home teams to run the whole season unless they have some money behind them, so they cherry pick a few races to run in. It IS a good place to scope out new talent as many run some truck races and even some Xfinity in addition to ARCA races.

ARCA was at its best when it was a bunch of journeymen drivers from the Midwest pooling their resources to try to make a few starts and win some races. I never thought the championship meant much down there (though I'm sure Frank Kimmel would disagree). The series is the epitome of trophy hunting and I mean that in the best way possible.
 
Let's not act like there have ever been 30 cars running a full ARCA season. Based off racing reference which has race results dating back to 1979 for ARCA the high was 15 in 2003. Plus some of these years remember guys like James Hylton and Brad Smith "start" all the races but aren't competitive. The average is 7.66 drivers. Twice the champion didn't even start all the races.

2023-6
2022-7
2021-2
2020-4
2019-5 champion Eckes missed a race
2018-7
2017-8
2016-5
2015-9
2014-6
2013-9
2012-10
2011-11
2010-14
2009-11
2008-14
2007-9
2006-10
2005-9
2004-12
2003-15
2002-14
2001-8
2000-10
1999-9
1998-9
1997-4 champ Tim Steele missed a race
1996-5
1995-9
1994-6
1993-8
1992-9
1991-9
1990-6
1989-8
1988-7
1987-8
1986-7
1985-5
1984-4
1983-4
1982-4
1981- 4 (in an only 8 race season)
1980-3
1979- 2
Let me just link again to Racing Reference:


More importantly, what I'm pointing at here in addition to the numbers you just posted are to look at the number of races run. I took this and the number of full timers above and made a small chart:

1700572303063.png


On the positive side, there was an uptick after 2021 when it bottomed out to 2. But there's a clear association with the series increasing the number of races after the low numbers of the late 1970s and a commensurate increase in the number of full time drivers. Statistically speaking, going from 15 in the early 2000s to 2 in 2021 is very significant. Obviously something happened in the 1970s that caused a massive decline in the number of events, and so I googled to see what that something was. Short version in this: ARCA leadership was leaving or dying, things were in disarray, ASA was eating their lunch:


Now however is not the late 1970s. Gas prices were significantly higher in real and unadjusted terms in the late 00s when there were significantly more competitors. ARCA's leadership is literally NASCAR's leadership, with all the money and resources that comes with. There's also been a number of moves which ultimately didn't benefit car counts while generating new costs for teams: the transition to more expensive up-front composite bodies or the Ilmor 396CI crate engine (and accompanying Yates Spec Engine) are good examples of this. I don't know enough to say that sticking with carbureted engines instead of EFI is a worthwhile cost savings, but regardless, the chassis themselves can't transfer to Cup anymore which loses them an enormous amount of utility.

[You could also measure the decline of ARCA through just the general drop in starters. Back in the era when you could actually download CSVs from Racing Reference, I'd have already run the numbers on total numbers of starters, but again, you can eyeball it and tell there's a significant decline from the peak years of participation 2003-2011 to now. Your smallest field in 1999 is 26 at Flat Rock and 9 races have 40 or more starters; your smallest field in 2023 is 17 at Berlin and 1 race had 40 starters (Daytona). Ultimately though it doesn't matter because...]

So having said all that: I didn't lead the thread with those numbers. I led with different numbers. The numbers I led with showed that the most successful drivers currently in Cup essentially skipped ARCA during their development. I can sit here and say things are not great and that doesn't really matter. What actively matters in a discussion of OEMs, team owners, and sponsors and whatnot is whether ARCA actually is utilized as a developmental ladder series by those entities. It is not, and in fact it would seem that OEMs are more interested in investing their money into one-make sports car series (TRD) or TCR (Ford) racing for their young charges. Series that don't get participation invariably die whether it be Formula BMW, F3000, USAC Stock Cars, or whatever. If things don't change, races at the non-Cup tracks when acting as a support series will be unsustainable in this fashion, just as K&N East became unsustainable at the likes of Stafford Springs and Thompson. Remember, the latter of those two very publicly sent NASCAR packing once it became clear they couldn't even field 15 cars for a race that was the most expensive on the calendar. Also, before "Toledo wouldn't get rid of ARCA" - Flat Rock did and it has the same owner.
 
ARCA was pretty good several years ago when Brandon Jones, Sheldon Creed, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, and some of those were running it about the same time. Since NASCAR took it over, I couldn't tell you when the races are on let alone who's running in it.
 
ARCA still matters, just look at Ty Gibbs as a recent example.

The payouts seem horribly bad, the car counts are horrible at many races. Car counts are the #1 problem.
 
I love ARCA.

Always have.

It ain’t the same. But it still matters.

Kudos to NASCAR for adding Toledo and Flat Rock back on the series schedules.
 
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