The ARCA Racing Series, now in its 60th season, has managed to carve out a really nice niche for itself in the vast world of motorsports. It's the most diverse form of racing in the world with events taking place on speedways, short tracks, on dirt and even road courses.
It has a splendid mix of veterans and development drivers who are featured 10 times a year on the SPEED Network at premier tracks like Daytona, Talladega, Pocono and Michigan.
What it doesn't have is a television contract in place for the other 10 races, a fact that ARCA president Ron Drager tackled in an interview with NASCAR Ranting and Raving on Monday afternoon in Mobile, Ala. He also discussed ARCA's role as a development league and his predictions on how the final three races of the 2012 season will play out.
Without further ado, here's our interview with ARCA's Ron Drager:
NRR: First, thanks for taking time out of your day to talk to us. ARCA has a fantastic little championship battle reaching its conclusion right now. Can you talk about how exciting it is to have this mix of drivers you have competing for the championship?
RD: There are so many cool aspects to our season championship. We pride ourselves in providing an opportunity to the younger drivers and these guys are shining this year with Chris Buescher, Alex Bowman and Brennan Poole all in contention. And then there's Frank Kimmel, who decided that the ARCA Series is where he wants to be and he's rebounded from three seasons where he didn't win a race to win twice with ThorSport and has a chance to win an unprecedented tenth championship.
Some people call it parity but we've got four really strong teams with heavy financial backing. You've got Kimmel, and the Buescher kid is associated with Roush-Fenway, the Kennedy race team (Bowman) is affiliated with Penske. So these teams are the heavy hitters of our tour.
The interview continues after the jump.
NRR: One of the more unique aspects about the ARCA Series is that each event is an all-star race. Each stop on the tour has a really interesting mix of series regulars and local heroes. Talk about the caliber of teams that you have competing in the Series on a week-to-week basis.
RD: We have just as many teams that pick and choose stops as we do teams that run the full schedule. And that's a benefit when you have teams like Eddie Sharp Racing willing to provide a car for Cale Gale to compete and win at his home track in Mobile or Kelly Kovski nearly winning at Springfield in his only start of the season.
That's what ARCA has to offer - for both fans and team owners. If a team finds a market or track appealing, we make it really easy for these guys to come in and compete.
Take Daytona for example, the first 32 positions are reserved for the fastest 32 qualifiers and then we fill-out the field out with our full-time teams. We need those guys but we pride ourselves on providing an opportunity for guys like Gale, Grant Enfinger and Bubba Pollard for these one-off races.
NRR: You guys have a great product for television. So why aren't more races televised?
RD: We will negotiate the best deal we can for the tour and our most-willing partner has been SPEED. It's a partnership where they've agreed to do 10 races and we look at that as a glass half-full scenario. On the flip side, that leaves 10 races without television and that's the glass half-empty. This is especially true when there's a percentage of our fans that would rather see the other 10 tracks televised instead.
SPEED is already at the current venues and there's a bottom line to everything. The cost of production lends itself better to the races where a production staff and cameras are already set up. We're appreciative that they air Toledo and IRP and we would love it if you drive up to Salem if you're in the area this weekend.
NRR: Is the Speed deal exclusive? If another willing television partner would come along and offer to pick up the other 10 races, would ARCA be in a position to listen?
RD: It's not exclusive and we would choose to take their offer to SPEED first and see if they would be willing to match. But we have to be careful in that position because of the high level of production SPEED provides to everything they do -- on-boards cameras, timing flicker, etc.
NRR: One of the bright young stars of the ARCA Series, Alex Bowman, is looking to compete in both the Chicagoland Nationwide Series race and Salem ARCA race this weekend. How proud of the Series are you that ARCA has been able to develop so many future NASCAR stars including Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ty Dillon?
RD: If I can be so bold as to say it, we've been very instrumental in Alex running in the Nationwide Series this weekend. That's what we're here to do - help drivers put themselves in positions to move up the ranks. ARCA was driver development before there was such a thing as driver development programs.
Charlie Glotzbach, Benny Parsons, Davey Allison, just to add a few names to your list. We've always been driver development. So we don't get our feelings hurt when a driver leaves to take a better opportunity. We know where we fit in the larger motorsports lexicon. And we're proud to serve that role.
The ARCA Racing Series next competes at the Salem Speedway in Salem, Indiana. It is race 18 of 20. Chris Buescher leads the stadings by 60 points over Frank Kimmel. The next televised race is the season finale (Kansas), Oct. 19 on SPEED.