For those of you unfamiliar with the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards, we break down the series so you’re primed and ready to go on race day for the Lucas Oil 200 Driven by General Tire.
What is the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards?
ARCA stands for the Automobile Racing Club of America and is a completely separate entity from NASCAR. The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards is its own series’, has its own set of rules, and its own sanctioning body. Since 1953, the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has offered race fans a diverse brand of stock car racing on short tracks, dirt tracks, road courses and superspeedways. Founded by John and Mildred Marcum, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards is a destination for professional race drivers and a developmental series which transitions and prepares drivers for the advancement of their careers into the highest levels of the sport.
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards has crowned an national champion each year since its inaugural season in 1953, and has toured over 200 race tracks in 26 states since its inception. The series has tested the abilities of drivers and race teams over the most diverse schedule of stock car racing events in the world, visiting tracks ranging from 0.375 mile to 2.66 miles in length, on both paved and dirt surfaces as well as a left- and right-turn road course.
While not officially affiliated with NASCAR, the cars ARCA uses are former NASCAR Sprint Cup cars that have bodies that are up to four years old. The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards also uses a slightly different engine package than the NASCAR series do. It is the same cubic inch (358 cubic inches), but has a lower compression ratio to lower the horsepower. The series is known for using veteran steel-bodied Generation 4 cars from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, running cars until they are several years old and even after a model's discontinuation in the Cup Series. For example, Bobby Gerhart's winning DAYTONA car in 1999 used a chassis built by Hendrick Motorsports in 1989. Following the transition of the Cup and XFINITY Series to the Car of Tomorrow in 2007 and 2010 respectively, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards continued to use the 2007-style models of the Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota, and Dodge. In spite of the similarities, the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards is much more affordable than its more popular counterpart, with car owner Larry Clement estimating the required budget to run an ARCA car as "10 percent of what a NASCAR Sprint Cup budget is." This means teams running in the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards can race with a safe, well-built race car without paying top dollar.
Something that gives the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards a visible difference from the series of NASCAR is the variety of course in which they run. In addition to running on superspeedways like Daytona International Speedway, ARCA schedule sees them visit short tracks, road courses, and even dirt tracks. In fact, the 2016 schedule includes eight races on superspeedways, nine on short tracks, two on dirt and one on a road course.
The ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards is a great stepping stone for up-and-coming NASCAR drivers, largely due to the similarity between the cars and racetracks of the two series. In fact, several former NASCAR champions have been ARCA champions, including Benny Parsons, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, among others. More recently, Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch, Justin Allgaier, Casey Mears, and Sam Hornish, Jr. got acclimated to stock cars by racing in the ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards. Other drivers, however, such as 10-time champion Frank Kimmel and 9-time race winner Bobby Gerhart, remain in the series as opposed to pursuing a full-time career in NASCAR.
The 53rd Lucas Oil 200 will serve as the season opening race for the 64th season of ARCA Racing Series Presented by Menards competition. The race will be right before the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited and will help christen the newly-complete $400 DAYTONA Rising renovation project.