These days, many a stock car fan lament the "new NASCAR"; with its look of "spec racing", "Chases" and endless Commercials. Those same fans pine for the older stock cars racing days; when they could see the old "Monte Carlo" or "Impala" tag one another while driving hard, back when "rubbin is racing" actually meant something.
What might shock those same fans is the fact that they still can -- Just not in NASCAR.
The "Automobile Racing Club of America", or ARCA, has been around since the days of France Sr. in the 50's and, at the same time he was beginning to establish his small regional venture in the South, a fellow by the name of John Marcum was trying to do the same up in the North. What began as "MARC" turned into ARCA and espoused the same stock racing roots that it's cousin to the South did. Only, While ARCA stayed steady and regional, NASCAR grew exponentially and became the nationwide behemoth we all know to this day.
But ARCA? It became NASCAR's handmaiden. Running races at NASCAR tracks for NASCAR money, becoming nothing more than a NASCAR side show. In doing so, it allowed itself to become a bridesmaid to the point where, to many a race fan, it's seen as a 4th tier series -- albeit incorrectly; lagging behind Nationwide, Sprint Cup and even Trucks for attention.
But there's just one thing: ARCA racing is the closest thing to pure stock car racing there is in the world right now.
They race on pavement. They race on clay. They race ovals; they race road courses. They race the old cars like that Elliot, Gordon and Dale Sr. drove. Shoot, they race at Talladega and Rockingham, going just as fast, and you can take the family to it without mortgaging your house. What's more, they've remained independent enough that anyone -- and I mean anyone -- can save up some cash and take a plunge into it's ranks.
It's NASCAR as it should have been. Only, it's not NASCAR: It's ARCA.
So why, in this winter of NASCAR Nation's discontent, are the fans not flocking to see stock car racing there?
One word: Marketing.
If ARCA suffers from one major flaw it's the fact that it doesn't seem to have the wherewithal or desire to market itself well against NASCAR. That point is interesting, because if there was ever a time to capitalize on a burgeoning market, it would be now: The fans are screaming for real stock racing. It owns two tracks independent of NASCAR and serves the same customer that NASCAR does. It's already on Speed TV. Maybe they should begin to widen their reach? Hire some people --the same type of people who began NASCAR's ascent -- to grow the ARCA brand in the US.
Maybe they don't because of fear?
Maybe they're afraid of biting the hand that feeds them? If that's the case, they should take a look at Bruton Smith: He bites it all the time; usually getting exactly what he wants when he does. Why? Because he knows how to Market well and, for all its bluster on money, NASCAR doesn't-- At least, not as good as Smith does. So they follow his lead. They did in Kentucky. They did in Texas. They will in Vegas.
So imagine what could happen if the ARCA brass woke up tommorow and decided that they were tired of being bridesmaids and began to plan how to reach the market of people put off by all the change in NASCAR. People who want "racing" as opposed "drama". What if they chose to make the move from Minor to Major?
Don't think for a second they couldn't do it: NASCAR was a regional sport and was, at one time, in the exact same place ARCA finds itself; only it chose to become more and did it through hard work and money.
If ARCA chose this, the fans --and sponsorship money-- would pour in. Not just from older fans either. Because, unbeknownst to a bevy of new racing fans and the sponsorship dollars they'd bring, NASCAR isn't the only good stock racing league in the states.
And in this era of "Spec racing", "Chases" and Endless Commercials, Maybe it's time they found out.