In late July, the Champion Racing Association (CRA) and the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA), made waves throughout the short track racing world with the announcement that the two racing organizations had formed a partnership that would lead to the re-branding of the CRA organization under the ARCA banner.
ARCA is a well-known national stock car touring series that has developed talents that have succeeded in NASCAR’s top levels, as well as branded its own fair share of series legends. The organization has been around since the 1950’s and been amongst the top levels of stock car racing ever since. CRA is a more regionalized organization, which features the CRA Super Series for Super Late Models as its highest level with other support divisions under it. CRA, which is based in Indiana, races throughout the Midwest at tracks in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, plus a limited schedule and CRA-sanctioned events at tracks in the Southeast. Both CRA and ARCA feature veterans who have been regulars in their respective tour for years, plus up-and-coming talents that use the series’ as steps along the racing ladder.
Now, with the partnership of CRA and ARCA, many new doors may open for not just the two organizations, but their drivers, teams and current/potential sponsors.
“If anything, we knew that the announcement would raise some eyebrows and perk some interest, and that’s what it’s done,” said Glenn Luckett, CRA Series Director and Managing Partner. “We’ve had people calling, asking about what’s really going on and why we’re doing this, which is good.
“In short track racing, there’s just not a lot of new going on. This could bring some eyes to us and to ARCA. We both feel like we’ve got a pretty strong deal; we just feel like coming together is only going to help us. We’re just looking to remain strong and to help short track racing. That’s what’s going to happen. We’re only going to strengthen each other.”
According to R.J. Scott, the other part of the managing duo at CRA with Luckett, while the partnership will benefit both organizations, CRA will continue to operate as its own entity.
“We’re still independent,” said Scott. “We’re still doing what we do. We do things a certain way and ARCA does things a certain way and not every time will things match up. We will still continue to do the things that made CRA successful and when we find things that can work for CRA under the ARCA banner; we will certainly look forward to that.”
When the announcement of CRA partnering with ARCA in 2012 first came out, the status of the CRA personnel was in questioned by many. According to Luckett, none of the principles of the organization are going anywhere.
“From the racers’ perspective, they won’t see any changes except for a logo change next year and a different sticker across the windshield,” said Luckett. “As far as the people running the race or the series, there won’t be any changes. I’ll still be the race director, Eddie Chew will be the tech director, Greg (Wood) will be the scoring and the Operations Director and RJ will continue to do what he does when he gets back to Indiana and from his office in Colorado. Everything’s pretty much staying the same. From a management perspective, racers won’t see a difference in the series.”
Except for in one major area, which will be a positive for all racers. One of the major points of focus for CRA officials in this partnership was the addition of a new insurance policy for its competitors. What once offered limited additional benefits should a competitor be injured at a CRA event is now among the highest levels of coverage in all of short track racing due to its ARCA relationship.
“Unfortunately with the economy what it is and the cost of insurance, the amount of insurance that a series or track can provide is limited just because of that cost. If a person gets hurt at the racetrack right now, there’s about $15,000 excess insurance above what they have personally. You can barely get into a hospital with that.
“With this new plan, it will actually carry $285,000 more. We will require, just like always, that the car owner and the driver have to purchase a membership. There will be an increase in membership cost, but someone who looks at the increase and then looks at the additional insurance will probably think it’s a bargain. That much insurance for maybe $125, or whatever the increase will be - a one-time fee has a lot of coverage. Luckily we haven’t had a lot of people get injured in this series, but with this with ARCA, we can offer a lot more to our members. We have never required crews to purchase memberships and we still won’t, but there will be a crew license if they want to purchase it and they will be included on that same insurance.”
With ARCA’s history and current stature as a feeder tour to the top levels of the sport, CRA is hoping to use some of the visibility of ARCA as a boost in sponsorship and series growth.
“They have a full-time marketing department and a full-time PR department,” added Luckett. “It’s been pretty much just me, R.J. and Greg just doing what we can here and there on the marketing end of it. These guys can actually spend the time on marketing efforts, especially for a title sponsor. What they’re looking for to sponsor the ARCA Series is a lot more than we’re looking for on the Super Series end. If they find something in their talks that maybe can’t be a title sponsor for ARCA, they may be able to offer that sponsor something in the series that they are partnered with. It just takes a lot of time to go after the big-fish sponsors and we just don’t have that time to do it.”
“Exposure is the key thing for everybody, not just the series, but the drivers and the tracks,” said Scott. “That long history of ARCA certainly opens up doors. When we get that kind of exposure because of people recognizing that ARCA name and through the associations that ARCA has, it opens the doors of opportunity for sponsorship because more eyes are looking at it. That’s one of the things that we are hoping to capitalize on, plus having our racers have a place to look to move on to up the ladder as they move up the ranks in racing. Then when you put that branding out there, it’s positive for everybody.”
ARCA also hopes to benefit from the partnership with CRA as a place to develop some of its racers before hitting the ARCA Racing Series.
“Conceptually, two strong, stable stock car racing companies joining forces should further strengthen each, individually and collectively, and improve the sport as a whole,” said Mark Gundrum, VP Marketing and Communications for ARCA. “In addition, the alliance should provide numerous growth opportunities in multiple areas. From an ARCA standpoint, we are very excited about the possibilities we see for both entities. We believe that, together, we represent a very strong, stable environment in which a racer can choose to invest in equipment, and in the sport, and know that the leadership group is committed, steady and secure.
“We also believe that together we represent a very clear path for racers to follow, should they desire to advance their careers. Whether drivers, crewmembers, car owners or sponsors, we now believe that we can help get a racer from entry level to Daytona, all under one unified banner.”
While there may not be much of a tangible difference from race to race, CRA champions and Rookie of the Year Award winners will have the opportunity to test an ARCA Racing Series car at Daytona International Speedway in December of 2011 and 2012.
“Whether that’s Scott Hantz, T.J. Fisher or whoever, talking to those guys, they’re pretty excited about it,” said Luckett. “Obviously Scott Hantz is getting close to 50 and done about everything he can do in a Late Model, but he’s never had the opportunity to drive a racecar around Daytona. When I said something to him, he got pretty excited about it. It’s not a huge perk for him to build a career on, but it’s something he can tell his kids or grandkids that he drove at Daytona.”
Aside from the marketing, exposure and insurance benefits with the partnership, the two organizations now have each other to lean on for competition advice, as well.
“We had something that came up recently about clutches,” said Scott. “It’s a certain type of clutch that is very technologically advanced and very expensive and something that we didn’t want in any of our series. I picked up the phone and called Joe Wells (ARCA VP of Competition) and he knew exactly what I was talking about. He said they ran into the same problem a couple years ago and they had to write a rule specifically. I asked if he could help me write a rule for our series and he gave me the verbiage and sent me on my way.
“That’s a national organization that has already looked at how to keep a level playing field and to make it cost effective. I didn’t have to try to re-invent the wheel, I just picked up the phone and called my partner at ARCA and had the help and the verbiage right away.”
ARCA and CRA’s partnership may begin officially in 2012 with the new ARCA CRA Super Series, already many tangible benefits have been achieved and hopefully, for the good of short track racing everywhere, series and organizations such as ARCA and CRA continue to succeed.