The announcement that NASCAR has acquired ARCA was made about 90 days ago, on April 27 at Talladega Superspeedway. Since then, ARCA has just finished an eleven-week run with races every weekend, all the while laying the groundwork for the 2019 season and beyond. The following is the first of a two-part interview with ARCA President Ron Drager as he updates the status on the acquisition and answers many of the frequently asked questions those in the industry have asked since the initial announcement was made.
Charles Krall: We are 90 days or so into the merger that was announced in April, that ARCA has been acquired by NASCAR. When the merger was announced, you said it would be business as usual, is that still the case?
Ron Drager: Absolutely. The really cool thing about NASCAR's acquisition of ARCA is there are no strangers in the room. We know each other pretty well. And frankly, anyone who runs with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will concur, we have been busy just doing what we do. We've had ten consecutive weekends with races, and at the same time putting together 2019. So it's been business as usual, and actually, pretty darn busy.
CK: So what has the integration process been like to this point? I would imagine there have been a lot of phone calls, and I know some executives have been up here for a meet and greet. Has there been anything else going on to get us into the NASCAR system?
RD: We are just at the very onset of that process. One thing that continues to be a theme is we shouldn't feel rushed to do something by a timeline as much as we should be concerned with doing something that will be right long term. That is very reassuring. Grayling Call has been working very closely with Tony Glover. I am talking to, texting with on a very regular or daily basis, with Brandon Thompson, so we are getting a good feel on a direction. Mark Gundrum is working very closely with Bob DuVall. So the folks at NASCAR who are sort of mirrors for what we do here we are having a lot of conversations with them and regularly scheduled conference calls with much larger groups. We're just at the onset of talking about how we can we can help K&N East as well as K&N West and ARCA.
CK: As you said, you're early on in those discussions. Has there been a lot of talk about what's going to happen in 2019, and more specifically in 2020? I would imagine you're still very early in those discussions.
RD: A lot of conversation about '19, not so much about '20. Currently just getting everything in place and understanding the inventory, the business operations, what are the schedules that are currently in place, what are the agreements that are currently in place, what are the obligations that the respective series have. So a lot of '19 and coordination of efforts in '19. If you were to ask me what '19 is going to look like, I would say it would look very similar to '18.
CK: I am sure that will be very reassuring to a lot of people who have their plan for next year.
When NASCAR has made other acquisitions in the past, such as the IMSA sports car series and they have also acquired the AMA, both of those sanctioning bodies have maintained a relative level of autonomy. They've also maintained their brand name. IMSA isn't "NASCAR Road Racing", it's still IMSA. Do you envision that will be the same with ARCA? Do you envision the Automobile Racing Club of America name and the ARCA acronym to continue on?
RD: Virtually every conversation that we've had, from the very onset of the first casual conversations right through the signing the document for the acquisition right through to the call I had today, the ARCA brand is something NASCAR values. My expectation with all of these conversations and thoughts and plans are for the the ARCA brand will continue on. I don't think we'll see a change in branding.
CK: We have been at the racetrack for ten consecutive weekends since this has been announced. Any time you are you talking to a group of racers, you're going to hear every rumor known to man. No one has sat in on these meetings other than you. Many of these rumors may not be totally credible at this point. So how do you address those rumors? Some sound like they might work out really well, but they just don't have any basis in reality at this point. So how do you address those rumors so early in this process?
RD: A really smart person told me one time a long time ago, "I believe none of what I hear and half of what I see." People are enthusiastic about our sport and I think that's great. I think speculation and dreaming up "what ifs" are a way for people to express their enthusiasm about things. I certainly don't view it as a negative. But I can tell you all of our coordination conversations and conference calls and meetings are just that, coordination of efforts at this point. Very respectful dialog back and forth. Jim France and Mike Helton are very hands-on in what we are trying to accomplish, and those guys are both highly respected industry leaders and they should be because they are. We have a lot of respect for everyone at NASCAR, and so we feel like there is great leadership there. There's going to be great opportunities on behalf of ARCA. And I want to emphasize again, it's very important to ARCA that K&N East and K&N West continue to be strong and prosper and that we're all in this together as the NASCAR platform, and as the sport and the industry.
Part two of this interview will be posted at ARCARacing.com tomorrow...