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 second 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: One of the things I thought was interesting with all of this was the timing. We just moved into this beautiful new office, unfortunately there was a fire across the street but we were able to move into this beautiful building. And then the merger was announced. That has led a lot of people to wonder about this particular location. DO you see ARCA staying here in the suburban Toledo/Temperance area or do you see the operation moving somewhere else?
Ron Drager: We certainly feel like where we are is the most efficient way to operate our business. There is no way to speculate and know down the road what is the best way for our company to operate and how we can best take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there. But what we do know is for the time being, here is where we are and here is where we'll be.
CK: One of the things I know is near and dear to your heart are the two short tracks ARCA sanctions, Toledo Speedway here in town and Flat Rock Speedway in downriver Detroit. Also sanction a couple of late model tours with the Championship Racing Association and the Midwest Tour. What is the future of the two short tracks, and then if you could address the future of the two sanctioning agreements with the late model tours. Will those two agreements stay in place?
RD: The existing agreements with RJ Scott and Glenn Luckett of the CRA runs through 2019 and the existing agreement with Gregg McKarns of the Midwest Tour also runs through the end of 2019. And then the two tracks that we own are ARCA sanctioned. All of that stays in place for 2019. We are expressing interest as are all of those properties in continuing that relationship. To this point, no one at NASCAR has said we don't think this is a good idea. I think it will continue to be business as usual. We have opportunities to tap into resources that can be made available to us through those relationships. The CRA Super Series is a good, healthy strong series. The ARCA Midwest Tour, those guys are industry veterans. Those series are independently owned and operated relative to ARCA, as are the two race tracks. But good relationships, relationships that have a business base, and I think we'll see those relationships continue.
CK: You are the third generation of your family to work within ARCA. We are sitting here in the Marcum Room, there are pictures of your grandfather sitting at a table with Bill France, Sr. on the wall. That relationship dated back to the 1950s, if not earlier. How do you think your grandparents would feel about the merger and all that is going on?
RD: I think their vision when they got started was to be a constructive part of the sport. If you go back to before there was a NASCAR, before there was an ARCA, John and Mildred Marcum and Big Bill France and Annie B. were buddies. My grandparents would travel down and stay at their house to put the beach races on. I think if there was going to be a day when the company was going to be a non-family owned entity, probably a 70-year relationship, both personal and professional, with NASCAR and with ISC, folks who have been there for ARCA throughout our history, I think that part of it they would be comfortable with.
CK: For a lot of people who may not know, back in the early 1980s when your grandfather passed away, there was a lot of question that ARCA would not only continue on for the rest of the year but would continue on to the next week. At that time, the France family stepped in and ensured that would be the case, correct?
RD: I was 21 years old at the time. Bill, Sr., Bill, Jr., and Jim all came to the funeral. They reassured my grandmother that whatever she wanted to do, it was her decision, and they were there to help. Whether she wanted to step away and see it go forward, or if she wanted to dig in and take a run at operating it herself. And they were men of their word.
CK: What do you think your role in this going forward is going to be? I think 2019 is business as usual, but where do you see yourself in 2020 and maybe further down the road?
RD: Near term I want to continue doing what I am doing. As long as I am a good constructive part of what's going on and I am doing a good job and the folks at NASCAR feel like I am doing a good job, I feel like I can contribute. But I am also ready when the time is right and there is someone who can do a better job than I can. This is all a part of carrying ARCA forward. It's recognizing and knowing when the time is right for that. I still have the two race tracks so it's not like I will be out of the sport if I am not doing what I am doing today. I think near term, for sure the next couple or three years you'll see me doing what I am doing.