Thursday, August 3, 2017

ARCA Season Diversity on Display

Dalton Sargeant got a calculated win at Lucas Oil Raceway
The ARCA racing series just finished a superspeedway race at Pocono Raceway last weekend, the 12th race of its 20 race 2017 schedule, and now enters the most diverse phase of its schedule over the next few weeks. This weekend the tour goes back to the high banked bull ring at Winchester Speedway which bills itself as the world's fastest half mile. Two weeks later the series races a 100 lapper at the historic mile dirt track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois.  The USAC Silver Crown series also races on the mile the same weekend. The weekend after that, ARCA returns to Road America in scenic Wisconsin for a 100 mile road course race alongside the NASCAR Xfinity series. After three days on the Elkhart Lake natural terrain road course, ARCA celebrates Labor Day at the other mile dirt track on its schedule at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in southern Illinois. At that point the series will be down to four races remaining to settle the 2017 season championship. The diversity of the series is one of its hallmarks as a battleground for proving driver talent and no other national series contests a schedule anything like it. I know it is something the series is very proud of, and rightfully so in my opinion. It allows the stock car crowd a way to stay connected to its roots on the dirt tracks while preparing the up and coming future stars of stock car racing for every circumstance from flat short tracks like Lucas Oil Raceway, to superspeedways like Pocono, to the high banked bullrings like Salem and Winchester and even to the mile-and-a-half tracks that wrap up the season in September and October.

Austin Theriault is the overall points leader with 12 Top 10s and 3 wins
If you haven't been to an ARCA race, you really need to go. It's excellent racing and you can get close to the drivers and teams - much more so than any other major racing series that I know of. And you can see the stars of tomorrow today. Not only is ARCA's diversity reflected in its schedule, but its driver lineup is constantly changing. So far this season, a total of 101 different drivers have scored points, so you are guaranteed to see someone new at every race. It might even be a local short track driver you've followed! The roster of winners keeps changing too as only two drivers have won as many as three races:  Austin Theriault and Dalton Sargeant and they are at the top of the season points chart not surprisingly. Justin Haley has won twice in his only two starts this season while four other drivers have each won once. As it stands now, that means 7 different winners in the 12 races so far and with 8 more races to go, that number will certainly grow. No doubt someone will get their first win in their first ARCA start as well since that seems to happen at least once per season.

Austin Cindric put his composite bodied Ford on pole at Lucas Oil Raceway
I know this may sound like musical chairs among drivers or that anyone can come into the series and win, but that is a reflection of the quality of the available equipment with the newer Five Star composite bodies and Ilmor 396 engines becoming more and more prominent. At Lucas Oil Raceway two weeks ago, it was obvious the field was divided into two camps - the drivers wheeling composite bodied cars broke away from the pack of steel bodied cars early. Next season everyone will have to race the composites, so this is another good benefit provided by the series to ensure close competitive racing regardless of who's racing or where.

The prettiest car at Lucas Oil Raceway was the Sinclair sponsored machine of Michael Self
I've been working ARCA races as a photographer for more than 10 years on a regular basis and I have personally witnessed the rising caliber of teams, equipment, drivers and sponsors. There are lots of other stock car series around for teams to choose but I think ARCA is the one most well suited for advancing a young driver's career. Why else would so many young drivers we see week in and week out have driver development contracts with the big NASCAR teams like Roush Fenway? Now we've even got a team with a direct link to Joe Gibbs Racing in the series and that 18 car has a win this year with young Riley Herbst. There's an old joke that asks "Do you know how to become a millionaire in racing?" with the punchline "Start with 10 million." Thankfully you don't have to do that in ARCA as there is also still a place for the weekend racer in the series and for teams run by people who just love to travel and race. I hope the series doesn't lose that quality when the steel bodied cars go away as I really admire how hard the lower budget teams at the back of the field work every race weekend even though they must know their chances of winning are slim. They are racers and that's all that matters.

This weekend I will be back at work at Winchester. The stretch run of the season begins now and I will be working all the rest of the races this season so come out and say hello. Or let me take your picture and help you create some memories at the racetrack. See you down the road! Until then, here's a few photos I shot at Lucas Oil Raceway where Dalton Sargeant got his third season win.

Dalton Sargeant has been hot lately in his Cunningham Motorsports machine
The "King" of stock car racing Richard Petty was at Lucas Oil Raceway to watch his grandson Thad Moffitt race
The composite bodied cars always put on a good show of close racing
Seasoned veterans like Booby Gerhart show up about every week to challenge the youngbloods

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