TOLEDO, Ohio (November 4, 2009)-The 1970s ushered in an era of change for ARCA and its stars as the first purpose-built racecars changed the sport and the ailing health of ARCA's founder, John Marcum, produced trying times for the sanctioning body. Still, ARCA Champions shined brightly as many drivers were able to clinch multiple titles during ARCA's decade of change. The stars of the 1970s, along with champions from each of ARCA's 56 years, will be honored at the ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet in Covington, Kentucky, on Saturday evening, December 5.
From the Series' inaugural race at Dayton Speedway in Ohio on May 10, 1953, to the 2009 Championship race at Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina on October 11, 2009, it's the stars of ARCA that have formed the most memorable racing moments in ARCA's history. In the 1970s, those stars included Keokuk, Iowa, drivers Ramo Stott and Ron Hutcherson, who dominated the first half of the 1970s with multiple championships each, along with Dave Dayton, Moose Myers and Marvin Smith. Iggy Katona capped off a two-decade-long ARCA career and pony cars made their ARCA Racing debut as factory support dwindled and Howe Racing made it possible for racers to buy specialized parts.
A group of ARCA's expert insiders will provide their opinion and analysis for each of ARCA's six decades, beginning with the inaugural 1953 season and ending with 2009. ARCA Insiders include history buffs Ron Drager, the current president of ARCA, Bill Kimmel, Jr., crew chief of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Fusion driven by Frank Kimmel, and SPEED commentator Phil Parsons, who will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for this year's Championship Awards Banquet.
ARCA Insiders Reflect on a Decade of Change: 1970-1979
Ramo Stott, Ron Hutcherson, Dave Dayton, Moose Myers, Marvin Smith Crowned Champs
Ron Drager: President of ARCA:
"Ramo Stott and Ron Hutcherson, from the same tiny Iowa hometown-Keokuk-would claim championships covering the first 5 years of the decade. Hutcherson's 3rd title in 1974 produced the only national championship tie in ARCA history, as Indianapolis Indiana's Dave Dayton shared the crown. Dayton repeated in 1975-76 before Moose Myers of Ft. Wayne Indiana drove Jim Stovall's #0 maroon "Louise Special" Chevelles to the 1977 title. Columbus Ohio driver Marvin Smith capped the decade with consecutive championships in Jim Coyle's orange #1 Riverside Auto Parts cars.
Iggy Katona capped his storied ARCA career with 19 straight seasons with a race win (1953-71), 20 straight seasons with a pole (1953-72), 21 straight seasons with a top-10 points finish (1953-73) and a 1974 win at Daytona, making him the oldest superspeedway stock car winner at age 57. Stott swept superspeedway races in 1970 at Daytona and Talladega in his winged Plymouth Superbird. Coo Coo Marlin, Sterling's father, won a pole at Talladega in '75 and a race at Nashville in '76. Kyle Petty drove to victory in the 1979 ARCA 200 at Daytona-in his first race ever, on any kind of track. Ironically, grandpa Lee and father Richard would join him in victory lane-a scene played out decades later when Adam Petty won in his first career ARCA start, at Charlotte, with grandpa Richard and father Kyle flanking him in the winner's circle.
Red Farmer won a 1970 race at Nashville. Jack Bowsher's younger brother Tom Bowsher was 1970 Rookie of the Year and won 10 races in '70-71. Hutcherson won in the series debut at Texas World Speedway in '72, the same year Michigan short track legend Joy Fair won at Toledo and ARCA got its first taste of series title sponsorship-from Royal Triton Racing Oil. 1973 saw Cincinnatian Bruce Gould win Rookie of the Year honors on the strength of 11 victories including a record-tying 5 in a row, NASCAR vet Tiny Lund win 3 races, short track late model ace Bob Senneker win at Berlin Raceway, Charlie Glotzbach win at Rockingham and Jeff Faber become the youngest winner in series history at age 19. Bobby Allison won at Salem in 1975 and Bill Kimmel Sr. won at Avilla Speedway in Indiana in '78.
Drivers from the Louisville, Kentucky area continued to dominate entry lists. Kimmel, Andy Hampton, Bill Clemons, John Early, Wayne Trinkle, Bobby Watson, ND Copley, A. Arnold, Al Straub, Kenny Black, Bob Thomas, Leonard Blanchard, Charlie Paxton, Luther Burton, Robin Schildknecht, Darrell Basham (yes, the same Darrell Basham), Buddy Fannon and Jack Wallace all showed up in the final points top-10 during the 1970s.
Series founder John Marcum's health began to fail in the mid-70s as the schedule dropped from 28 races in '73 to 12 in 1974 and dwindled to 9 by decade's end. Frank Canale, who had been an ARCA VP since the company's inception, retired and long time PR director and board member Howard Williams passed away unexpectedly in '74 as Marcum's teenage grandson John Drager stepped in to help fill the considerable void. Toledo Speedway is sold in 1977, ending Marcum's tenure as promoter and ARCA's position sanctioning weekly racing, both in place since 1962.
The "Pony Car" was a familiar sight on track in the 1970s as Chevrolet Camaros and Ford Mustangs mixed it up with more traditional full size Chevelles, Oldsmobiles, Ford Torinos and Dodge Chargers."
Bill Kimmel, Jr: Crew Chief of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Fusion:
"Let's see, what happened in the 1970s? Rod Stewart was real popular and Elvis died. I was playing softball when he passed away and it was real horrible. The 1970s started kind of bad for Kimmel Racing because dad had a wreck at Daytona Int'l Speedway during qualifying for the ARCA Race. It was a bad start to the decade for us because that wreck really slowed him down, stopped him, actually. Dad sat out most of the 1971 season then came back in 1972 at Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville, where he finished 5th in a 100 lap ARCA race. In the 1970s the ARCA cars and the ASA Series ran virtually the same cars and I remember the very next weekend after that ARCA race at Fairgrounds Motor Speedway he ran the same car at the same track in an ASA race.
I don't remember the exact inception of the pony cars but I think it was around 1973 when you started seeing camaros show up in ARCA races. Bobby Watson and A. Arnold started running camaros here at home and then Dave Dayton won the Championship with a Camaro. Iggy Katona was kind of liking his pony car and Ron Hutcherson was doing very well during this time. I think he had a Mustang.
Racing really changed during the 1970s. Ed Howe is really the one who changed racing when in 1972 or 73 the first 'store bought' racecar came out. Suddenly you could really start buying purpose-built racecar parts and this brought in a new era of racing. You could get on the phone and order an A frame or order a spindle instead of having to make it yourself. If you bought a complete racecar from him you were instantly a driver.
The 1970s were trying times for auto racing due to the gas crunch. I remember taking a speech class in college around this time and giving a persuasion speech in which I had to persuade my classmates on why racing was not a gas waste. That was a big thing. During the 1970s John Marcum's health was starting to deteriorate and ARCA started to struggle a little bit during the later half of the 1970s. Our crowd counts and car counts started falling off a little bit and the sanction struggled when the leadership that we were all accustomed to was missing. Gas was up a dollar a gallon and it kept race fans home from the racetracks. Plus, this was the Watergate era and people were nervous. Racing as a whole was growing during this time. NASCAR was getting bigger and the ASA was really big, burning up the Midwest with banner years since Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin were running there regularly at that time. Like ARCA, the USAC Stock Car Series was struggling a little bit during the later 1970s.
I made a start as an ARCA driver myself during the late 1970s. I think it was in 1978 or 1979. I went down there with a Howe car that was unheard of and I wasn't ready to race at Daytona at all. I scared myself to death. I was just someone who shouldn't have been there. I remember going out on the track for the first time and then coming in down pit road and passing a whole group of ARCA Officials. I couldn't judge my speed at all so I went down pit road faster than I should have and they black flagged me. The officials wanted to know why I disregarded the flag and I didn't know what to say so I told them that I didn't even realize that they had flag men at Daytona. I didn't race there anymore. I would have been okay if I would have raced a year at Salem or somewhere else first but it's not a good idea to jump in a car and go to Daytona with limited experience like that. It's a very good thing that ARCA has an approval system now and drivers have to have a certain amount of experience before they race at Daytona. Still, when my son Will raced at Daytona this year for the first time I told his mom that you have no idea what is going through a kid's mind the first time he races on a big superspeedway like that.
ARCA had really good racers during the 1970s with drivers like Moose Myers, Marvin Smith and Bill Greene. In the 1960s and even in the early 1970s NASCAR would invite the top-5 finishers in the ARCA race at Daytona to compete in the Daytona 500 so there was some crossover there. However, the further we got into the 1970s, most drivers stayed in ARCA, mostly because of who the winners were. Like Dave Dayton, he was a phenomenal racecar driver but he had a business in Indiana that was very successful so he had no interest in moving over to NASCAR. Bobby Watson was an extremely good racer during the 1970s and he is still in Charlotte. I grew up with his son and he used to work for BSR so they have made a home in Charlotte. Bobby was a really good racer that could have made it in NASCAR if he had the right personality but his attitude wasn't the greatest. I remember watching him kick out the windshield of his own racecar once because he was upset that he didn't win. Andy Hampton was a very good racer and could drive against the likes of Charlie Glotzbach. Most of the ARCA drivers had their own business and couldn't pick up and move down south because they had to make a living first. Plus NASCAR wasn't as glamorous as it is now so there wasn't as much incentive to leave. Back in those days, if you were a talented racecar driver you would get picked up to go race in the big leagues but now you need a big pocket book in addition to talent. This is the hardest sport in the world to make it to the top. If you are a really good basketball player they are going to play you. You can be the best racecar driver in the world at Toledo Speedway but if you don't have someone who is going to financially support you, you're not going to make it. Dave Dayton won the ARCA Championship then had a store to open on Monday morning and three kids to feed. You don't see that much anymore."
Phil Parsons: SPEED Commentator and Master of Ceremonies for the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet:
"It's incredible to look at the list of multiple year champions during the 1970s-Ramo Stott, Ron Hutcherson, Dave Dayton, Marvin Smith-it seems like when people came into the series, once they figured it out they dominated.
The early part of the 1970s was a big turning point with factory support withdrawing from racing. When that support went away ARCA teams had to figure out a different way of doing business. ARCA started to become a little bit more independent of NASCAR at this time because teams started building purpose-built ARCA cars rather than racing the same cars that competed in NASCAR. During the 1960s, Benny's first ARCA win came in a two-year-old dirt-track car that Ned Jarrett had driven in NASCAR. Benny departed ARCA for the Cup Series at the beginning of the 1970s at just about the same time that factory support started going away. ARCA still remained a great venue for drivers to get experience but you didn't see as much crossover.
It's significant to look at the names of people who were competitive in the 1970s and see some of those same names involved in ARCA today. Ramo Stott was very competitive in the 1960s and that success continued on in the 1970s. He's still active in the ARCA Garage area. Ron Hutcherson was a champion in ARCA during the 1970s and to this day he is involved in the sport through HutchBSR as an ARCA Sponsor. The Keselowskis and the Kimmels are additional examples of families who have remained in ARCA for generations or decades."
The Stars of ARCA, 1953-2009, will be honored at the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet in Covington, Kentucky on Saturday night, December 5. The banquet is open to the public and tickets are available by contacting Shalene Williams at the ARCA Office (734) 847-6726.