1953-1959: Romine, Sager, Katona, Stacy Crowned Champs
TOLEDO, Ohio (October 21, 2009)- The stars of ARCA, including 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 1953, those stars included Buckie Sager, who won the sanction's inaugural race from the pole position among some 10,000 spectators, eventual six-time Series' champion Iggy Katona, 1953 Series Champion Jim Romine, and race winners from the 1953 season including Russ Hepler, Leo Caldwell and JH Petty, brother of Lee Petty.
In 2009, Eddie Sharp Racing's Justin Lofton and Cunningham Motorsports' Parker Kligerman, a Penske Development Driver, made headlines throughout the season, combining to win 15 of 21 races. Other current Stars of ARCA include nine-time ARCA RE/MAX Series champion Frank Kimmel and first and second-year drivers like Joey Coulter, Craig Goess, Bryan Silas, Steve Arpin, Tom Hessert, Patrick Sheltra and Robb Brent.
Over the years, the stars of ARCA have included both fulltime Series competitors and young, up-and-coming drivers that have used the Series as a stepping stone to advance their careers. Joey Logano, David Ragan, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman and Juan Montoya are among the current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars that have raced and won in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Since the inaugural 1953 season ARCA Champions have gone on to achieve a wide range of accolades. Benny Parsons won season-ending championships in both the ARCA RE/MAX Series (1968 and 1969) and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Kimmel's storied racing career has included nine ARCA RE/MAX Series championships, an invitation to compete in the International Race of Champions (IROC) Series, along with forays into the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Justin Allgaier won the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship and currently competes for Penske Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Champion Lofton has already made several NASCAR Nationwide Series starts during his young racing career.
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 the Early Years; 1953-1959:
Ron Drager: President of ARCA:
Ron Drager "The inaugural decade of activity of today's ARCA was under the banner of the Midwest Ass'n for Race Cars (MARC). In addition to that acronym, MARC was a takeoff on the last name of the company founders John and Mildred Marcum.
"The earliest traces of today's rich tradition and history was established early on, as ARCA co-founder Mildred Marcum and her daughter Suzie Drager were full time office employees in 1953: today both continue to report for duty daily at the ARCA Office. Iggy Katona won races in the inaugural season and would go on to record three championships in the 1950s and continue to drive through the 1970s and set standards which still stand today including 78 career wins, 630 career starts, 19 straight seasons with a victory, 20 straight seasons with a pole and 21 straight seasons with a top-10 points finish. Young drivers such as Nelson Stcy, Darel Dieringre and Fred Lorenzen established themselves in the MARC Series prior to moving on to the NASCAR Grand National Series-the earliest recorded evidenceof what we recognize today as 'driver development.'
"Races are conducted on both paved and dirt surfaces, primarily in midwestern states Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, many times at county or state fairground facilities. Mostly cars are either flat-towed to races or driven, with headlights and back seats removed then replaced after the event for the trip home. Safety equipment is scarce, as are rules-the 1956 MARC New Car Division rules are listed on one side of a single sheet of 8 x 11 paper."
Bill Kimmel, Jr: Crew Chief of the No. 44 Ansell-Menards Fusion:
Bill Kimmel "My dad brought a picture to the shop here at Kimmel racing just yesterday. It was a picture of a car that my dad had at one of the first ARCA races in the early 1950s in Detroit. The story that he tells me was in the early 1950s John Marcum hosted an invitational race for all of the champions in the Midwest and John was paying two or three hundred just to show up. In the 1950s that was a lot of money so they all came out to a Mile Dirt track in Detroit. Dad had two cars and they pulled the cars all the way up there with chains, not big enclosed trailers like they have today. Dad made it to Detroit and the Flock brothers were there and Curtis Turner and a lot of the NASCAR names from the early 50s were there. John looked at my dad's car and said that there was no way they could let him run. His car was crude to put it mildly. It was not very safe-the fuel cell was not secure and it ran alcohol. Dad didn't care that he didn't get to race because he still got the starting money and that was a big deal. Andy Hampton drove dad's other car and I think they blew an engine early in the race. Really, that trip to Detroit is when my family first became associated with John Marcum and that initial encounter in the early 1950s has grown all the way to where we are right now.
"Dad's relationship with John Marcum grew after that. Dad even moved to Detroit for a while. When Flat Rock Speedway first opened they ran seven straight nights and when my dad heard about it he wanted to be a part of it. Dad went up there and liked what he saw so he moved to Detroit for a while. He probably didn't stay as long as he should have because racing in Detroit was a big deal then. The Frances had NASCAR in the South and there was a big buzz about what the Marcum family was building in the North.
"I think sometimes the young racers today don't understand what it took early racers to run. We have people that come in and win races and maybe a championship or two and go away but there are very few of them that really stay for a long time. The Pettys-they have a passion. They are truly champions. The Earnhardt family is the same way. I think sometimes we forget where we come from and just that we have really come a long way. The Marcum family had to have a passion to get to where they are right now."
Phil Parsons: SPEED Commentator and Master of Ceremonies for the 2009 ARCA RE/MAX Series Championship Awards Banquet:
Phil Parsons "The 1950s pre-date my recollection but some of the names on the winner's list from that era are very recognizable even today. This is when Iggy Katona got started and what an incredible career he had-his records are still unbeaten in several categories. Look at some of the names that ran in the MARC Series during the 1950s-a lot of the guys that won in what is today the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series--people like Freddy Lorenzen and Tiger Tom Pistone, were successful in ARCA first. It's impressive to look at some of the people who have been a part of the Series over the years and at the familes who continue to be involved."
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.