It's five minutes before the start of final practice at USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Florida. Marc Williams leans against the tailgate of a Ford F-250, taking the last drink from a water bottle under the hot Florida sun. He tosses the bottle into a nearby can and begins to make sure the equipment in the back of the truck is ready to go. The truck is outfitted with state-of-the-art hydraulic extrication equipment and rescue tools that would make any paramedic worth their weight in stethoscopes drool.

As 40 ARCA/REMAX Series race cars take to the track in anticipation of the Construct Corps/Palm Beach Grading 250, Williams and his team of safety specialists keep a watchful eye over every corner of the 0.75-mile paved oval, ready to spring into action at a moment's notice.

At first glance you might think that Williams is part of the track's safety crew, but it doesn't take long to notice the flashy purple and black ARCA logo adorning his truck, also known as a first response "chase" vehicle. He heads up the Hardcore Motor-sports ARCA Safety Initiative, an innovative program that has been part of every ARCA race since the beginning of the 2006 season.

The vertically integrated safety program is designed to support the established track safety crews where ARCA races both at and away from the racetrack. An 11-year ARCA race official and former fire marshall, Williams is a full-time ARCA employee dedicated to running the Safety Initiative. His job involves coordinating efforts with host speedways' respective safety teams, as well as working closely with ARCA RE/MAX Series race team personnel and at other ARCA-sanctioned racing events.

Williams takes his job seriously, very seriously. "I take it personally when somebody gets hurt, no matter how minor," says the Michigan native. "I love what I do and I care about each one of these guys."

In fact, Williams has been unofficially using his professional safety background in his race official duties long before the Safety Initiative took on its full time status.

"The Safety Initiative is a project we have been working toward for some time," says Joe Wells, ARCA's VP Competition. "Putting this program in place will allow us to take on an even greater role as it relates to the safety elements in ARCA. It has always been our goal to be as responsible as we can be in our role as a sanctioning body."

Williams and Wells make no bones about the fact that the Safety Initiative would never have taken off if it weren't for the sponsorship from Hardcore Motorsports. The Brighton, Michigan-based high-performance parts retail sales company, owned by Bill Wells and Nevie Richardson, jumped on board the program for one very simple reason.

"As team owners in a number of different racing series, we see firsthand the everyday need for a strong and solid safety program," commented Bill. "We feel the Hardcore Motorsports ARCA Safety Initiative will benefit all teams, drivers, and crews through a combination of information and education."

Bill says the program is all about taking ARCA safety to a new level. A sanctioning body selling a sponsorship to cover the costs for their own safety program, the concept itself is a new level and puts ARCA light years ahead of other sanctions when it comes to safety.

"Safety is, and always has been, the primary focus of our competition department," says Ron Drager, ARCA president. "Our ongoing safety initiative will benefit tremendously from the support Hardcore Motorsports is lending in terms of personnel, equipment, and education. ARCA has benefited greatly from the many recent safety advances in motorsports brought about by industry leaders, and this initiative provides resources to elevate the level of our internal program."

TEACHING OTHERS
A primary objective of the program involves information and education, as series officials and supporting entities hold various seminars and instructional conferences during the course of the year. For example, the Hardcore Motorsports ARCA Safety Initiative recently traveled to Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, to take part in a 16-hour incident response training session. The session, with a focus on hands-on experience, applied textbook skills and knowledge to potential at-track emergency scenarios.

"It was a very effective way to share information and interact with the track's safety team regarding all aspects of safety, fire, and rescue," said Williams. "The more we communicate with track safety teams and learn from each other, the more effective we'll all be when we work together on race weekends."

In addition to Williams, instructors included Kentucky Speedway Safety Director Charles Williams and Chicagoland Speedway Care Center Manager Linda Ptack.