Three wide at Winchester Speedway...
Three wide at Winchester Speedway in Indiana.
If you're a fan of the oval track racing world then it's a pretty good bet you know of the Automobile Racing Club of America, or ARCA, and its marquee touring group the RE/Max Series. There you can still see a knock-down, drag-out type of racing where rubbing fenders is common and allowed. Racing on tracks of all styles including dirt, pavement, and even a road course, the RE/Max Series kicks it all off at Daytona International Speedway to start the big track's annual Speedweeks.
What most may not realize is that ARCA has another very unique series known as the Lincoln Welders Truck Series. The series actually came about as an evolutionary product of the old ARCA Pro 4 Modified Division which saw action from 1988 through 1998 with a transition to the truck division in 1999. The trucks have flourished on the coattails of title sponsor Lincoln Welders, which has backed the series since its inception.
Two thousand nine will mark the eleventh consecutive year of competition for this series, which has established itself as one of the most diverse traveling series in the country competing on both dirt and pavement tracks just like its big brother the RE/Max Series. The tracks the truckers see competition on range in size from one quarter to one mile in length.
Veteran Indiana racer Steve Christman has raced almost anything with wheels on oval tracks all across the country, including a stay at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series where he finished Third in Rookie of the Year points to the late Davey Allison. Finishing Third in ARCA Truck Series points in 2008 on the heels of three wins, Christman has only praise for the ARCA group.
"This is a very relaxed and fun, yet professional division. We do travel, and go to different tracks. This is not for someone who likes to run at just one track all the time. Most traveling divisions are all really good, but with ARCA it is exceptional. It has a very good program of people that you can work with and they will work with you."
As far as cost and growth goes, Christman notes, "The cost of the ARCA Truck is about the same as a Late Model or Modified. ARCA does have an engine rule where we run a 4.3 Chevy engine and are very limited to what we can do with it."
Christman says this allows a racer to have a $7,000 or $8,000 engine and still be competitive. "You know with the cost of things, even with a Modified, whether it's dirt or asphalt, you need a very good, expensive motor. But, here it's more home-grown with some leeway on what you can do with the vehicles. The tire we are on is a 13 inch tire with a 10 inch wheel. You can overdrive these trucks but recover really well. The tires are pretty soft, yet affordable."
The ARCA Vision
"The 2009 season marks the 57th consecutive season of competition for the ARCA sanction, so it has certainly become a very recognizable name in the motorsports industry, one we feel has credibility and respect of the motorsports community," says ARCA's Director of Public Relations, Don Radebaugh.
To put it in perspective, the truck series was created for the weekly short-track racers who wanted to move up into a cost-effective professional touring series that allowed them to travel regionally and compete at a variety of short-tracks on both dirt and pavement. The series could also be utilized as a logical step for the racer who wanted to one day progress in the ARCA RE/Max Series or possibly beyond.
Nick Gullata (inside) and...
Nick Gullata (inside) and Danny Jackson race to the checkered flag finish at Winchester. Jackson won by a fender.
Close action on the quarter-mile...
Close action on the quarter-mile track at Kentucky Speedway.
The Holley 4412 is the carb...
The Holley 4412 is the carb of choice for the ARCA truckers.
"The ARCA sanction has always prided itself on its versatility, competing on a wide variety of tracks, types, and surfaces, even an occasional road course," says Radebaugh. "The truck series has provided the ARCA sanction with another quality option and product to offer track promoters in the Midwest and Canada. If the RE/Max Series is unable to compete at any given track, the ARCA Lincoln Welders Truck Series (ALWTS) can be the next-best thing. Having the ALWTS allows ARCA to promote its brand in more markets across a broader scope. It has also certainly added to our membership base."
Like all racing series at this time, the ALWTS will be faced with a variety of challenges, economically speaking. However, ARCA has longevity on its side and a proven, quality product. As ARCA weathers the current economic crises, it seems confident that the future looks bright in the days to come.
ALWTS competitors are all hard working blue and white collar families that, despite their fulltime jobs, work extremely hard to compete in the series. The competitors are a tight niche group, many of whom have been racing together for years or decades dating back to the old ARCA Pro 4 days. It's an interesting combination of veterans who've been with the tour since its inception and a continual influx of rookies looking to race in a relatively affordable, professional series.
The ARCA Truck
The key to any traveling series is made up mainly by two standards: cost effectiveness and the rules package. ARCA offers great options for both in the traveling truck series. For those who can't afford to race in a big touring group the ALWTS can become a viable option. Every team that competed on the 2008 tour utilized the same chassis and truck at every track on the schedule, whether it was a quarter-mile paved oval or mile dirt track.
The engines also could be considered cost effective in that competitors can utilize a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine with very restrictive rules. They must be dry sump, OEM blocks and cranks, with factory stock production steel or aluminum heads (no porting or polishing allowed). Most, if not all racers, are going with six-cylinder engines these days, renowned for their durability and reliability.
Not surprisingly, the compression ratios do vary as the four cylinders are allowed 12.0:1 at all events and the six-cylinders utilize a maximum of 11.0:1 at all events. The maximum bore and stroke are set for each individual engine brand (Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Toyota). In the name of parity, there are rules such as roller cams being legal in Ford and Dodge, but not in Chevy. The engines themselves are either self-built or built by numerous engine builders.
There's also a carburetor rule (stock base plate with 1 11/16 bore) with the Holley 2 bbl No. 4412 and Barry Grant type-2 bbl being the only two legal options. At this time, however, every competitor is running a Holley with most racers choosing a highly modified version of the 4412 such as those from carb suppliers like C&S Specialties.
The chassis are full out coilover racing chassis with a three-link rearend, no stock parts are used. Howe and Ed & Company are the two most popular types of chassis, while you can also find Pate or Bagman. In some cases, competitors are even building their own.
Interestingly, some teams will run their basic short-track setup just about everywhere and it seems to work out for them. Others will change everything from shocks, springs, caster, camber, tow roll center, and more. The chassis are fully adjustable with the only limit being one spring and one shock per wheel.
With a wheelbase of 108 inches, the total truck weight for competition is 2,200 pounds with driver and all safety gear. Left-side weight does have a variance based on engine; four-cylinder trucks are allowed a maximum of 58 percent left-side weight, while the sixes are limited to 56 percent left-side poundage.
Tech is a very vital and important...
Tech is a very vital and important part of the ARCA truck series.
The added steel door plate...
The added steel door plate is but one of the safety features. Note how everything is within easy reach of the driver.
The quick change rearend and...
The quick change rearend and three-link set up are the basis of all ARCA trucks.
Approved body styles include '04 and up models of the Chevy S-10/Colorado, Ford Ranger, Dodge Dakota, and Toyota Tacoma from either Revenge Bodies or Speedway bodies. These bodies are also required to meet and pass various body templates as well as a minimum ground clearance, spoiler size, and spoiler angle.
The tire rule is pretty simple. There are no limits on the amount of tires used before the start of the race, but trucks must start on the tires used in qualfying. Tires may not be changed after the start unless approved by an ARCA official, basically only for a flat or other damage. The tires are Hoosier 10-23.0 X 13 compounds F45 right F35 left for most tracks except at Iowa Speedway which uses the F45 all around.
To build a brand-new truck from the ground up would cost between $25,000 and $35,000, depending on how much work you can do yourself. There are, however, some good used trucks on the market for between $10,000 and $15,000. The average race expenses run between $1,500 and $1,800 per event including one set of tires, racing fuel, towing fuel, pit passes, normal truck maintenance, and any other accommodation needed for a race weekend.
Safety comes first
"They have very good rules and check on things like they should, especially in the safety department," says Christman. "I give them a rough time sometimes because I think they go overboard on the safety issue. I mean, we're not going 200 mph and we're on small tracks. But, in reality you know, you can't go wrong with safety."
Safety is a very vital part of any ARCA-sanctioned event, the centerpiece being the Safety Initiative program put into effect in 2006 in the RE/Max Series. One year later, it was expanded to the ALWTS. The program is designed to both help and support the ARCA host track's safety crews. Not only do ARCA Safety Initiative personnel work in direct contact with the racetrack safety crews, but they also keep in close contact with the race teams. Reducing the risk of driver injury and response time are two of the key goals the program focuses on achieving.
The truck chassis and rollcage must be made of a minimum 0.095 thickness tubing which is checked on a regular basis by ARCA officials. In addition to the full 'cage, a 1/8 inch steel plate is required to be welded inside the left-side door for extra driver protection. Every truck must be equipped with a minimum of one 5 pound Halon-type fire bottle and its activation lever must be within easy reach of the driver when buckled in the seat. An emergency power shut-off switch must also be placed in the center of dash and clearly marked. A 16-gallon fuel cell with a clearly marked fuel pressure feed shut-off switch mounted on the right side of the driver's compartment is mandatory. The electric fuel pump power source must be tied in with the oil pressure sending switch so that the fuel pump will shut off in the event of engine failure.
In addition to completing an annual physical, the driver must have a five-point, 3-inch-wide safety harness, no more than 3 years old. All drivers are also required to use an ARCA-approved head-and-neck restraint system (HANS). And, as always, a driver side ARCA-approved window net is also a part of the safety features.
A racing seat with plenty...
A racing seat with plenty of support for the driver and a five-point harness are manditory for the ARCA drivers.
Duane Bischoff (No. 15) and...
Duane Bischoff (No. 15) and two-time series Champion Robbin Slaughter race for position.
The front suspension of the...
The front suspension of the ARCA truck.
Shoed with the tire of choice,...
Shoed with the tire of choice, Hoosiers, and a 4 inch ground clearance, this ARCA truck is ready to see action.
What the racers say
Coming from a Go-Kart background ALWTS Rookie driver Kenny Kirsch Jr. decided trucks were the way to go to get to another level and gain some experience. In 2008, his first year, Kirsch finished 13th in overall point standings while capturing the Rookie of the Year title. On the heels of nine career ALWTS starts Kirsch was able to grab two Second Place finishes, one at Toledo (OH) Speedway and another at Iowa Speedway.
"The series was recommended to me as a stepping stone to learn and acquire some knowledge of a traveling racing division," notes Kirsch. "I would like to go bigger someday and this seems to be a good series to learn from some veteran drivers and better myself as I move forward. This is my first year and I'm here to learn. ARCA is a lot of help in the learning department as well as the other competitors."
"When ARCA switched from the Pro-4s to the Trucks there was more enthusiasm from both the promoters and the fans," notes two-time series Champion Robbin Slaughter. "That not only helped us get races at some of the finest tracks in the country, but also garnered more attention from the media. The biggest benefit is ARCA; an established, solid, and well-respected sanctioning body. You don't have to worry about getting paid at the end of the night and you know there'll be a nice point fund at the end of the season."
Perhaps the best endorsement for ARCA's Lincoln Welders Truck Series came from Kirsch Jr., "I'd never been on dirt before until I came to this series. Actually, Paul Hahn, the 2008 ALWTS Champion, has made up setup sheets for each track for me and my team as a guideline. That is very helpful."
That type of camaraderie is just one of the many things that makes the ALWTS so appealing to so many. As a fan you owe it to yourself to go check out a race when it comes to town. As a local racer, you owe it to yourself to consider making the jump to the ALWTS.