So, you're king of your local track and have the competition covered on a regular basis? And you've been whipping up on them so bad the track is now known as your "house." Well, what's next, Hot Dog?
If you're thinking NASCAR Nextel Cup, the logical step up from local track king may be the ARCA RE/MAX Super Car Series. ARCA runs virtually the same cars on many of the same tracks as NASCAR. The fit is so precise that NASCAR teams working development deals use ARCA races to educate and evaluate their new talent.
"I think the best way to go, for a late-model racer or somebody wanting to move up, would be to do a deal and go run Salem (IN)," says Larry Clement, an ARCA championship team owner. "If you can run fast and competitively at Salem, you can drive any speedway track there is. If you're driving a 2,800- to 3,000-pound late-model with 400 or 500 hp, and you get into a 3,400-pound car with way more horsepower, it's a big transition to make . . . If somebody's got the talent to run there, I think they could go to Michigan or Kentucky and stay out of trouble and be competitive if they're in the right car."
So, you take your test drive, do well, and decide to go ARCA racing. But how much should it cost? We talked to a few top ARCA teams that were willing to give us real numbers on what it costs to run in the series.
Bill Venturini is a two-time ARCA Champion (1987 and '91) and owns the ARCA car his son, Billy, drives. "What's it take to do it right?" says Bill. "We'll spend close to $350,000, probably, by the end of this year. That's for the whole year."
The biggest part of his budget is the same in basically any type of racing. "Everyone bitches about the tire bill, and rightfully so, because it's a necessary evil," he says. "We'll probably spend more than a quarter of our budget on tires. My tire bill at the end of the year will probably be about $90,000 . . . Usually engines are my next biggest expense, but I'm hooked up with Shaver Racing Engines this year and they've got a kick-butt contingency program and I've qualified for it at a lot of races. So it's helped me keep my engine bill in check."
But Venturini has learned to cut some expenses. "Hotel bills," he says. "I haven't paid for a hotel in two years. Believe me, I work my butt off to get those free hotel rooms. I spend 40 hours a week on the phone working deals. Ruby Tuesday's restaurants have been great. Most of the cities we go to, the Ruby Tuesday's restaurants give us free dinners. I put a Ruby Tuesday's decal on the car. That may not seem like a lot of deals, but I've got a lot of volunteer help that comes every week. When we go to dinner, there's 14 of us. My dinner bill is like $400. That's how I do it."
He talks about the guys who have won ARCA championships: "You know, the Bowshers, the Keselowskis, the Venturinis, the Kimmels-we've been here for 30 years, so we have to know how to stretch a penny. If we need a part that's going to make us better, we figure out a way to afford it. I'd die for a million-dollar sponsorship right now."
Money TrailWith ARCA RE/MAX and NASCAR Nextel Cup cars being the same, there are quite a few deals available on used cars. "Today, you could go buy an excellent Nextel Cup car for $25,000-for whatever [track use] you want except [plate] superspeedways," says Venturini. "What used to be your big-dollar expense was buying the car and engine; today it's not. Granted, if you build a new one, you're going to spend $60,000-$70,000 to build it, where you can go buy one that's one year old for $25,000. You're a fool not to. That's what we're all doing now."