NASCAR released the initial framework for the unified ARCA and K&N Pro Series rule book to teams earlier this month, providing the first glimpse at what those two divisions will look like when they race together during the 2020 season.
NASCAR purchased the ARCA Racing Series from Ron Drager in May 2018 and immediately stated an intent to merge it with the K&N Pro Series — at least in terms of combining the two rule books.
What the rules do not address, and this will be the most important element, is how the divisions will level the playing field between the ARCA Ilmor 396 engine and the K&N Yates 364 power plant.
The rules summary released to the teams do address nearly every other element between the two cars as NASCAR hopes to increase car counts across both divisions — including the soon-to-be-detailed Stock Car Invitational, a 10-race short track mini-series that pits ARCA and K&N teams against each other in a miniature combined championship.
Schedules are still to-be-revealed, although ISM Raceway in Phoenix added both a spring K&N race and a fall ARCA race — the latter of which should stand to be the championship races for both ARCA and the SCI.
Generally, teams across both sides of the two garages are optimistic about the process. Most within the sport do believe the goal is to eventually phase out the Yates 364 in favor of the Ilmor 396. For one, itâs a more stable platform, and there is synergy between itself and the Ilmor spec engine currently used in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series.
The entire reasoning behind the merger can best be described by looking at ARCA and K&N races at Iowa Speedway over back-to-back weekends over the past two weeks. The ARCA race produced 19 starters, of which three were start-and-parks. The K&N East-West combination race the following weekend produced 20 starters.
Imagine one Iowa race with 30 legitimate starters. Thatâs what veteran ARCA team manger Billy Venturini of Venturini Motorsports is hoping for too.
“It’s no secret that our car counts are down,” Venturini said. “At the same time, this division is as competitive as it has ever been. I know it looks like we’re mowing everyone down, but the rules are so tight right now that all it takes is finding a small thing and you’ll run a couple off, and eventually Chad Bryant will find the same thing too.”
ARCA experienced a resurgence a little under a decade ago when the NASCAR Cup Series transitioned to the Car of Tomorrow and made old Gen-5 cars available for the division. But car counts started to dwindle around 2014 when teams started building their own chassis. And then came the ARCA Ilmor 396 spec engine and ARCA-K&N unified composite body.
Those developments eliminated some of the smallest teams, a development not lost on Chad Bryant, who purchased the assets of Cunningham Motorsports prior to the 2018 season.
“We’re not immune to it,” Bryant said. “We don’t have a manufacturer affiliation. Those teams, like Venturini or Bill McAnally, this level works for them because they have manufacturer support âŠ
“Overall, I’m optimistic about NASCAR’s plan but not everyone is going to be 100 percent satisfied. The main thing is that with all the recent rules changes, the cost between running with us and running a Truck Series race isnât that much different. So, if youâre a funded driver, why would you run with us when the Truck Series race has a much better television platform and isnât that much more expensive?”
The answer, to both Bryant and Venturini, is an increased age limit for the Truck Series and Xfinity Series.
Imagine a world where you had to be 19-years-old to run the full Truck Series season and 20 to run Xfinity, leaving 18-year-olds to ARCA, K&N and the Stock Car Invitational.
“That would be a game changer,” Venturini said. “It would be an absolute positive thing. Imagine if we could run Chandler Smith for a year once he turns 18? Instead, he will probably run the restrictor plate races and race the Truck Series as soon as he can.
“If NASCAR came out and said, you have to run a year of ARCA first, it strengthens our series but also gives these drivers more seat time. They would be better prepared for Trucks and Xfinity and it increases car counts. And that’s supposed to be what this is about, right?”
Back to the engineering element, both Bryant and Venturini agreed that NASCARâs long-term plan should be to scrap the Yates 364 — but how they balance them next year will be hugely important for participation in the crossover races.
“This first memo isn’t a big deal for anyone,” Venturini said. “The first big thing will be when they come up with the weight rules for the motors. That’s when everything will be decided. What’s come out now, (no) big deal, but once they decide how they are going to regulate two engines that weight 160 lbs. different, and when they say ‘we’re just going to throw lead and frame rail weight and call it even’ will be ridiculous.
“And when that happens, there will have to be some serious things theyâll need to look at.”
But NASCAR canât alienate the K&N teams and their engine either, especially since most of them canât afford to turn around and purchase an Ilmor after investing in the Yates.
Thatâs certainly the case with Sam Huntâs east coast based Pro Series organization. “Weâre excited about the merger but at the same time a little hesitant, as I would say all of the medium-to-smaller teams are,” Hunt said. “I think NASCAR is making a big swing with the new format and I really hope it plays out to benefit everyone.
“As far as the rules, weâre on board with everything but just nervous about the engine situation. Being we have all Yates engines and canât afford to go buy a bunch of Ilmors, we can only pray that the rules end up allowing both engines to genuinely co-exists.”
Hunt made it clear that if the Yates engine is phased out quickly in favor of the Ilmor, it would leave him no choice but to close the doors.
“From a small-to-medium team viewpoint, the GMS-DGR-Venturini teams have plenty of both engines, so it should be much more seamless for them as they already compete in both series.”
Venturini says there is a chance that NASCAR can get balancing two different engines right, but there will be consequences to the car counts if they donât.
“The weight of the two cars is the most important thing,” he said. “And if they don’t get that right, they won’t get any of this right. You can’t just say frame rail weight is the same as motor weight because it’s not close. If they get this right, there is a very good chance that we’re going to see a lot more cars enter both races, but itâs going to be tough.
“In my opinion, they should just go to the ARCA engine and just call it all ARCA.”
Lastly, NASCARâs managing director of regional and touring Brandon Thompson previously stated a desire to attract more than just teenage prospects to the newly merged divisions.
“We want to make sure that series veterans â a Bobby Gerhart on the ARCA side or a Ronnie and Dillon Bassett on the K&N side — have a home so we can kind of get back to creating those staples in those series.”
Enter Josh Williams, a full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver for mid-pack DGM Racing, who took his family-owned No. 6 to two upset ARCA victories in 102 starts over the past decade. He was a championship contender from 2013-2017 but was pushed out when costs began to increase for the reasons mentioned above.
The 25-year-old still owns his ARCA equipment but has only entered two races since 2017. He says heâs been monitoring the rules updates, because he still wants to enter the occasional ARCA and K&N race where his schedule allows.
“The best thing that can happen is if they ditch live pit stops for the short track races,” Williams said. “Give us two extra tires for the race and a halftime break. That allows drivers with tire management skills to come in and contend without having to spend extra money on pit crew like we used to do at places like Salem or Toledo.
“Do it K&N style. I would love to come in and race at a place like South Boston if my ARCA car was compatible. I like what I’m seeing there so far… but the main thing, and I know it’s hard, but they need to increase the purse.
“Itâs going to be hard to pay $5,000 to win these races after spending money on tires, pit crews, spotters and travel. The purse is the biggest thing from my point of view. Itâs either that or make these tires more affordable.”
The complete rules update issued to teams earlier this month can be viewed below.
NASCAR K&N – ARCA Rules Bulletin
Over the past year, NASCAR and ARCA Officials have worked in concert to create a set of rules that enables car owners to compete at the developmental level – from “Tucson to Talladega” – under the same set of rules. The following represent the items that were dissimilar between the ARCA Menards and NASCAR K&N Pro Series.
Of note, the information below is meant to be informational and provide a summary of the forthcoming combined rule book. Complete rules, including information on engines, vehicle weight, etc. will be provided at a later date.
We appreciate your collaboration, cooperation and patience thus far, and look forward to your participation in the future.
Truck Arms: 51″ and 45″ in length with a maximum split of 6 inches
Oil Lines: oil lines will not be permitted in the cockpit
Brakes: must be acceptable to ARCA officials, brake boxes or plenums will not be permitted
Shocks: base valve shocks will be permitted
Track Bar: track bar must be greater than or equal to 40″ in length
Engine Location: 9 1/2″ +/- 1″ measured from the carburetor stud to the base of the windshield
Mirrors: carbon fiber mirrors will be permitted
Race Safe System: system is mandatory in ARCA Menards and combination events, optional in East/West events
Crossmember Supports: will be measured using KBM template
Competitor Electronics: competitors may not wear a watch or carry any electronic device on their person during competition
Engine height: engine must have minimum ground clearance of 10″, maximum ground clearance of 12″
Clutch: rule requires the supplied 7 1/4 clutch to be used on the ARCA Ilmor 396 and the supplied 7 1/4 clutch to be used on the Yates SPEC engine
Dash: both analog and digital dashes will be permitted, however, digital dashes are only permitted with the ARCA Ilmor 396; this will be revised after the 2020 season
Drive Plate: both 1 and 2-piece drive plates will be allowed
Rear End Housing: rear camber (left and right) is a maximum of 2 degrees with .375″ skew
Roof Flaps: competitors using an ARCA Ilmor 396 must have operational roof flaps; competitors using Yates SPEC motors will have the option of running operational roof flaps
Hood Flaps: competitors using an ARCA Ilmore 396 must have operational hood flaps; competitors using Yates SPEC motors have the option of running operational hood flaps
Adjustable Braces: single and adjustable body bracing will be permitted
Wind Shield: laminated windshields are required in ARCA Menards and combination races; non-laminated windshields are permitted in East and West events
Side Glass: side glass must be used on oval tracks greater than 1.25mi in length
Front Springs: maximum front Spring height is 10 1/2
Battery: battery mounting on the right or left side will be permitted; by 2022 all batteries must be left side mounted
Frame Rail Height: ground clearance 4 3/4 height (min.)
Fire Bottle Location: bottle mounted behind seats or on the right side will be permitted
Floor Pans: factory or fabricated floor pans are required
Fuel Cell Heights: 8″ (min) measured from the ground to the bottom of fuel cell well
Rear Springs: 4 3/4″ (min.) to 5 1/4 (max.) diameter
Transmission: minimum weight requirement of 80 lbs.
Drive Shaft: minimum 3 1/2 diameter and .065 thickness
Tread width: 60 1/4″ (min) and 50 3/4 (max, front and rear) measurement with an additional 1″ (front and rear) for Gen-5 cars
RPM Management: gear ratio will be used to limit RPM
All Belts to Seat: ABS system will be permitted and recommended
Bushings: only monoball bushings will be permitted
Oil Tanks: oil tanks cannot be changed after inspection unless approved by a series director
Front Sway Bar: mounting tube must not exceed 3″ (max) diameter
Rear Sway Bar: will be permitted at road courses only