How to Make Motorsports Relevant – the North American Racing Championship

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
how to make motorsports relevant the north american racing championship

Our recent post asking what possible relevance most automobile racing has to the consumer side of the auto industry has me thinking about a race series idea that’s been percolating in my head for a while. The goal of the concept is to come up with a racing series that will resonate both with consumers (read: auto manufacturers) and racing enthusiasts. So far, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of cars, rules, tracks and schedules would be involved, but as yet I haven’t come up with some kind of catchy acronymic name.

To begin with, it would be based on production cars in North America and the races would be run in all three countries that make up the continent — Canada, Mexico, and the United States. That should get some manufacturers involved, if not fielding works teams, at least in terms of funding, PR, and technical support.

Perhaps the result of NAFTA, automotive assembly and component plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico are now effectively interlinked into one logistical whole, so making a racing series aimed at those three countries make sense. Also, it would allow some weather scheduling advantages.

In terms of a formula and rules, the series would be open to any production car made or sold in North America that meets all applicable safety and pollution standards in the countries where it is marketed. I’m not sure there needs to be a specified number of homologated vehicles, because meeting gov’t regs would almost necessarily mean we’re talking about cars made by the hundreds at least. Rear-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, front-wheel drive; they’re all eligible. Same thing with engines. No restrictions on cylinder count or layout — inline, vees, Ws, and flat engines are all permitted. Naturally aspirated mills, turbos, superchargers — they’re all welcome if they’re factory. If that car is sold with that engine, you can run it. Hybrids, too, though they’ll have to use stock motors and battery packs. Since some of the sports car racing series have handicapped some production engines (the Corvette and Cadillac racing teams have at times run with less power than the production versions of their race cars) to keep them from dominating their competition, restricting the series to production drivetrains shouldn’t be an issue.

Basic architecture, powertrain and layout has to remain factory, though stiffening via roll cages will be allowed. Suspension layouts and mounting points have to remain stock. Production engines will be used, although some performance mods will be permitted, like gas-flowing heads and bigger throttle bodies.

The tracks that the series would run on are chosen to appeal to a variety of motorsports fans, close to the grassroots level, but still professional. There would be a rotating four week schedule with the series visiting road courses, 1/4 mile dragstrips, 1/2 mile ovals (some of them dirt tracks), and rallycross setups (perhaps in stadiums). I don’t know if in total more people go to races at big NASCAR/IndyCar level events or at smaller scale events, but there are undoubtedly a bunch of folks who go out to watch those more grassroots races. The number of people who race at smaller venues is unquestionably greater than at the rarefied levels of the sport.

Tires, springs, and suspension settings changes would be allowed for the different tracks, but the cars would still have to be mechanically the same. The events on courses would be relatively short — one hour of green flag racing, to keep things television friendly. I’d bet that a measurable number of folks doze off in front of their television during a 100+ lap race.

In terms of the schedule, the series would start in Mexico in February, after the National Football League’s Superbowl, but before NASCAR’s season opener, the Daytona 500. Those three weeks are a deadzone for televised sports. Spring training for baseball doesn’t start till mid February. The only sports you’d be competing with would be the second tier major league sports, basketball and hockey. [Second tier? Hockey? -Mark] After races in Mexico, have events scheduled in the U.S. from California through the southwest and Texas and maybe some events in the southeast. When it’s warm enough, the series moves to Canada, with events in eastern and western provinces. Then back to the U.S. to wrap things up in September, before the baseball playoffs begin and before the NFL season starts dominating sports news.

There would be championships for each racing discipline, plus overall championships for both drivers and manufacturers.

The cars that would be racing would be cars that people drive so consumers can identify with things and car companies can go back to the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” mindset, well, at least a little bit. They’d be racing in the formats that are the most popular participatory motorsports in North America, so racing enthusiasts of differing stripes will appreciate it. By keeping things more or less factory, that would keep costs down, and by making it open to all cars sold or built on the continent, there’d be interest from more than just the domestic American automakers.

I think the idea has potential. If you agree or disagree, let us know in the comments. Also, if you can come up with a name for the series that works out to a clever acronym, feel free to suggest it. I was going to use North American Racing Championship, but I’m not sure if NARC would yield positive Q scores.

[Images sourced from Ford, Wikimedia Commons]

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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2 of 20 comments
  • JMII JMII on Jul 07, 2015

    The photo is from Global Rally Cross and if you are a fan of motorsports I highly recommend attending an event. It is about the most fan friendly racing even I have ever been to - other then track days when you use your own car of course. The pits are wide open, the cars and drivers are arm's length away and everyone is super friendly. Indy comes a close second because it's popularity isn't very high thus getting up close and personal with the drivers is not a problem. I'd love to see a British Touring Car (BTC) like series take off in the US. A few series have been around like this but none of them seem to gain any traction. I love the idea of seeing real stock cars racing, cars I can actually buy. Just gut the interior, swap out the tires and go for it. Sure there could be classes where various levels of upgrades are allowed from suspension all the way up to engine swaps. I've said it before: to keep one manufacturing or model from dominating use the BTC system where a win equals a weight penalty. I also wouldn't mind a more or less open series with very lose rules similar to F1 in the 70/80s where pretty anything goes in quest for all out speed thru crazy ideas (6 wheels! hey why not?). A series where technology is pushed to the limits in order to introduce advanced concepts like hybrid power, adaptive suspension, etc.

  • Kuman Kuman on Jul 08, 2015

    I rather watch lemon races... Lemons are more intriguing its fun and it inspires mere mortal to make do with what they have rather than waiting for corporate mercy

  • Cprescott The good news is replacement sheet metal and parts are easily found. Would make a nice restoration project even if it is not the most desirable model. I love black cars with red interiors!
  • Cprescott Jim Farley and the Fire Starters. Perhaps he should throw his wig into the fire!
  • MaintenanceCosts Seems like a decent candidate for someone who wants to restore a Mustang. The year/configuration/body style combination is pretty desirable; only a 4-speed would make it better, although there are complete kits to make the conversion. The great thing about early Mustangs is that every single part is readily available from somewhere.
  • Dukeisduke It's in better shape than the '69 coupe that Mike Finnegan bought, that's in the latest episode of Roadkill.
  • Spookiness Friends have a new PHEV of this and like it a lot. It's an interesting dark green color.