WORLD AWAY FROM THE FIA
RACING IN THE UNITED STATES BOTH THRIVES AND struggles because of the sport’s immense diversity, which enables it to present so many different forms of
sport identities and brands to the American public. Since the early 20th century American racing has witnessed the comings and goings of many sanctioning bodies, from the ACA and AAA, through the ARCA and SCCA, to NASCAR, USAC, IMSA, ALMS, CART, IRL, NHRA and IHRA, to name just a few… Each of these organisations presided at different times over various major forms of American motor racing. Some have been consigned to history’s trash heap. Others have survived, and in the case of NASCAR and NHRA they’ve thrived American stock car racing under NASCAR’s leadership and drag racing led by the NHRA are two of the world’s most robust forms of motor sport
For many years NASCAR and the NHRA were run as dictatorships by their respective founders, Bill France Sr and Wally Parks. Over half a century Bill Sr and his oldest son Bill Jr used iron fists to control stock car racing and build the country’s most successful series. They also understood the importance of fostering the development of professional drivers, teams and tracks, and constructed a ladder system from what is now the pinnacle Sprint Cup series down to the grass roots.
These days NASCAR sanctions half a dozen secondand thirdtier championships, from the Nationwide and Truck series through to Modifieds and Sportsmen. In recent years it has also developed a healthy Canadian stock car championship sponsored by Canadian Tire, the country’s largest automotive retailer. And the huge growth of the motor racing industry in North Carolina, which is now very much the centre of America’s racing business, is a testament both to NASCAR’s good health and the hard work done over five decades by Big Bill France and Bill Jr. The rest of the vast world of American racing is a shining example
of the free market vigorously at work, if not a riot of anarchy. Motor racing thrives in many forms in America from NASCAR and NHRA to sports car and lndycar racing, off-road and desert racing, sprint cars, midgets (above), modifieds, late models, SCCA and NARRA club road racing you name it, they’re out there. As in Europe and elsewhere, vintage and historic racing is particularly healthy in America, if rather fractious with too many sanctioning groups fighting each other rather than working together which tends to be the story of the sport as a whole in the US.
The measure of American racing’s thriving diversity is in the number of tracks, sanctioning bodies and race series listed in the National Speedway Directory. Published annually by Tim Frost and Allan Brown (www.speedwaysonline.com) this little treasure of a book lists no fewer than 1330 ovals, drag strips and road courses across the United States, plus another 145 in Canada. In the US, Frost and Brown list 732 dirt ovals, 227 paved ovals, 285 drag strips and 86 road courses. Across Canada there are a further 46 dirt ovals, 42 paved ovals, 41 drag strips and 16 road courses. The directory also lists 212 championships in the US and Canada.
Of course, the vast majority of these races and championships are run independently by one of no fewer than 278 North American sanctioning bodies. At all but a handful of races the FIA wields no power or control. The FIA’s American affiliate is ACCUS (Automobile Competition Committee of the United States), run by long-time SCCA man Nick Craw, who is also the FIA’s Formula 1 Ambassador. ACCUS issues international competition licences to American drivers but has no real power over any US sanctioning body. Craw is concerned primarily with Fl and is always present at any North American Grand Prix.
So America is and always will be motor racing’s true Wild West. For better or worse, it will inevitably go its own many ways without influence from the FIA. It’s a separate world.