Second Fiddle : Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series · Amy Henderson · Thursday June 29, 2006
It's hard to believe that the race season is just about half over. It wasn't long ago that all three of NASCAR's top three series roared into Daytona for their season openers; this week, the Busch Series returns to mark the semi-unofficial halfway point of the season, while the Craftsman Truck Series heads to Kansas, still a little under halfway through thanks to a shorter schedule that picks up later in the season. Looking back on the first half, there are quite a few burning questions that I’ve come up with that have been busy smoldering away in my head; now seems as good a time as any to try and come up with some answers.
Why isn't the Craftsman Truck Series at least as popular as the Busch Series in terms of television ratings or attendance?
The racing is great – old school beating and banging can still be found here, where track position occasionally still trumps aerodynamics. Trucks race side-by-side for lap after lap, and by the end of every race, half the field looks like they've bounced off something. There are last lap passes and bump-and-runs. Unfortunately, there are fewer big name drivers and more standalone races. Not that Cup interlopers would necessarily be any better for the Truck Series than they are for the Busch Series, but more companion events with Cup races would bring a lot of fans already there for the race to the stands, and I have to believe that once they saw a few Truck races in person, they'd be hooked. Switching out some of the Truck standalone events with the Busch Series would be great; the Busch Series could benefit from more standalones to cut down on the Buschwhackers. Truck races are also shown on a network, SPEED, that many people still don't have – and if people don't see it on TV, they may not go to the track to see it, either. Too bad for them.
Will anyone be able to beat Mark Martin when he runs CTS full-time in 2007?
Based on his part-time performances in 2006, it's hard to bet against Martin, but absolutely, with a little luck, there are teams than can beat him in single races and for the championship. Face it; Roush Racing will throw more money at that team for a handful of races than many teams see all year. It may not be fair, but that’s the way it is. Still, despite that monetary advantage there are several drivers able to give Martin a run for his money. Todd Bodine is perfectly suited to the Truck Series; he can use his bumpers and fenders to his heart's content, and not leave half the field in a smoking wreck grumbling about the “cueball headed fool” that wrecked them. As long as his team stays committed to Trucks in 2007, Bodine is a force to be reckoned with everywhere the series goes. Meanwhile, Johnny Benson showcased the power of his team against the Roush juggernaut by holding off Martin himself for his first Truck Series victory at Michigan, and followed that one up with another win the next week at Milwaukee. There are several other drivers that won’t back down to the #6 team, too – Ted Musgrave, Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner, and David Reutimann. On any given day, the playing field in the CTS is more level than the other two top series, and there are several teams capable of winning. If Martin wins the championship, he'll have to fight for it.
Can the Busch Regulars continue to win against the Buschwhackers?
Um, yes. It won't be a regular thing, but given the right circumstances, there are a few regular Busch teams capable of finding Victory Lane this year. Mike Wallace is as good a restrictor plate driver as anyone, and could well be a threat at Daytona. Jason Leffler has had outstanding racecars from Braun-Akins Motorsports…just abysmal luck. Jon Wood continues to improve and could be a threat to win late in the season in his ST Motorsports Ford. Kenny Wallace has climbed from a season low 22nd in points to ninth, and his team gets better every week. Last but not least, Johnny Sauter can and will short track it with anyone, making him a threat at Bristol, Martinsville, and Memphis.
Will all these all win this year? Probably not. But it's also unrealistic to think that none of the Busch regulars can find Victory Lane again before 2006 comes to a close.
Lucky for us race fans, we have the rest of the year to search for answers to our questions; not only that, but there won't be a quiz, and you don't have to take notes. Isn't racing great?
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