The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks : A Series in Trouble? by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday July 5, 2007

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Tearing Apart the Trucks : A Series in Trouble?

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday July 5, 2007

 

After eight weeks straight, the Craftsman Truck Series drivers get a break in their 25-race schedule. Since off weeks tend to be slow on news, I got to thinking about the series and the shape it’s in. Week in and week out, television coverage shows massive amounts of empty seating at every track, but is the lowest tier of NASCAR’s “big three” in trouble?

As NASCAR’s red-headed step child, the Craftsman Truck Series gets the least coverage of the three ‘top tier’ series. One of the biggest problems in building a larger fan base is where the races are aired. Although nearly everyone has access to cable television, an astonishing number of fans do not have Speed Channel. I’ve talked to several people that have told me they would actually watch truck races if they were on network television.

Airing races on Speed isn’t the only problem plaguing the series. A lack of money and sponsorships have forced several teams to close up shop, leaving their drivers scrambling for a ride. Sutton Motorsports was forced to close their doors mid-season in 2006 shortly after an injury sidelined driver Kelly Sutton. Earlier this season, all of their equipment was auctioned off; while Sutton has raced a few races this season for Billy Ballew Motorsports. However, trouble isn’t only an issue for smaller name teams. Evernham Motorsports closed the No. 98 team that Erin Crocker used to drive for following the loss of Betty Crocker as their primary sponsor.

Brad Keselowski drove for his family-owned team, but a lack of sponsorship dollars forced them to shut their doors as well. Keselowski went on to the Busch series and has run 13 races so far this season, as well at three truck series events. Brad ran the No. 7 Hooters Energy Drink Chevy at Atlanta and Martinsville in the early part of this season. Perhaps the more interesting run was last weekend at Memphis when he stepped into the No. 9 Team ASE Toyota Tundra for the suspended Ted Musgrave.

So far this year, the Truck Series has failed to have a full field for twenty-five percent of the races run (California, Atlanta and Texas). You can dismiss it as just three races, but at that pace, the number could double by the end of the season. If NASCAR continues to see the truck series struggle to make a full field, they’re likely to make some major changes or worse.

The truck series’ considerably smaller fan base, money woes and a lack of a full field every week threaten to take the twelve year old series down, but that isn’t something to worry about in the immediate future.

Truck Series News This Week:

-Jack Sprague and fiancee were married on Tuesday, July 3rd in Hilton Head, NC.

-Rumor has it that Iowa Speedway and Richmond International Raceway will be added to the 2008 schedule. There has been no official word from NASCAR on next year’s schedule yet.

-Pennington Motorsports will be making an announcement next week about a manufacturer switch from Chevrolet to Dodge. The team has also confirmed that Jason White will remain the No. 7 Hooters Energy Drink truck for the rest of the 2007 season.

-Travis Kvapil’s winning engine was taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center following the O’Reilly 200. During post-race inspection, officials found an unidentified issue with the engine and took it to Concord to evaluate it more thoroughly. NASCAR announced Monday that the engine passed the inspection at their R&D Center.

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Jackie Johnson
07/05/2007 11:31 PM
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Hell, given my druthers I’d much rather go to a truck race than a Busch race, and here lately they’ve even been better than the Cup races. People don’t know what they are missing, and are probably not really racing fans anyway. Otherwise they would take every chance they get to go watch any kind of racing available. The NCTS and dirt racing never fail to entertain.

HankZ
07/06/2007 06:00 AM
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Add me to the list – I haven’t seen a truck race in three years, don’t have the Speed channel. And pretty much not bothered by it.

Ed
07/06/2007 06:00 AM
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It’s the best series around and always has been. The early years on all of the little bull rings was great racing. It has gone down hill as they have moved it to the larger tracks. Maybe NASCAR should take it back to the small tracks away from the big venues. Of course it wasn’t Brian France’s idea in the first place, so I’m sure he doesn’t care. On the other hand, maybe there is a fear of the series, since the racing is so much better. Maybe they are afraid to reach too many people for fear that fans might realize where the better racing is.

Scott
07/06/2007 07:07 AM
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To me the truck races are where NASCAR was twenty years ago. That is when the racing was really good. I agree with Jackie that the truck races have actually been better, in some cases, than the Busch and Cup races. If people would actually give it a chance and quit looking down their noses at it, then they would find out just how good these guys are.

Rick
07/06/2007 08:42 AM
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I watch all three series of racing and the trucks are the best! They were even better when they were doing mostly short tracks plus there is less hype and garbage during the race with the broadcast booth

Vito Pugliese FS-Staff
07/06/2007 11:03 AM
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It doesn’t help either that the races are on Friday night at 9pm. Sorry, but that all-important 18-34 demographic isn’t sitting around waiting for a green/white/wrecker finish. They needt to combine them with the Busch races on Saturday, and maybe, just maybe….get things going before 3pm.

Mike
07/06/2007 03:13 PM
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The Truck Series is actually the best of the big three NASCAR series. It cost less to get into than Cup does. And there isn’t the continuing problem of Buschwackers like the Cup Lite Series has. They race side by side, swap a little paint here and there, and on some tracks are faster than the Kit Car that will be running full-time next year in Cup.

However, NASCAR has been tinkering with it and not necessarily for the best. The first thing they did was introduce the splitter to get information for the COT. That’s made the trucks extremely loose and caused aero problems. Now they’re testing a couple of trucks with what is basically a crate engine. NASCAR needs to leave well enough alone and not mess up the Truck Series like they have Cup and Cup Lite.

raceguy
07/06/2007 05:30 PM
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I think the main problem is on speed. Which here you have to pay extra to get. And racing on Fri nights. I would have qualifing on Fri. Then race Trucks Sat Day and mini-cup Sat night.

Kim
07/06/2007 07:13 PM
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SPEED channel is out of my price range here in this portion of Comcast-land. To get it, I’d have to spend about $20 more a month and get a “sports package” in which SPEED would be the only channel I wanted to watch!

Other cable companies (specifically, one I can’t name for professional reasons but who used to be a Busch sponsor :-) ) still carries SPEED in their expanded basic lineup.

The channel itself could get tough on cable companies and make it a condition of their contract renewal that the channel be moved into the expanded basic channel range. That type of contractual agreement is done all the time in the cable industry.

If I had SPEED on expanded basic cable, I’d watch it for the truck races and the additional Cup coverage it offers.

Dennis
07/06/2007 08:58 PM
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I too love to watch the trucks, but I don’t have speed and Friday Night is tough. They need to have the on Saturday with the Busch Races. It was great here at NHIS when they had a Saturday Double Header with the Busch and Trucks. All you have to see is one truck race to get hooked. I’d rather watch the trucks before the cup than that damn prerace crap. Now that would be the exposure it needs.

Sandra Hoebee
07/07/2007 01:56 AM
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The trucks are my favorite racing in NASCAR. The drivers are underpaid and the networks do not cover the truck enough.The drivers are so kind and willing to sign autographs. Plus they will talk with you when signing. Truck racing is the best racing out there.

boomer#8
07/07/2007 01:52 PM
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i agree with all that shout NCTS is the “best of the 3!” there’s no doubt that most green flags are not at the most ideal times, but what else can you do in Southwest Florida?! the racing is great and you can’t beat watching a kid that raced for mom and pop step into good equipment (Brad Keselowski, anyone?) and school some vets! i’ve had the opportunity to meet Todd Bodine and Ted Musgrave twice in the past year when they came for meet-and-greets and they seemed to be genuine people that weren’t being hassled by time constraints … they even took rides around the Swamp Buggy racetrack that weekend! if NASCAR can do one thing right in the future, DON’T “F” with NCTS!!!!!

matt
07/07/2007 03:38 PM
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The Truck Series is the BEST racing in Nascar by far. My dad and I drive 200 miles every summer to catch the NCTS/IRL weekend in Ft. Worth because it’s the two best races that come to Texas Motor Speedway every year. I actually follow the NCTS more than Cup at this point. All of the interesting characters are in the trucks nowadays, the door-to-door racing is still there, and watching the guys I grew up watching in the late 80s and 90s drive still is awesome.

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