Beth Lunkenheimer · Friday March 21, 2008
Once again, Craftsman Truck Series fans have to wait another week to see anymore on track action when the series returns to the track next weekend at Martinsville Speedway. The ratings for the American Commercial Lines 200 a couple weeks ago in Atlanta showed a 31 percent jump, netting 753,000 households compared to the 565,000 for the same race in 2007. Despite climbing ratings reports, the truck series remains the least popular of NASCAR’s top three series. Inspired by a column earlier this week by fellow writer Danny Peters, I give you four reasons why you should watch the Truck Series.
Week in and week out, the drivers of the truck series put on a show Sprint Cup drivers could only dream of. Side by side racing for the lead and last lap passes for the win are only the beginning.
The drivers in the truck series drive their hearts out in the name of racing and not necessarily a points lead week in and week out. Of course they’re all in it for the ultimate prize, the championship and a spot at the head of the table at the yearly Craftsman Truck Series banquet, however, they’ll still race as hard as their equipment will allow.
The truck series has continually brought new talent to the attention of team owners and fans alike. Each year, you can count on at least one new face making preparations for a future in the Nationwide or Sprint Cup series, and 2008 is no exception. A rookie class of six full time drivers this year provides plenty of new talent. At Daytona, all six of those rookies finished in the Top 15.
In 2007, three drivers went into the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami with a chance to come home as the Rookie of the Year. Willie Allen, Tim Sauter and Joey Clanton found themselves separated by just nine points in a battle won by Willie Allen.
Currently, four of the seven rookie of the year contenders this season sit in the Top 20 in points, with Phillip McGilton leading the way in tenth. Over the years, guys like Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and others have made their NASCAR starts in the truck series and gone on to successful careers in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, and that will continue to be the case as time goes on.
Close Championship Battles
Year after year, the truck series never fails to present a close battle for the championship right down to the very end. Near the end of the 2006 season, I examined how close most of the points battles have been in the history of the series.
The battle between Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday, Jr. last season was a perfect example of these close points battles. Skinner and Hornaday, Jr. swapped the points lead multiple times while each running for their championship. Week after week, the two swapped the top spot until it came down to the final race. Going into the race, Skinner held a solid 29 point lead, but he needed a smooth 200 mile race to seal the deal. It wasn’t meant to be, and a faulty tire hub ultimately sealed the deal for Ron Hornaday, Jr. who won the championship by 54 points.
With Kyle Busch currently tearing up the standings and leading for the third week in a row, most of the focus has been on him, but positions two through nine show a close points battle with eight drivers separated by a mere 100 points.
Before you have a cow, hear me out. Kyle Busch has made it no secret he loves to race in the Truck Series. The only real problem with Kyle Busch in the truck series is the fact that he’s Kyle Busch. He’s a driver fans love to hate; there never was much complaining when Mark Martin spent some of his free time racing with the truck series drivers.
In his first start in the series, a 16-year-old Kyle Busch ran the No. 99 for Roush Racing and brought his truck home to a ninth-place finish. Shortly after, NASCAR put a rule in place requiring drivers to be at least 18 years of age before they were eligible to run in any of the top three series. In just 38 starts since then, the 22-year-old has eight wins and 24 Top 10 finishes under his belt.
So far this season, Busch has two wins and a runner-up finish in three starts and looks to add to that total in a ride that he’s sharing with David Stremme. Sure he makes some edgy moves early on in the race and sometimes makes you wonder what he’s thinking, but the younger Busch is an asset to the series.
This is the perfect time to give the Craftsman Truck Series a chance even if you don’t get the Speed Channel. The Kroger 250 from Martinsville Speedway will be televised on Fox Friday, March 29th at 7:00 pm EST. Check it out; you may find you like it.
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