The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks : Three Ways You Can Improve The Series by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday May 16, 2008

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After taking yet another two weekends off, the Craftsman Truck Series returns to action at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Over the last few seasons, I’ve learned just how much I love the Truck Series; given the choice, I would watch a Truck Series race before I would watch a Sprint Cup or Nationwide one, hands down. A couple months ago, in fact I gave you four reasons to watch the Truck Series . But I understand that just like some people, no series is perfect. This week, I’ll turn the tables and take a look at things I’d like to see in the coming weeks, as well as over the next few years in the series.

More Promotion

The Truck Series has been treated like the “red-headed stepchild” of NASCAR for as long as I can remember. Compared to the Sprint Cup and Nationwide divisions, the Truck Series ends up overlooked the majority of the time when it comes to getting the word out and overall publicity. Only a small portion of nascar.com is devoted to the Truck Series, and fans are lucky to find it updated once a week unless something major is happening.

I don’t deny the fact that the series has gotten more mention in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series broadcasts because of the seemingly unstoppable Kyle Busch. But it shouldn’t take a Sprint Cup driver dominating the series for people to pay attention. The regular talent is plenty of reason to turn your eyes my way. With names like Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Todd Bodine, you can’t go wrong in promoting the excitement of racing.

A prime example of the series being completely overlooked actually popped up tonight while I was listening to a local sports talk radio show. Eddie Gossage, general manager of Texas Motor Speedway, was interviewed on the show about the upcoming Indy race at the track; but not once in the fifteen minute interview did Gossage mention the Truck Series race that runs the night before. If the powers that be in NASCAR, broadcasters, and track personnel would spend more time promoting the series, I have no doubt tickets would sell better and popularity would rise immensely.

We need a CTS regular to dominate.

I mentioned Kyle Busch as one of the reasons to watch the Truck Series, but he also falls into something I’d like to see change. In four starts, Kyle Busch won two races, finished second in one and led the points up until he missed the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway. While there’s no denying the talent Busch has and the appeal he has brought to the Truck Series, his style of racing could actually hurt everything in the long run.

Kyle Busch has done his share to stir the part during the 2008 Truck Series season.

Since the younger Busch brother isn’t running the full schedule, he’s more likely to take risks on the track. A prime example of that was when he wheel hopped and got into Johnny Benson at Martinsville. And in a race that should have seen Busch finish in the Top 5 along with Benson, they were relegated to finishing in the low 20s instead. And while the finish didn’t really hurt the driver of the No. 51, Johnny Benson took a major points hit and dropped four spots.

Benson drives for Bill Davis Racing, so one bad finish isn’t going to be the difference between being able to continue racing or sitting on the sidelines. But that’s not necessarily the case for people like Derrike Cope, who just started a small race team of his own. Drivers need to be more careful…

Change the schedule.

This is one that we can’t and won’t see this season, but still remains as one of the most important changes that needs to be made. Last season, I wrote advocating that NASCAR change the schedule to spread the 16 off weeks out more evenly throughout the 25 race season. This weekend marks just the sixth race in the three months since the season started on February 15th at Daytona International Speedway.

Of the 16 off weekends found in the Craftsman Truck Series schedule, eight of them fall in the first three months of the season, but after this weekend, the series takes no more than one weekend off between races the remainder of the season. The inconsistency is tough; it’s not only hard on the drivers and teams but it’s also hard on the fan base. For the first few months, it’s virtually impossible for teams to build any kind of momentum to carry them through the next race. While it’s not as significant, the same thing happens to the fans and probably contributes to the lack of attention the series receives at all.

I’m sure there are plenty of other things that could change and benefit the series; this is only a small portion. By no means is the series in serious trouble; but if things don’t change to help raise the popularity, it could be. It’s sad to see how empty the stands are every time I watch a race.

Did You Know…

  • Landon Cassill will be making his second start in the Craftsman Truck Series tonight, piloting the No. 46 Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Chevrolet? Previously, the 18-year-old made his debut in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway, starting 21st and finishing 13th.
  • Stacy Compton will be making his first start in the Craftsman Truck Series at Lowe’s tonight? Compton has never raced at Lowe’s in the Truck Series, but has five Sprint Cup Series and ten Nationwide Series starts at the track.
  • Kyle Busch with be launching his “Rowdy Busch” line of truck and super late model apparel on May 19th? Once launched, merchandise can be purchased at rowdybusch.com.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum
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J Furjanic
05/16/2008 07:57 AM
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I agree. I attend the Truck race @ IRP every year, and it’s better than any Sprint Cup race.

The one other change I’d make is the lock in rule. Go fast or go home. This is one series where an upstart team may have a shot at making the field on talent if there were enough open slots in the field.

john
05/16/2008 12:04 PM
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couldn’t agree more about comparing the two series—I’ll watch every truck race, but only catch a handful of Cup races. The truck races are just the right length to not get bored or leave the TV, they have real personalities and a lot of gritty veterans, and they tend to race on more REAL racetracks.

Dot
05/16/2008 02:32 PM
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I love the Truck Series. It reminds me of Cup racing in the 90’s. I agree with you about the schedule. They could spread it out a little better.
The guys in the booth need to promote the other drivers in the CTS. Forget Weed. He’s only a guest. Points for this series (and NW) should only go to the regulars.

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