The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks: Championship Excitement and Off-Weekend Thoughts by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday September 30, 2010

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Tearing Apart the Trucks: Championship Excitement and Off-Weekend Thoughts

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday September 30, 2010

 

This weekend, the Camping World Truck Series has the first of three consecutive off-weekends before the final five-race trek to “Ford Championship Weekend” at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. Because the series is off this weekend, I borrowed a portion of the layout for the “Big Six” that runs in the Frontstretch Newsletter Mondays following Cup Series race weekends to take a look at a few thoughts about the series.

What should Austin Dillon do next season?

Ever since Austin Dillon notched his second career win last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I’ve been reading suggestions that the 20-year-old driver should make the move to the Nationwide Series for next season. But is that really a good idea?

Absolutely not!

Sure, Dillon has had a good rookie season where he has seen marked improvement over earlier this season, but it’s not time to rush him up to the Nationwide Series. Even with five poles and 14 top-10 finishes in 20 starts, the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet could use another year in the Truck Series. The experience he gains alongside veterans like Todd Bodine, Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Mike Skinner will prove invaluable to him for the future of his NASCAR career.

When will NASCAR fix the Truck Series schedule?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until they fix it—the Truck Series schedule as it stands is asinine.

Despite being championship season across the motorsports scene, the engines of the Truck Series will be silent nearly the entire month of October, a scheduling conundrum that NASCAR needs to soon address.

A few weeks ago, we talked about the schedule in Mirror Driving, and a few different ideas were thrown around including starting the season later, ending the season earlier and increasing the number of races in the season.

I can understand the reason behind suggestions to start the season later or end it earlier, but I don’t like the idea at all.

An increase to the number of races on the schedule could work with one huge exception—NASCAR must increase the purse money offered each week. The series features entirely too many start-and-park ventures each week as it is, and an increase to the schedule without an increase in purse money is just asking for a disaster.

Because the schedule for the 2011 season is already set, there’s no way it can be realigned in time for Daytona in February, but I’m appealing to NASCAR to seriously consider a complete overhaul for the 2012 schedule. Come on, NASCAR—please fix the schedule!

Where’s the championship excitement?

With just five races remaining Todd Bodine holds a nearly insurmountable 262-point lead over Aric Almirola, compared to Ron Hornaday, Jr.‘s 197-point lead over Matt Crafton at this point last season. As it stands now, Bodine needs to finish seventh or better in the remaining five races to clinch the championship, even if Almirola is able to win each race and lead the most laps—which we all know won’t happen thanks to the competition level in the series.

So, for the second consecutive year, the championship looks like it’ll be a complete blowout. However, things are just starting to heat up elsewhere in the top 10, where second through sixth is separated by just 161 points. Johnny Sauter’s second-place finish last weekend moved him to within 38 points of Aric Almirola, while Austin Dillon’s second career win put him just 88 points behind Sauter. And behind them, Timothy Peters and Matt Crafton are currently tied for fifth, but Timothy Peters holds the slight advantage thanks to his season-opening win at Daytona.

In a series where the championship is decided by the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway more often than not, a blowout at the top of the standings isn’t very promising, but the excitement building around the battle for second through fifth is only beginning.

Why isn’t the series promoted better?

In mid-August, the Truck Series made its return to the Darlington Raceway for the first time since 2004, and on Monday morning following the Too Tough to Tame 200, I received a rather frustrating comment on the Tracking the Trucks column about the race from a reader.

“I live in Columbia SC, and there seemed to be little promotion of the race here. I was surprised at how many people here were unaware that there was a truck race scheduled at Darlington this past weekend.”

NASCAR is ignoring the hidden gem that is the Truck Series, but it’s not their problem alone. While I certainly wish they would run more commercials for the series during the Nationwide and Cup Series races, the tracks are equally responsible for getting the word out about the upcoming races.

A perfect example is the IRL companion weekend at Texas Motor Speedway each June since I live in the area and can pay attention to the frequency of radio and television commercials. This year, I heard no fewer than three commercials about the upcoming IRL race during my 20-minute drive to work each day, but what TMS failed to mention at all was the Truck Series race running the night before.

While NASCAR could promote the series better, tracks are equally responsible for letting race fans know there’s a Truck Series event coming up.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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Nuts for Nationwide: The Curious Case of Elliott Sadler
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DoninAjax
10/01/2010 11:48 AM
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I guess Brian makes up the Truck schedule too. I just wish he was lucid when he does. As if.

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