Trailing The Trucks · Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday January 18, 2007
Editor’s Note : This column originally ran on October 27th, 2006. Be sure to watch for Beth’s new column on Fridays during the season, as she gives readers the latest news, information, and original commentary about the Craftsman Truck Series.
A few weeks ago when the new official Kurt Busch Message Board debuted, an interesting question was posted for everyone to weigh in on. Should the Craftsman Truck Series and the Busch Series go to a Chase for the Championship format? It's easy for me to look at Kevin Harvick sitting more than 700 points ahead in the Busch Series to say maybe they should consider a Chase format, but it's alot more difficult for me to say that about the Craftsman Truck Series.
My biggest objection is the fact that the Craftsman Truck Series runs only a 25 race season. I've never been a big fan of the Chase for the Championship since it first started back in 2004. Hypothetically, let's say the truck series did change to a 10 race Chase for the Championship. That leaves only 15 "regular season" races to qualify for the Chase; hardly enough to make it worthwhile.
Such a short regular season would also make it harder for upcoming drivers to make an impression. We've already seen it in the Nextel Cup Series. Certain drivers aren't being talked about just because they're not a part of the Chase. Everything revolves around that Top 10 and nothing else. There are so many rising stars mixed amongst the seasoned veterans across the board in the Truck Series, and someone is bound to be unfairly excluded.
Besides drivers being unfairly excluded from television coverage, a Chase format would kill the type of racing we see week in and week out in the Truck Series. If there's one thing I can count on, it's exciting racing coming Friday or Saturday for 25 races each NASCAR season. If a chase format were to be put in place, we would see a lot more conservative racing each week. Thoughts of completing an entire race with just one pit stop would be just a distant memory because no team would be able to risk the points if they ran out of gas. The overall quality of the racing would go way down.
There is no need to change something that works well already. In 8 of the last 11 seasons, the championship has been decided by less than 100 points, the closest being in 1998. Ron Hornaday finished just 3 points ahead of Jack Sprague. If the series were to end today, Johnny Benson would finish only 79 points behind Todd Bodine. Prior to racing at Martinsville, Benson was more than 100 points behind Bodine. Had the Truck Series been running a Chase format comparable to the one run in Nextel Cup, Benson would have started race 16 at Nashville just five points behind Todd Bodine instead of 182 points back. The current point race would be arguably different.
My personal message to NASCAR: If you've heard any rumblings among fans suggesting the Craftsman Truck Series go to a Chase for the Championship format, please don't listen. The Truck Series point race is just beginning to heat up and should be left alone.
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