The Craftsman Truck Series opened the 2007 season at Daytona in February, went onto California the following week, and then took three weeks (two weekends) off. The Series then resumed racing at Atlanta, only to take two more weeks (one weekend) off. So, coming into Martinsville Friday night, the Truck Series has raced three weekends and taken three off since the start of the year. Compare that to later this season, where the trucks race five weeks straight to close out the year, and you can see a little bit of a difference in the way the schedule is balanced. It’s not that I don’t think the Trucks should race in several consecutive weeks; actually, I prefer seeing a truck race weekly. What I don’t like to see is so many off weeks so early on in the season. NASCAR has many options to rectify this problem, though.
One option, probably the least practical one, is to start the Truck season later or end it earlier to eliminate the majority of empty weekends. However, I don’t think this is something NASCAR would be willing to do, and it’s completely understandable. There’s just something special about opening the season at Daytona with the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup Series, and there’s something equally as special about ending the year at Homestead-Miami with Championship Weekend setting the stage for all three series.
Another idea to eliminate so many off weeks is to expand the length of the schedule. Add races at tracks the series doesn’t visit, and add second dates at some of the tracks the series only visits once. For the fans, this sounds like a great idea because they get to see more of the great racing they love. It could be a bonus for NASCAR as well, gaining more exposure for a competitive series that gets lost in the shuffle. The major problem with this scenario is the drivers, though. The Truck Series draws in a large number of veterans who still want to race but don’t want to keep up the hectic pace of the “big leagues”. The 25-race season takes considerably less of a toll on the drivers than the Busch Series (35 races) or Nextel Cup Series’ (36 races) schedules.
Yet another option, and probably the most practical of the three is to tweak the schedule and distribute the races more evenly. If it were up to me, I would take a few of the off weekends from early in the season and use them later to break up the final five weeks of the season. Evening out the schedule would serve a variety of purposes. First, the teams would still get their regular off weekends and drivers wouldn’t get burned out. Secondly, teams would be able to keep more momentum. Honestly, it has to be hard on a team who has turned in three Top 10 finishes in a row, to go cool their jets for two weeks and let their hot streak cool down. And lastly, a more evenly distributed schedule would help keep the fans’ attention. It’s frustrating for fans to remember when the next race is and to keep track of the points battle when so much time passes between races.
Even the casual fan can see there are flaws in the Craftsman Truck Series schedule; there are way too many off weeks at the beginning of the season and not enough at the end of it. It’s that type of inconsistency that not only makes it difficult for teams to get into a rhythm, it’s the type of stoppage that drives fan crazy by the time the layoff is nearing an end. Clearly, if NASCAR wants to see this series flourish to its full potential, they definitely need to make some changes to the schedule. Still, I’m not sure what the best option is. At least on paper, a change in the schedule by just moving around the races and off weekends seems to be the most logical option.
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