Toni Montgomery · Friday April 1, 2005
Well it’s sort of official. Mark Martin has declared that he will indeed be running full time in the Craftsman Truck Series next season. All of the details still need to be worked out according to Martin, but he definitely intends to make the move to trucks. Those of us already on board with the truck series and hoping to see it do well are now rubbing our hands and licking our chops eagerly in anticipation of yet another influx of new fans to convert.
They followed Craven and they will follow Martin too. And once they do they will see what those of us already here know. It’s the best racing to be had. As for Martin, I think he will enjoy the series a great deal. The others who have come before him do. Martin is a legendary Busch Series competitor and he does it for fun. Imagine the fun he can have in a truck. He’s still a fierce competitor and I think the trucks will suit his style well.
Last week in our Busch article we discussed the Buschwhackers. While it’s obvious there are at times too many Cup drivers in the Busch races, so far this is not a problem the truck series has encountered. It’s true the trucks are not a companion event to the Cup Series as often as the Busch Series, but NASCAR has been increasing the number of truck races running as support events to Cup races and yet the number of Cup drivers running in trucks has yet to become a cause for concern.
Martinsville and Richmond are among the stops that are more popular among the Cup drivers looking to take a ride in a truck but even then we’re talking about barely more than a handful. Ken Schrader and Kevin Harvick probably make the most appearances and Schrader’s will likely increase a little as he gears his team up for full time operations as part of his retirement plans. Bobby Labonte, who helped to make the finish in Atlanta for the trucks exciting, has expressed an interest in making more appearances this year.
So we have three drivers who have right now declared intentions on running several truck races. But that doesn’t even necessarily mean we will be seeing as many as three Cup drivers in one race because Harvick and Labonte are likely to run so few it will be rare to see them overlap. There are other Cup drivers it may not be out of the question to see once or twice running a truck somewhere during the season. Kasey Kahne had a good time in a truck and so did Jamie McMurray. But still, it’s not the type of schedule either of these drivers are planning for the Busch Series.
There may be one very good reason we see less crossover. There are far fewer team affiliations between Cup and trucks. Off the top of my head, the only team that shares an owner between the two series is Bill Davis Racing. There are also few part time teams and most of those are not of the quality a Cup driver would be looking for. Bobby Labonte was probably in the best part time truck out there in Atlanta with the No. 47 Morgan Dollar entry. So overall, there are fewer trucks floating around for Cup drivers to drive. Remember, Harvick and Schrader drive their own when they do run in the Series.
It’s also not the fashion in the trucks to run a development driver in tandem with a veteran from a higher series like it has become in Busch. In trucks, rookies run every race their team is going to run. Mark that as another opening that doesn’t exist for Cup drivers in the truck series.
It might help that enough of the regular competitors came from Cup along with their fans that the series has enough drawing power to do well even if no current Cup drivers are in the race. More and more, it becomes a concern of the Busch Series if they’d be able to draw fans without those Cup names. That’s a true sign that they are so overrun by Cup drivers that they aren’t taking time to establish Busch Series stars. But I digress.
The overall result is that the Craftsman Truck Series has exactly what the Busch Series could use. The trucks have exactly the right mix of the occasional Cup competitor coming over to mix it up to make things a little more interesting while keeping their series mainly for the regular competitors. That allows for regular competitors that stay strong and hold their own quite well against the occasional Cup interloper they do face. Unlike Busch, the Craftsman Truck Series never has any problems standing alone.
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