Toni Montgomery · Thursday May 26, 2005
Several times this year I have had a hard time coming up with something to discuss for the Craftsman Truck Series although I rarely have any trouble coming up with ideas for the Busch side of this column. I have to wonder why that is and the only thing I can come up with is that there is really nothing glaringly wrong with the truck series.
While the case could be made that the Busch Series is in imminent danger of losing its identity among other problems, the truck series happily goes about its business and does its thing. The team count is healthy, presenting no problems with filling the fields. A large number of those teams are highly competitive which means the championship run shows promise of being very exciting, with a healthy number of teams still alive in the hunt.
Ted Musgrave and Bobby Hamilton have so far taken turns holding the top spot but both have had just enough adversity to help the other teams stay within easy reach. Ricky Craven, the new guy on the block continues to chase them. Hamilton and Musgrave are two very familiar faces at the top of the rankings. Hamilton has been there ever since he got to the trucks several years ago and Musgrave and his Ultra Motorsports team have become the team with the most near misses on the championship trophy. That title used to belong to Roush Racing but thanks to Greg Biffle it has passed to Musgrave who has been close enough to just about taste it every year since about forever now.
Speaking of champions, the majority of truck series champions are running in that very series right now. It helps that Ron Hornaday and Jack Sprague have won five of the ten titles between them but the series’ first champion, Mike Skinner, as well as the most recent, Bobby Hamilton, are also still present.
The arrival of Toyota last year stepped up the interest of the three manufacturers already present, although the fight for bragging rights between Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge was already intense. More manufacturer support helped to offset a shortage of sponsors that plagued the series in the tough economy over the last several season. Although there are still sponsorless teams out there in need of financial support, it’s not as widespread or pressing of a problem as it once was.
Funded teams are healthy teams and that makes for competitive action. That combined with the entrance of fan favorites like Ricky Craven to the series means the shows are playing to growing audiences, both at the track and on television. They’re not the size of the Cup crowds, but that would be a tall order for either the Busch or the truck series. After all, this column is called “Second Fiddle,” not “First Violin.” As much as I hate the term “lesser series” the fact remains that Cup is top dog in NASCAR while Busch and trucks are not. But as such, they are not expected to attract the same size audience to be considered successful.
When those audiences show up or tune in, they are treated to a Craftsman Truck Series race, not a mini version of the Cup race. While Busch is being overrun with Cup drivers, the trucks generally only have a few in the companion events or those held on off Cup weekends. Having more stand alone events means more races without the interference of Cup drivers taking the purse money or the points from series regulars. It probably also helps that the Busch cars tend to serve better for the testing purposes many Cup drivers are aiming for than trucks do.
All this is great for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series but it’s kind of lousy for me. There’s no good dirt to throw around, precious little to gripe about, and no resounding changes to demand. It makes my job pretty difficult coming up with something to fill up this space. Oh how white that blank page looks when all is happy in the truck series world. If I promise to buy WinFuel, can we get them to have Shane run full time? That should give me hours of material
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