Toni Montgomery · Thursday June 9, 2005
This could be a really interesting weekend coming up for the Craftsman Truck Series. This week the series will play as the companion event to the IRL’s Indycar Series at Texas Motor Speedway. Thanks to Danica Patrick, the Indycar Series is coming off of a very successful Indy 500 weekend that saw them score higher ratings than NASCAR’s Nextel Cup Series race for the first time in years. I’m interested to see if that translates into a good crowd at Texas this weekend.
To be fair, that particular track may not be the most accurate gauge. Texas fans seem to love just about any kind of racing and both the trucks and Indy cars have been drawing decent crowds there in recent years. I’m sure however that the IRL honchos will keep a close eye on the television ratings as they go up against NASCAR’s Busch Series on Saturday night. That may be the most advantageous draw they could have gotten if they must go up against NASCAR head to head at all.
Since the Busch Series is on its own in Nashville this week, the majority of the Buschwhackers will not be there which is both good and bad. Good for the series regulars who get their own points and purse money for once but maybe bad because those fans who do only tune in to see Cup drivers won’t watch and those fans who do want to see Busch drivers might question what kind of race they’ll get with almost half of what’s been the regular field anymore missing.
But I’ve gotten off the beaten track. This is truck week so it’s back to Texas. Considering the high the Indycar Series has been on because of the publicity generated by Danica Patrick, the first woman with a legitimate chance to win the Indy 500 (and she got awful close in case you didn’t hear), it seems to me the Craftsman Truck Series is the perfect NASCAR series to be paired with the IRL. Why? Because the Craftsman Truck Series boasts a few lady drivers of its own.
Perhaps it’s an accident of good timing but one of those ladies, Deborah Renshaw, is also coming off of her series best finish after a respectable 12th place result last weekend on the tough Monster Mile at Dover. That’s not bad at all considering Renshaw had never raced there before. Patrick is driving for one of the better teams in the Indycar Series, with last year’s Indy 500 champion Buddy Rice as her teammate. Renshaw is driving for Bobby Hamilton Racing as a teammate to Hamilton, last year’s Craftsman Truck Series champion.
It would be a good thing for the truck series and NASCAR if Renshaw continued to put in strong performances. After seeing the kind of publicity Patrick generated, NASCAR would have to be eager to cash in on it by boasting a competitive woman driver of it’s own. Bobby Hamilton has made somewhat of a mission out of helping young promising drivers get started, helping not only Renshaw but also Chad Chaffin, Chase Montgomery, and Bill Lester in recent seasons. Montgomery is still with Hamilton while Chaffin and Lester have moved on but are both still in the series. Lester has also been putting in some impressive runs lately.
In addition to helping young drivers, Hamilton is a big believer in diversity as can be seen from his choices of Lester, the only African American driver currently in the NASCAR top three series, and Renshaw, one of a handful of women who have attempted to break into the top tiers of stock car racing in recent seasons.
Kelly Sutton has also been running full time in the truck series this season. Besides trying to break in as a female driver, Sutton has MS. Her sponsor, Copaxone, is the reason she is able to race and basically maintain an existence that is as normal as everyone else and not dominated by the disease. Sutton has made every race and has a season high finish of 15th so far at Charlotte. She also has a 17th place result from the season opener at Daytona. With the depth of talent and strong teams in the truck series those are some pretty good results.
Let’s see which of the ladies comes out best this weekend, Patrick and her Rahal Letterman Racing Team in the Indycar Series or one of the Craftsman Truck Series ladies, Renshaw with Bobby Hamilton Racing or Sutton and Team Copaxone.
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