The Frontstretch: Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series by Toni Montgomery -- Thursday March 3, 2005

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Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series

Toni Montgomery · Thursday March 3, 2005

 

In our last visit to the Craftsman Truck Series I predicted that as more big name drivers from the Nextel Cup Series make the move to trucks, the series would be boosted in popularity. NASCAR fans are loyal to their drivers and will generally follow them to whichever series they may move. After two weeks of increased television ratings for the trucks, that prediction already appears headed for the correct column.

I’d be interested to see a breakdown of those ratings to see if there has been a spike in interest in the New England region. I feel pretty confident at laying at least part of the responsibility for the increased interest at Ricky Craven’s feet. Craven is the new factor in the series this year. After all, Musgrave and Hamilton have been there for awhile. Park and Skinner were there all of last season. Johnny Benson came aboard in the middle of last year. I wouldn’t doubt that all of these drivers brought fans and gave the popularity of the trucks a bump but maybe it’s Craven that put it over the top. The Florida Dodge Dealers 250 from Daytona attracted over a million viewers and set a new record rating for Speed Channel.

Craven is also doing something else that could help sustain that extra interest in the truck series. After two top five finishes, Craven sits second in the points behind defending champion Bobby Hamilton and looks poised to mount a challenge to the always consistent Hamilton. That should be enough to keep his fans interested.

Certainly it’s still early and perennial contender Ted Musgrave also posted two top fives to start the 2005 season well. It’s a deep field and it’s very early. Plenty of contenders who may not have had the greatest start could still regain form and challenge.
I’d like to see a few of what I think of as the regular truck guys get in the mix too. It’s nice to see the whole series benefit from the presence of Cup veterans, but I’d like to see that opportunity used to increase the respect the drivers who have been in the series for some time receive too. Too often I hear fans put the series and it’s drivers down, as if they aren’t as good as the drivers in some of NASCAR’s other series.

There are some in the Craftsman Truck Series who are as good as anyone out there but stay in the trucks because they want to. They like the racing or the schedule or don’t want to deal with the extra media and sponsor pressure of the Cup Series. Dennis Setzer and Rick Crawford come to mind. They can go wheel to wheel with anyone out there.

If a few of those guys can get in there and contend while the audience continues to grow, maybe the impression that they are racing trucks because they weren’t good enough to race in the Cup Series will fade away. Especially as these drivers get the opportunity to demonstrate that against drivers who everyone knows were good enough for the Cup level.

Some of the Busch Series regulars say they enjoy racing the Cup guys who make appearances in their series because they get a chance to go up against and beat the best but it’s not done under what I consider ideal circumstances. The Cup drivers come in and usually end up taking the lion’s share of the purse money and the points from the Busch regulars while only racing part time, picking and choosing where they will run.

While some like Ken Schrader do run only part time in the truck series, most of the Cup drivers racing trucks are in the series full time. Many are running for regular truck series teams. It doesn’t seem as much like stealing from the truck regulars when they truly are regulars too. The teams they are running for sometimes do rely on that purse money to fund their operations and the points are not going to waste because those drivers are contending for the championship.

It seems the Craftsman Truck Series has found a much more ideal way to cash in on the presence of Cup drivers for promotion and fan interest without compromising their regular teams and their shares of purses and points.

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Sue
03/05/2005 06:38 AM
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Thanks for the article, I am one of the Ricky Craven fans you talk about and darn proud of it to. Your right, it doesn’t matter what series he is in, I will follow. Truck Series here we come:) Awesome racing in the truck series, the way racing used to be.
sharon
03/05/2005 08:39 AM
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I have always been interested in the truck series, but did not watch regularly. Now that Ricky Craven is driving in the series, I am sure to be in front of the TV for every race, except NHIS when I will be in the stand cheering him on. So, count me as one of those fans that tunes in consistently just because of Ricky. Believe me, there are many of us out there-Ricky Craven Fans Forever!!!!!!
NASTRUCK99
03/05/2005 09:44 AM
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Great article!

I also am one of those Ricky Craven fans! I’m from Maine, but found my way to Daytona to watch Ricky drive in his first (fulltime) NCTS race! It was awesome!

It makes no difference what series Ricky is in, I’ll be watching!

Thanks!
RCVictory
03/05/2005 04:11 PM
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Ricky’s fan based is wide and we are all watching Friday nights. The Craftsman Truck Series has provided the best racing so far this season. And I believe largely because the guy I root for, Rick Craven, is in the thick of it! From Busch North to Busch to Cup to CTS. Doesn’t matter what series, I am a Ricky Craven Fan and Proud!
Iowntheroad
03/05/2005 05:26 PM
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Another Ricky fan from Maine here. I’ve watched a few truck races with mild interest in the past. I’ll be a regular this season thanks to Ricky.
Julie
03/05/2005 08:14 PM
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I had never watched a complete truck race until 2004 when Steve Park started racing in this series – now I don’t miss a truck race and I tape them all too. Like the Craven fan, I’ll watch any series that Steve races in. Besides, attending a truck race is a lot more fun and a more relaxed atmosphere than Busch or Cup.
LEO N..
03/06/2005 08:49 AM
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TRUCKS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN EXCITING…AND WITH BENSON, CRAVEN, SPENCER AND SOME OF THE NEW GUYS RUNNING AGAINST THE DRIVERS THAT HAVE BEEN THERE RUNNING COMPETETIVELY THE LAST FEW YEARS IT IS GOING TO BE EVEN MORE EXCITING….NO BORING RACES FOR THE TRUCKS….
Gary
03/07/2005 03:39 PM
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The trucks are the best racing of the three divisions. I am a Craven fan and will watch him no matter what he races. Toni I live in PA also. Born and raised. A message to Ricky, “drive it like you stole it.”
Steelonme4RC
03/07/2005 08:46 PM
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I am a life-long Ricky Craven fan.I’ve always liked his style,always a gentleman,on and off the track.I have told everybody I know about the NCTS races and where to tune in (SPEED Chanel).I loved your article and your keen insight of the sport. See you at the races!
LeafLady
03/08/2005 02:59 AM
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I am such a Ricky Craven fan that I have followed the first two truck races online because I don’t have Speed Channel. It’s exciting even though I can’t see what’s going on!!!
MsBump
03/08/2005 05:42 AM
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“Craven is the new factor in the series this year”. Need you say more … I’m a fan of “the man”, so he could be racing go-karts once every other week and still have my utmost respect and admiration! :-)
Tim
03/08/2005 03:33 PM
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Us Craven fans in the midwest are piling on too!!! Even though Ricky belongs in a good Cup ride, we watch no matter where he races. See you in Milwaukee Ricky !!!!!

 

Contact Toni Montgomery

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IF you want to know more about Toni Montgomery or to see all of her Frontstretch articles, check out her archive and bio page.