Toni Montgomery · Thursday August 4, 2005
(Editors Note: As Toni recuperates from a week in "The Lou", we bring you an oldie but goodie from the week the Craftsman Truck Series raced at Gateway)
Somebody swap a schedule around? Because last year the Craftsman Truck Series raced at Gateway on a Saturday night in July while the Busch Series visited in May. I absolutely know this because I was at the truck race last year. It was a unique event to say the least. It was the final week of the unlimited green/white/checker rule and the truck guys took full advantage of it.
You see, that was the race that would not end. It just went on and on my friend. Some people started watching it not knowing what it was and they’ll go on watching it forever just because it was the race that would not end, it just went on and on….well, you get the idea.
Seriously, it took four tries until they got it right and more than a few trucks didn’t make it through them all. The eventual winner, David Starr, could have just have justifiably been called the survivor. Rick Crawford ended up sideways and Bobby Hamilton almost did. Shane Hmiel was in the middle of the controversy with Hamilton. Some things never change. Starr was in a controversy of his own with Chad Chaffin who he moved aside for the win. Classic Craftsman Truck Series.
On one hand the carnage got a little out of hand, but on the other hand maybe I miss the unlimited green/white/checkers just a little bit because the more they tried, the harder they raced. Thus the carnage but it was also the sort of exciting and unpredictable finish that kept spectators talking for days.
I’ll still be at Gateway on a Saturday night in July but I will be accompanied by the Busch Series this year instead of the trucks. The trucks will be visiting St. Louis this week, but there will be no repeat of last year’s finish as they will only have one shot to try it again since green/white/checker finishes are now limited to just one attempt. That rule was announced before the Gateway race last year, with the knowledge that it would go into effect immediately after that event, so it was just the sort of irony that NASCAR seems to be a magnet for that the last race under the old rule set the record for the most attempts needed to finish a race under green in the history of the truck series.
The rule change came about because the Cup and Busch Series were going to add the green/white checker finish to their rules, but would only attempt it once. NASCAR officials decided to make it the same for the trucks to keep things uniform among their top series. It’s almost odd to see rules so uniform when you think back to how the truck series started.
In the beginning it was radically different from it’s Cup and Busch counterparts. Truck teams did not have pit crews and did not perform pit stops in the conventional way. Instead, truck races had a half time break during which the race was stopped and the teams would service the trucks. The truck race schedule also looked much different, with most of the races taking place on small bull rings like South Boston and Evergreen Speedways. As the series grew so did the size of the tracks and the size of the teams. Halftime went by the wayside in favor of conventional pit crews and flying pit stops like in the Cup and Busch Series’. The rules for Craftsman Truck Series races began to fall in line with the other two series. The green/white/checker was probably one of the last things peculiar to only trucks before last year’s changes.
All of the changes have been in the spirit of growing the series and making it more appealing to fans. Probably the saddest change was seeing the small tracks like South Boston leave the schedule. The appeal of the trucks has always been the close beating and banging as they fight for what little real estate is available out there. Some of that spirit was lost as more superspeedways found their way onto the schedule, but for once I actually think NASCAR has also realized the allure of keeping short track racing on the schedule. The trucks might not go to South Boston, but they do go to Martinsville, IRP, Bristol, and Mansfield. If short tracks are your thing, the truck series offers more of it than NASCAR’s other top series while still using the same rules you know and understand from Cup.
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