The Frontstretch: Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series by Toni Montgomery -- Thursday September 15, 2005

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Second Fiddle: Around the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series

Toni Montgomery · Thursday September 15, 2005

 

I must apologize that I had this information and forgot to relay it in our last visit to the Craftsman Truck Series. A few columns ago, I wondered about Todd Bodine’s nickname, Onion. Thanks to reader Lynne Jerger for answering my questions. And now that I remembered I’ll enlighten the rest of you as well. It would seem that the nickname is indeed because of the resemblance of Bodine’s head to an onion and was given to him many years ago by Busch Series regular Randy Lajoie while Lajoie was working as Bodine’s spotter. I’m just amazed that it never came to light until now, especially since Bodine has never been one to attempt to hide his baldness. Thanks again for clearing that up, Lynne.

Last week, I considered the option of having a Chase format in the Busch Series. I’m not going to go into the same detail about it for the trucks, but I will say comments from drivers and owners in that series are also heavily in support of implementing the format there as well. The consensus is that it would bring excitement and in return more attention to the series and anything that can do that can only be good for the trucks. From the standpoint of the owners, anything that could potentially generate sponsor interest is a good thing. In case you haven’t noticed, corporate support in the series is still somewhat slim in spite of increased ratings and viewership.

I can think of one guy who might not welcome such a format, at least not at the moment. What on earth is happening to current points leader Dennis Setzer? His once comfortable points lead has dwindled to next to nothing. The sad part is it has nothing to do with his team or their performance but just plain old bad luck. It seems if there is debris on the track that can cut a tire, Setzer will find it. I wouldn’t want to be riding in a car with him and Cup’s Joe Nemechek because I am not looking for a career as a tire changer at the moment.

I may have said the chances of second place Ted Musgrave catching up and getting in contention for the title were slim a month ago but I won’t say that now. He’s within reach of taking the lead at any time and if Setzer’s luck doesn’t change soon, he will given how the margin has been shrinking with each race.

Musgrave has been the Mark Martin of the Craftsman Truck Series. He’s been a consistent contender year after year and has come agonizingly close several times, only to see the championship slip into someone else’s hands every time. He is probably the only guy who has had more heartbreak on the title trail then Setzer, who has also come agonizingly close and missed.

Both drivers played a role two years ago in one of the closest fights ever. Four drivers went into the final race at Homestead with a shot. Then-leader Brendan Gaughan crashed, opening the door for Musgrave, Kvapil, and Setzer. The four were running almost nose to tail on a late restart when Musgrave made a move around Setzer on the low side on what would be the final restart. NASCAR deemed Musgrave’s move illegal and penalized him, handing the title to Kvapil. Setzer came up just nine points short.

Perhaps Setzer’s bad luck is Lady Luck’s way of setting up another battle for the ages between him and Musgrave. If Setzer loses much more ground, we will have a Chase between at least the top two spots even without NASCAR’s help.

One other thing I wanted to touch on is the loss of the Richmond race for the trucks. The move was made for several reasons, all of which are understandable on paper. The track was dropped in favor of adding a date at Talladega which will also run in conjunction with the Cup Series so the series does not lose a companion event. The Richmond event was apparently among the smallest purses offered in the series while the Talladega winnings promise to be among the largest so it makes financial sense for the owners. Those are the plusses.

As for the minuses, they are more intangible, but still important to consider. While the addition of Talladega is likely to bring excitement for the fans who have seen some wonderful events at Daytona, it is once again a change in the nature of the series. The Craftsman Truck Series was born and thrived on the shorter tracks. The trucks and their full contact style of racing take well to it but as the schedule has changed and expanded, it has moved away from those venues. A switch from Richmond to Talladega is the death of yet another great short track venue in favor of a wide open superspeedway.

Sure Talladega promises excitement and the teams and drivers are looking forward to going there, but they will all miss Richmond as well. The track has always been among the favorites with NASCAR drivers in all series. It’s a driver’s track where they are in control of their fate. It’s often been said a monkey could drive Talladega. There it simply is a matter of matting the gas and turning left. Performance will depend almost entirely upon the truck and it’s engine and very little upon the driver. In a case of it sometimes being about the money, drivers would rather keep the small Richmond purse and keep the race.

Apparently NASCAR wants to keep the truck series schedule steady at 25 races and I’m sure that’s fine with the owners and especially some of the drivers who entered the series to get away from the grueling schedule of Cup. It’s still always sad to see a well-liked track losing an event in the process. And once again, it raises the question many always wonder about when it comes to NASCAR scheduling. Why does one track lose their only date in favor of another when there are still other tracks with two dates? Consider it one of those NASCAR mysteries.

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