After eight weeks straight, the Craftsman Truck Series drivers get a break in their 25-race schedule. Since off weeks tend to be slow on news, I got to thinking about the series and the shape it’s in. Week in and week out, television coverage shows massive amounts of empty seating at every track, but is the lowest tier of NASCAR’s “big three” in trouble?
As NASCAR’s red-headed step child, the Craftsman Truck Series gets the least coverage of the three ‘top-tier’ series. One of the biggest problems in building a larger fanbase is where the races are aired. Although nearly everyone has access to cable television, an astonishing number of fans do not have SPEED Channel. I’ve talked to several people that have told me they would actually watch truck races if they were on network television.
Airing races on SPEED isn’t the only problem plaguing the series. A lack of money and sponsorships have forced several teams to close up shop, leaving their drivers scrambling for a ride. Sutton Motorsports was forced to close their doors midseason in 2006 shortly after an injury sidelined driver Kelly Sutton. Earlier this season, all of their equipment was auctioned off, while Sutton has raced a few races for Billy Ballew Motorsports. However, trouble isn’t only an issue for smaller-name teams. Evernham Motorsports closed the No. 98 team that Erin Crocker used to drive for following the loss of Betty Crocker as their primary sponsor.
Brad Keselowski drove for his family-owned team, but a lack of sponsorship dollars forced them to shut their doors as well. Keselowski went on to the Busch Series and has run 13 races so far this season, as well as three Truck Series events. Brad ran the No. 7 Hooters Energy Drink Chevy at Atlanta and Martinsville in the early part of this season. Perhaps the more interesting run was last weekend at Memphis when he stepped into the No. 9 Team ASE Toyota Tundra for the suspended Ted Musgrave.
So far this year, the Truck Series has failed to have a full field for 25% of the races run (California, Atlanta and Texas). You can dismiss it as just three races, but at that pace, the number could double by the end of the season. If NASCAR continues to see the Truck Series struggle to make a full field, they’re likely to make some major changes or worse.
The Truck Series’ considerably smaller fanbase, money woes and a lack of a full field every week threaten to take the 12-year-old series down, but that isn’t something to worry about in the immediate future.
Truck Series News This Week
- Jack Sprague and fiancee were married on Tuesday, July 3rd in Hilton Head, N.C.
- Rumor has it that Iowa Speedway and Richmond International Raceway will be added to the 2008 schedule. There has been no official word from NASCAR on next year’s schedule yet.
- Pennington Motorsports will be making an announcement next week about a manufacturer switch from Chevrolet to Dodge. The team has also confirmed that Jason White will remain the No. 7 Hooters Energy Drink truck for the rest of the 2007 season.
- Travis Kvapil‘s winning engine was taken to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center following the O’Reilly 200. During post-race inspection, officials found an unidentified issue with the engine and took it to Concord to evaluate it more thoroughly. NASCAR announced Monday that the engine passed the inspection at their R&D Center.