Race Weekend Central

Tearing Apart the Trucks: 2011 Season Quickly Approaching

Where did the offseason go? It seems like only yesterday we saw Todd Bodine and Germain Racing celebrate their second championship together while Kyle Busch enjoyed his eighth victory in 16 starts. But once again, we’re looking down the stretch to the season opener at Daytona next Friday night, and if you’re anything like me, the need to see racing gets stronger as the race moves closer. As we prepare for the excitement that is the beginning of the 16th year of the Camping World Truck Series, there are a few offseason changes to keep in mind.

*Rule Changes*

Perhaps the biggest change is the way points are awarded each race. In a system that will take over across the top three tiers of NASCAR, the race winner will now be awarded 46 points–43 points for the win plus a three point bonus–for taking the checkers first. Additionally drivers will be awarded one point each for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing the total possible points per race to 48.

Frankly, the points system was fine and didn’t need adjusting. Though the last two champions were crowned prior to the season finale, the problem wasn’t with the points system–the problem was the lack of competition on the track. Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Todd Bodine were unbeatable in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and a different points system wouldn’t have made a difference, especially when you consider the two combined for nearly a dozen wins in their championship campaigns. That said, the smaller points totals each week should give the artificial feel to a close points battle each week.

But it’s not just the points system that changed. Qualifying rules have been tweaked to put the trucks on the track in the order they ran in practice from slowest to fastest to add some “drama” to the sessions. Really NASCAR? I don’t watch NASCAR for the fake drama; I watch for the side-by-side beating and banging, last lap pass, win by a nose–the real racing. Either way, it’s a change we sadly have to live with. Additionally, a rainout for qualifying would see the field set by practice speeds, and unlike previous years, the only way the field will be set via owner points is if weather washes out both practices and qualifying.

*Rookie Sneak Peek*

The 2011 Raybestos Rookie of the Year campaign brings with it one of the strongest fields in a few years when 11 drivers duke it out for the top honors. From ARCA driver Craig Goess to former Nationwide driver Parker Kligerman, this season should bring one of the more exciting rookie races since Willie Allen edged Tim Sauter in 2007.

_Author’s Note: Tune in next week for a more in depth look at this year’s Rookie of the Year candidates._

*Driver Changes*

Aside from all of the new faces, several drivers have shifted teams or rides through the offseason. After a lackluster 2010 campaign, it’s no surprise that Mike Skinner and Randy Moss Motorsports parted ways. Travis Kvapil steps into the No. 5 International / Monaco RV Toyota in hopes of scoring his second championship, and though Mike Skinner has yet to score a full-time ride, he has lined up a spot in the season opener next weekend at Daytona. The 1995 champion will pilot the No. 45 Eddie Sharp Racing Toyota for the first two races and spend the off weeks before Darlington attempting to build enough financial backing to continue on through the rest of the season.

Defending champion Todd Bodine will go from being the lone truck on his Germain Racing team to being one of three drivers in the lineup this season. Brendan Gaughan, who ran full-time from 2002-2008 and scored eight wins in 145 starts and Justin Lofton, the 2010 Raybestos Rookie of the Year runner-up both join the team that didn’t think it would complete the year that turned out to be their second championship run in five years.

And last, but not least, Justin Marks returns to the series full time with Turn One Racing. Marks ran 18 races in 2008 scoring his lone top-10 finish in the season opener at Daytona behind the wheel of the No. 9 Construct Corps Toyota for Germain Racing. He went on to score a pole position at Texas Motor Speedway in June but failed to deliver when he came home 14th.

Now that you’re caught up on the big stories of the offseason you can go into next weekend’s race ready for the season that will only end all too soon. Here’s to an exciting season and a championship battle that comes down to the very last moment at Homestead-Miami in November.

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