NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Four Tracks That Belong On The Truck Series Schedule

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Today, the Camping World Truck Series remains in the middle of a ridiculous six-week break and won’t return to the track until April 6th, and while the season will pick up as we get toward the summer months, by the time June rolls around, the series will have run just six of its 22 events. Compare that to five consecutive weeks of competition to close out the season, and it’s clear there’s a serious imbalance when it comes to scheduling.

With reports coming out late last season that NASCAR might consider allowing tracks without SAFER barriers on the schedule, fans and media alike became hopeful that the sanctioning body would restore some of the races dropped for 2012. And though the new schedule for this season has its bright spots – Eldora Raceway and the addition of a road course come to mind – the biggest problem still wasn’t addressed. With just 22 races on the schedule, drivers and fans once again are forced to endure breaks that last way too long between events, breaking momentum and challenging the attention span of even the most dedicated fans.

While I understand that there are quite a few logistics that go into planning where each race weekend falls on the schedule to coincide with the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series, as well as other events planned at each facility, I can’t help but wonder if NASCAR could have done better with this season’s schedule. Don’t get me wrong: the addition of Eldora and Mosport is huge and very important to the growth of the series, but it still isn’t quite enough. My ideal Truck Series schedule would feature a minimum of 25 events with the option to expand to 28, so this week, I’d like to take a look at a few facilities that aren’t currently on the schedule that should be.

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NASCAR’s return to The Rock was a welcome addition to the schedule. What other tracks would help fill in the gaps and help grow the series schedule?

Perhaps the most important addition to the current Truck Series schedule would be a minimum of one more road course visit. After all, most teams in the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series have dedicated vehicles just for their road course races, and it hardly seems cost-effective for teams on a limited budget to put together a pair of trucks for a single race. With that being said, fans in the Northwest will love the first track that comes to mind – Portland International Raceway.

Having hosted the Truck Series back in its infancy, PIR can be run as either a 1.915-mile, nine turn course or a 1.967-mile, 12-turn configuration with the Festival Curves chicane built it. Born from the ashes of a city that flooded in 1948, the low-lying farmland was acquired by the city of Portland in 1960 and has hosted a variety of events throughout the 50 year history. By adding the nearly two-mile road course to the schedule, NASCAR could kill two birds with one stone by including an additional event while giving fans in the Northwestern United States another chance to see their favorite drivers race live.

Another potential road course to add into the mix is Virginia International Raceway.
Already situated in the eastern United States, teams wouldn’t be required to travel all that far, allowing them to keep their costs down, and the facility boasts a number of configurations that can be run in lengths ranging from 1.10 miles all the way up to 4.20 miles. VIR, situated on land that was once a working farm and plantation dating back to the early 1800s, opened in 1957 with an SCCA race won by Carroll Shelby, who said “one lap at VIR is like a hundred at Watkins Glen.” Those words alone speak of the challenging nature of the track as something that would help increase the value of a Truck Series championship in truly helping the best of the best stand out from the rest. Besides, most teams already test there, and is basically a weekend resort for racers.

While we’re talking about Virginia, how about adding South Boston Speedway, especially with all of the talk leading up to this year’s schedule release about returning the series to its roots? While the Truck Series didn’t visit the 4/10th-mile oval until 2001, SoBo is exactly the type of track that the series was built on. Add in the little tidbit that the facility already hosts the NASCAR Whelen All American Late Model Stock Car Division, and the sanctioning body has little reason to not consider taking the Truck Series back there. Think about it for a moment – South Boston Speedway opened in 1957 before hosting its first NASCAR sanctioned event just three years later, and all three of the top series have run at the track since then. While I haven’t been fortunate enough to attend a race at the facility, located about 60 miles east of Martinsville Speedway, everything I’ve read indicates that fans would get exactly what they expect each and every week: side-by-side, beating-and-banging short track racing.

If NASCAR truly does want to return the series to its roots, then short tracks are definitely the way to go. So, in keeping with the short track theme, my next suggestion comes in the form of Lucas Oil Raceway. Founded in 1960, you may remember it as the track formerly known as Indianapolis Raceway Park and O’Reilly Raceway Park, the 0.686-mile oval hosted a the Truck Series each year beginning in 1995 up until its final event in 2011. Situated not far from the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Lucas Oil Raceway routinely featured the type of racing that made the series what it is today and was sorely missed last season, including the race the weekend of the Brickyard 400. And while it hasn’t been off of the schedule all that long, the best decision NASCAR could make would be to return to the track hosted the series successfully for so many seasons.

With all of that said, there are a lot of things that are right about the Truck Series schedule, including the return to Rockingham Speedway, but there are so many more things that can be done to expand the number of events and allow teams to carry momentum from race to race more easily. I could never consider myself an expert in putting together a schedule, but common sense says that 11 off-weeks in the first three months of the year is the wrong way to garner attention to the series that routinely puts on some of the best racing each week … well at least when they’re actually on the track. Here’s hoping that NASCAR takes a little extra time when planning the 2014 and expands the number of races, while also bringing in a variety of new(er) tracks in the process.

Author’s Note: Where would you like to see the Truck Series race? Let me know on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below what you think! Though I tried to stick with tracks that are currently open, you’re more than welcome to suggests facilities whether they’re operating or not.

Miguel’s Corner

Tweet of the Week

@miguelpaludo: A cada ano que passa o meu conceito sobre amor se altera e fica cada vez mais dificil de colocar em palavras.Desejo um Feliz Aniversario para a pessoa que divido a minha vida e a mae do meu filho, @patisouzapaludo .Obrigado por tudo, aproveita teu dia.

Author’s Note: I’m in no way fluent in Portuguese, however the following is my rough translation of the tweet sent by Miguel to Patricia on Wednesday for her birthday. Please feel free to send me corrections if I’ve translated something incorrectly: Each year that passes my concept about love changes and is increasingly difficult to put in words. I wish a Happy Birthday to the person that is my life and the mother of my son, @patisouzapaludo. Thank you for everything, enjoy your day.

@PatiSouzaPaludo: Yahhhh hanging out in the play room! http://instagr.am/p/XEKONfvcPs/

Photo of the Week:

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No matter how big he gets, Oliver continues to love to laugh! Photo courtesy of Patricia Paludo.

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