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Today, the Camping World Truck Series remains in another one of its ridiculously long breaks, this time waiting six weeks between the close confines of Martinsville Speedway and the mile-and-a-half oval in Kansas Speedway on May 8. Sometimes I feel like a broken record talking about these long breaks, but the harsh reality is that until NASCAR finds a solution, we’ll continue to talk about these long breaks. Really, with a schedule that features just 23 races from February through November, 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 Xfinity 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. Ideally, the Truck Series would run 25-28 races each year, and the breaks would be balanced substantially better. While an extended schedule might limit the teams that are simply struggling for financial backing already, a more regular slate of racing would turn out to be beneficial in the long run. After all, more exposure can easily turn into more sponsorship dollars coming from companies that would get return on investment from fans who are fiercely loyal.
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 Xfinity 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, all while hoping they don’t trash one (or both) of those trucks along the way. 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 1.97-mile, 12-turn configuration with the Festival Curves chicane built in. 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 2-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.
Of course, if I wanted to be a little selfish, I would suggest Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Tex. since I live around the Dallas area. Sure, it would be a bit of a drive, but in my book, it would definitely be worth it to visit the spectacular facility that has been built there. It’s a 3.41-mile 20-turn facility, set on 1,500 acres of land that features a 133-foot hill in turn 1. The facility opened in 2012 and plays host to the X Games, MotoGP, the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Tudor United SportsCar Championship and the only Formula 1 race in America, to name a few. Add in the atmosphere the city of Austin has to offer, and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect race weekend.
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.
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 4/10-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 – SBS 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, 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, LOR routinely featured the type of racing that made the series what it is today and was sorely missed last season. 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, 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 nine off weeks – and just five races – 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. It’s not like I think I have all of the answers, but there has got to be a better way to work the scheduling, even if it means trimming the length of the season and making it independent of the Xfinity and Sprint Cup series.