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Remember back in 2012, when the Camping World Truck Series schedule lost a few races and it wasn’t a popular move within the industry? Now in it’s fifth year of existence, you can say it has worked for the better.
Currently, the Truck Series runs 23 races and has added one venue since 2014, bringing Atlanta Motor Speedway to the schedule in the second week of the season. This year it was 18-year-old John Hunter Nemechek who scored a victory against stout competition.
Each week there are anywhere between 10 to 12 trucks who could possibly win the race. Sometimes you see that in the Cup Series, but in the XFINITY Series outside of the two restrictor plate tracks, it’s a complete rarity.
And it’s not like the competition is lacking.
Through six races in 2016, Matt Crafton is the only repeat winner, winning back-to-back races at Dover and Charlotte. He even beat out 2015 Cup Series champion Kyle Busch at Charlotte, a track in which the Las Vegas native had won six previous times.
In a new way of scoring points this season, four Truck Series regulars have wins. Those wins are made up of two-time series champion, Crafton, NASCAR rookie, William Byron and Nemechek, and series veteran Johnny Sauter. The truck teams are as healthy as they’ve ever been.
With 10 races remaining before the newly implemented Chase cutoff, it is likely that there will be more than eight winners in the series. It makes points relevant again, knowing that it is possible that you must point your way in over other drivers that have victories.
Timothy Peters, who is second in points, has yet to record a victory this year and he’s had at least one triumph over the last seven seasons. It is likely that Red Horse Racing will find its way back to Victory Lane.
Then you have young guns such as Daniel Hemric, Ryan Truex, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Ben Rhodes who have all been fast this season, but for whatever reason haven’t scored a victory, whether it was due to bad luck or being so close that they could taste it and coming up just short.
Say all those drivers were to win a race before the Chase cutoff, and we are up to 10 different winners in the first 16 races, which overrides the eight Chase positions meaning points matter. This is good for the sport and something that the two upper divisions of NASCAR could learn from, shrinking their number of drivers eligible to win a title.
And, oh yeah, I forgot to mention Tyler Reddick, who finished second in the points last year and had two victories in the first six races. Add Cameron Hayley to the list. Driving for arguably the best team in the series, ThorSport Racing, the third-year driver has potential to conquer his first career checkered flag. Even John Wes Townley hasn’t seen a checkered flag yet, like he did in 2015, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The opportunity to succeed this year in the Truck Series is higher than it’s ever been. But the team must be on its A-game. Unlike in the past, an organization isn’t going to luck themselves into a win, but the chance is there to be successful.
It is likely that you will see an unlikely team make the Chase based on consistency and winning a race. Just look at the current standings, as things stand almost halfway to the cutoff. Truex and Hattori Racing Enterprises were only scheduled to run Daytona, but recording a second-place finish solidified themselves into racing Atlanta and beyond. They are still sixth in the points with three top-10 finishes.
This competitive balance all goes back to the current schedule. Having weeks in between races makes it more realistic for teams to be better prepared heading to the track on a given weekend. If a smaller team is having a good season, but get involved in an on-track scuffle, but have three weeks to prepare the truck until the next race it makes that organization stronger and grow together.
Take Parker Kligerman and Ricky Benton Racing, for instance. Through the first month of the season the team held the overall points lead with a third-place effort at Daytona and a pair of eighth-place finishes at Atlanta and Martinsville. They did this with just two full-time employees, making their job at the shop near impossible if the series ran every weekend.
The schedule allows for more balance within the series which increases the amount of teams that can compete for wins and ultimately the end goal, the championship. It is likely that this year’s championship battle will be one that fans don’t forget for a long time.
Once the Chase comes around, it will be interesting to see how teams play it out. Over the last nine weeks of the NASCAR season, the Truck Series has seven races that make up the playoffs, starting at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. If you win that race and are a part of the system you advance, just like the Cup Series, but say a small team like NEMCO Motorsports or the aforementioned Hattori Racing Enterprises makes the Chase, they don’t have the numbers on the team that a Kyle Busch Motorsports or Brad Keselowski Racing has setting them behind.
Employees and resources on a race team is everything. The more people and money an organization has, the more is expected out of them. In the Truck Series it is a bunch of good ‘ole boys living out a dream that they have, racing.
Does this make the current Truck Series schedule, ideal? No. But it’s the cards that the whole series is dealt and it will make it interesting come that time who prevails and who fails.
The amount of hype around the division is more than ever. Racing in the Truck Series is where the future stars of NASCAR are made. Only racing 23 times over the course of a nine month season makes the driver aware of the grind that they will have later in their career moving through the ranks.
Knowing that at points of the season they might have just one chance to race in a month makes it that more tempting to get too much out of the truck, ending their day. But that’s a part of the learning curve, making those drivers successful.
This is the Camping World Truck Series. This is some of the best racing in the world. In 2016, the racing has taken the NASCAR industry by storm.
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