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4 Burning Questions: What’s Next for the Truck Series?

What was wrong with the Coca-Cola 600?

The TV ratings are out for the Coca-Cola 600, and they don’t look very good.

There was a tsunami of things that led to this bad rating, the first being that The Match was such a huge event on cable; it was the two biggest names in golf and the two biggest rating draws in the last 20 years of sports, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

The second was the rain putting a damper on the race for an hour. The good thing about the rain delay is that the race got going almost right after hole 18 of The Match. The bad thing is that the viewers of The Match didn’t try to find other things to watch in the evening, they just decided four hours of golf were enough sports for the day and went on to do something else.

The third is that the country is beginning to reopen, and a number of areas, especially in the Southeast and the Rust Belt, had bars and restaurants open for Memorial Day weekend.

The fourth is that the race just wasn’t good. The 600 is a long, prodding affair even when it’s a good race. This year, it was mind-numbingly boring with how horrible the high downforce rules package is at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was not a race for the faint of heart.

The fifth is that it was the fourth race back, and the novelty of anything coming back during this pandemic is gone after a couple of events. The iRacing series had a big debut in March, but was doing a little over half of its initial rating before bottoming out to a third for the final race of the year. The myth of people channel surfing to find whatever sport is on during this time and getting hooked long-term is just that, a myth.

What will the fallout be from Kyle Busch’s interview?

On Tuesday night, for the first time in over three months, the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series had a race.

The event was won by Cup driver Chase Elliott after a late-race duel with Kyle Busch. Elliott collected a $100,000 bounty for beating Busch, which will go in his name toward COVID-19 relief.

Although Fox did not broadcast the post-race interview they conducted with Busch, it was eventually published on Twitter and might have been just a little controversial.

What Busch is talking about when it comes to the car being broken to start the race was a suspension issue that the No. 51 team took a long initial pit stop to fix it.

Was it unprofessional? Yes. But at the same time, can you blame the guy? He passed approximately 7,426 trucks on the night. And he’s the team owner; I’d be pretty mad as an owner if the truck was broken at the start of the race.

What’s more controversial is his implying the Bundle of Joy fund is more important than COVID-19 relief. What Kyle and Samantha do with the charity is great and is a fantastic cause to put money toward. But COVID-19 is a major disease that has killed thousands and has greatly affected day-to-day life. While I’m sure the Buschs would put the money to good use, now is just not the time.

What’s next for Trucks?

Now the the dust has settled after Charlotte, there are still a lot of questions coming forward for the Truck Series. Key among them, however, is the future schedule.

The last announced Truck race is the fifth race of the season, coming in mid-June. After that, there are growing signs that the Truck race at Pocono Raceway will go on as scheduled, which would be the sixth race of the season.

In a non COVID-19 world, the Pocono race would be the 13th race of the season.

The Truck playoffs are scheduled to start at World Wide Tech Raceway at Gateway, originally the 17th race of the season, on Aug. 21. NASCAR has made it clear that its main priority as far as scheduling is to preserve the playoffs. So presumably, for Trucks it is going to have to make up seven races over the summer, in addition to the three already scheduled (July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, July 30 at Eldora Speedway and Aug. 8 at Michigan International Speedway).

Assuming those three races go as scheduled, and that’s a huge if for all three of them, that would leave the Trucks with four formerly off-weekends on which to host seven dates. This would be hard enough for Cup to pull off, never mind a much smaller series, from a monetary standpoint.

Now, one way the series could relieve the pressure would be to cancel the race at Gateway and the race following that at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The reality of COVID-19 is that it’s a very tall order to have fans attend any sporting event this year. And even if doctors come out and say it’s fine to do with no restrictions, almost 41 million people have lost their jobs and don’t have the extra cash to afford lower-tier NASCAR. This is important because, as Fox Sports’ Bob Pockrass has reported, standalone Xfinity Series and Truck races are not financially viable off of just media rights.

By making up those races in the three-week break currently scheduled for the playoffs, that would free up four more weekends over the summer thanks to the series already having two off-weekends between Gateway and the third playoff race, to bring the numbers to seven races across eight weekends. This would be significantly more doable and even gives everybody a one-week break.

Who will win in NASCAR’s return to Thunder Valley?

Cup is finally heading to its first short track of the season. Not a fake short track like Phoenix Raceway, but an actual, honest-to-God, less-than-a-mile-long short track.

It would be weird to see Bristol Motor Speedway with absolutely no fans in attendance, but it’s technically the spring race at the track, so there’s not a whole lot of difference.

It’ll be interesting to see how Hendrick Motorsports will do on Sunday. Hendrick has been strong everywhere this year, but it also hasn’t raced just yet at a track like this.

As far as who could win, Kurt Busch could definitely be a viable contender. The older Busch brother has a strong resume on the high banks of Bristol. What’s more is that Busch has actually been pretty darn good this year, with the only two blemishes being a wreck at Daytona International Speedway and a bad finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; otherwise, Busch hasn’t finished outside of the top 15 all season.

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Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

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