After a four-week break, the Craftsman Truck Series returns to the track at Kansas Speedway. Along with the seasoned veterans and rookie of the year contenders, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Michelle Theriault will make their Craftsman Truck Series debuts. Driving for Derrike Cope’s newly founded team, Theriault will pilot the No. 73 Derrike Cope Inc./RMR Dodge Ram, and Cobb will be behind the wheel of the No. 74 Providence Medical Center Dodge Ram.
As much as ESPN’s NASCAR Now lacked in consistency and substance last year, it has been made up for — and then some — in 2008. Last year’s hosts of the show, with the exception of Ryan Burr, really struggled to even pretend to have a clue about anything in the sport; but things have changed over the course of the past few months. Nicole Manske, Allen Bestwick, and Burr have become the triumvirate of hosts that cycle at the helm of the broadcast, and the talent works to perfection in this case. Bestwick’s experience combined with Manske and Burr’s individual, natural comfort in front of the camera really helps fill the void that the script of the show sometimes lacks.
Since the last time we talked, our team did a NASCAR official Truck Series test at Martinsville. The Ford Powerstroke Diesel ran well for two days, and the Maxx Force Diesel ran well for two days with Brendan Gaughan. Even Adam got a shot at driving the Ford Powerstroke Diesel for the first time, and handled it like a veteran. He put some speed up on the charts. I’m real proud of Adam, and I’d really like to thank everybody for having the confidence in him and the team for working behind him. He had a couple of sponsors to mention for the race at Martinsville, but his Dad and the car owner, Mr. Mitchell, decided not to let him race because I think he needs a little more racing experience. But we have to appreciate the people at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Ford Motor Company, and Roush Yates Engines, who were going to provide Adam with a chance to run in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Maybe when Adam gets ready, they’ll have that chance again.
Recent shocking revelations that former Craftsman Truck and Nationwide Series driver Aaron Fike not only concealed a painkiller addiction from NASCAR officials, but competed in CTS events after using heroin on race day has renewed criticism of the sanctioning body’s present drug testing policies. At the moment, NASCAR does not have a random drug screening policy like other major sports; instead, they maintain the right to test under the broadly worded “reasonable suspicion” edict in their rulebook. This position gives them almost an unfettered right to test anyone at their discretion participating in a NASCAR-sanctioned event. Additionally, team owners are free to test drivers and crew members either randomly, or on a basis of reasonable cause. This results in two layers of detecting possible problems; but for some, that just isn’t enough. That’s a shame… because it should be.
1. Longtime Gone – The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has become a favorite of many race fans, due to its highly competitive fields and close championship battles. The racing that the series provides has been likened to “old school,” and has steadily increased in popularity. However, there has been no race scheduled since the series visited Martinsville March 29th, over two weeks ago. The wait won’t end anytime soon, either; the series will take to the track next in two weeks, on April 26th at Kansas Speedway.
It often appears that the suits in NASCAR hold all the cards; they are usually confident that no matter what the circumstances, they always have four aces up their collective sleeves. But a young driver named Aaron Fike — in his bid for eventual re-instatement as a NASCAR competitor — may have just laid down a royal flush. Fike’s recent admission that he used heroin on days he was scheduled to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series before he was suspended in July of ’07 has left many in the racing world stunned, and at the very least, has Brian France and his court jesters frantically searching for a napkin to wipe the egg from their faces. One of the reasons Fike’s admission is so stunning is because it is a 180-degree turnaround from statements he made in an Associated Press interview last year, after undergoing four months of intense rehab.
How many times did your mother tell you to treat people the way you want to be treated? You probably laughed and stuffed your little brother in the laundry chute anyway. Maybe you went outside to play in the yard a few days later, and stepped right where the same brother walked the family dog after a particularly large dinner. Ever see something like this happen to our favorite driver? He gets a little rough with some guy and runs over debris a few laps later, popping a tire and losing a lap fixing it. Maybe he gets caught with some “creative engineering” and spins out in qualifying two weeks later. You sometimes have to wonder if greater forces are at work.
On several occasions during the Martinsville race this past Sunday, the announcers in the FOX booth analyzed “short term gain” vs. “long term loss.” The comparison was made whenever a driver skipped a pit or took two tires for track position, meaning that they may gain track position in the short run, but the older tires may mean a net loss in the long run. The short-term gain vs. long-term loss is a debate that could, and should, be taking place regarding Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series, and nowhere was this more evident than at Martinsville last Sunday.
There are, to be sure, a number of unsung heroes in NASCAR. You can find them in a number of capacities with many in the more obvious sources: pit crew members, the guys in the fabrication shop, tire specialists, transporter drivers, or even the person in charge of preparing food for the team. These positions are all to be celebrated and honored, as there is no task too great or too small in racing to go unrecognized. In that same vein, there are many drivers who do not get the recognition that they rightly deserve. That notion brought to mind one driver in particular: Johnny Benson Jr.
While most of Martinsville was a misty mess of rain, clouds, and fog, my TV signal was coming through crystal clear. During a week filled with near misses, here’s a look at some things during the past week of TV coverage that were spot on — as well as some criticisms of what missed the mark.