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Woody: Trucks Put On Good, But Skimpy, Show

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 14 2010

It's a wonder that the Camping World trucks don't get rusty between races during some portions of the season. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)(

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

They didn’t need a green flag to start last Sunday’s truck race in Iowa. They needed a feather-duster.

The rusty racers took to the track for the first time since June 12 at Michigan, running just their 9th race since the season opener ‘way back on Feb. 12.

Maybe NASCAR should change the name of its third-tier division from the Camping World Series to the Cobb-Web World Series. It’s not a sport for the forgetful and absent-minded.

In a world with a shortening attention span, going a month between races is an eternity. With big gaps like that it’s impossible to create story lines and maintain interest.

More’s the pity, because some fans consider the trucks NASCAR’s most action-packed, competitive series. Maybe the Iowa stop, which launched a rare run of several uninterrupted weeks of trucking, will revitalize interest.

The truck season consists of a mere 25 races, compared to 36 in the Sprint Cup series (plus two special events), and 35 in Nationwide. Yet despite the skimpy schedule only 18 drivers have managed to run all nine races this year.

Maybe that constant struggle for identity (and perhaps survival) is part of the truck’s blue-collar appeal. Most of the drivers aren’t major celebrities like in upper divisions. The majority of the truck teams have to cut corners and pinch pennies. You won’t see many truckers featured in Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

In the truck series, it’s a constant struggle on and off the track – kind of like stock car racing of old when drivers lived paycheck to paycheck.

It’s not exactly the Fried Baloney League – it’s possible to make a good living racing trucks – but it’s a long ways from the Caviar Cup Series.

Some criticize NASCAR for not doing more to promote truck racing, but in fairness it’s difficult to promote a series that sits idle for a month.

A solution would be to add more races, but it’s not that simple. Tracks can’t afford to add a race and post a purse without a title sponsor, and corporate cash is in short supply right now.

Plus, adding more races would mean more expenses for teams already struggling with tight budgets.

It’s a dilemma for a series dying for exposure.

About all teams can do is keep on truckin’, hope for better times ahead, and continue to put on a great show during their limited engagements.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, July 14 2010
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • john says:

    I’ve been watching the Truck series since the 90s with the occasional races on TNN, and I’ve rarely missed a race since SPEEDTV started covering it.

    The state of the Truck series angers and excites me all at the same time. Ever since Rick Crawford made that amazing 3-wide pass for the win at Daytona in the very first SPEEDTV race, the ratings have steadily climbed higher and higher, and fan interest higher and higher…

    And yet every season, money and sponsorship dry up more and more, and more and more drivers are forced to run un-sponsored, or a partial schedule.

    Are these sponsors not aware of the market at all? SPEED’s ratings for the Trucks are very, very good (I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re better than Nationwide right now), so why aren’t sponsors willing to put their name up on national TV?

    I agree whole-heartedly with scorer27 that a big appeal for the Trucks is that they don’t have a large number of Cup invaders at a lot of races. This means the storylines in the series are made up of drivers mostly FROM the series, and other than the occasional Harvick or Busch domination, the races are FAR more exciting than Cup or Nationwide.

    Why?

    1) It’s a great mix of old grizzled veterans the fans love (Crawford, Skinner, Hornaday) or love to hate (Bo-whine) and rookies mixing it up.

    2) The mix of tracks is superior to the Cup series, since they run on some great little short tracks as much as the big tracks.

    3) The Trucks are aerodynamic bricks, which means the aero-push isn’t nearly as big a deal, making for more passing.

    4) The races are reasonable 150-200 mile lengths, where you only make one or two pit stops. As such, the drivers are racing the whole night, jockeying for position, clawing up the order, rather than “just cruising” like most of a Cup race.

    It just mystifies me how more sponsors aren’t interested on getting on the action… If you sponsor a mid-pack truck like, say, Crawford or Ricky Carmichael, you’ve actually got a good shot at getting your business on the screen, getting it mentioned, and more importantly, a good chance of having it running up front. For half the price of a Cup sponsorship.

    Compare this to a Nationwide sponsorship where, if you’re not sponsoring one of the 10-12 Cup drivers in the field, it basically means you won’t be in the top 10, you won’t be mentioned, and you’re sure as hell never going to see your car win a race.

    I think the series needs two things to improve its viability:

    1. It needs to keep the shorter schedule, for budget reasons, and also because it’s a perfectly normal schedule–it’s Cup and Nationwide that have HUGE schedules.

    2. The more races AWAY from the Cup schedule, the better. Don’t know if anyone noticed, but the crowds for every “support race” for Cup, except sometimes Daytona, are awful. But when the Trucks go to a standalone race (Iowa, ORP, Mansfield) the crowds are awesome. Bigger crowds make sponsors happier. So drop some of the awful support races that are kind of boring anyway, and head back to more marquee events–how about one up in Canada, at Delaware Speedway or St. Eustache? How about putting a road course back on the schedule? Portland? Lime Rock? Always great crowds.

  • scorer27 says:

    They really don’t need more races in the truck series but if the schedule was where they ran at least every other week it would keep the interest stirred up. The racing is almost always better than it’s two big brothers. The gotta go, gotta go, gotta go attitude of the truck racers makes it much more intersting and the shorter races helps also. It is pretty cool to see so many young racers coming up through the truck series in search of a ride at the next level. The biggest plus in the favor of the truck series though is the small number of Cup drivers taking home the $$$$! I would love to see NASCAR limit the number of Nationwide & Camping World events the Cup guys are allowed to compete in. Maybe 5 for each series would be the right number.