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Camping World Trucks And TV Have A Thing Going On

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 22 2009

The Camping World Truck Series and television have a thing going on.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

The Camping World Truck Series has good thing going with viewers. (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

To compare TV ratings among NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series in baseball terms, it’s “one up, one down.”

While the Fox broadcast of Saturday night’s Cup race drew a record-low 3.3/6 for a race from Phoenix and overall numbers are down 14 percent this year, the truck series is continuing its uphill march from last season.

The Truck Series broadcast from Atlanta, the most recent for Speed, which carries most truck races, scored a Nielsen rating of 1.29 (943,000 households), peaking at 1.63 (1,197,000 households). That’s a 23-percent increase over last year, which saw 19 of 22 truck races on Speed growing on the positive side, 15 of them in double digits. The trucks started their season with a 21 percent increase in ratings for the opener at Daytona.

It’s a bit of bright news for the truck series, which is feeling the effects of the sagging economy as much as any circuit. Teams are struggling to attract sponsors, and several have announced this week that they’re cutting back to partial schedules. Key Motorsports and TRG Motorsports both said this week that they’re among those unable to continue full-time.

But there’s often a silver lining even in the darkest of clouds, and the TV ratings give hope – and a good bargaining chip – to the truck series drivers and owners.

“It’s a tremendous story to be able to tell a sponsor that our viewership is up from race to race over last year and was also up last year,” said Bob Germain, co-owner of Germain Racing. “It’s definitely getting easier to sell in that respect.” 

Germain’s driver, veteran driver Todd Bodine, said he sees the TV numbers as a sign that viewers appreciate the hard-nosed, door-to-door racing that has become the trademark of the truck series. And that means sponsors, who can participate in the series for far less than it would take to back a Cup team, get good return on their investment, a key factor in today’s business climate.

“The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was a good bargain even before the ratings were going up and the series was getting so strong,” said Bodine, the 2006 series champion. “It’s been incredible racing that the fans absolutely love, and the fact that the TV ratings and attendance are going up is just good testimony to that fact.”

But he ’s also acutely aware of the dire financial situation facing many teams. When he left Atlanta he was unsure if he’d be able to make the next race at Martinsville because he had no sponsor at that point even though he’d finished first, second and third in the first three races and was second in points to Kyle Busch, who isn’t running the whole schedule.

Bodine did manage to find backing for Martinsville (Whelen Engineering) and for this weekend at Kansas (Ventrilo). 

“The team owners in the truck series are struggling to survive,” he said.  “The purse money that we win isn’t even close to making ends meet. A truck that doesn’t have a sponsor has to finish in the top three every week to in order to almost make ends meet.

 “It’s a losing proposition for a team owner in our great Truck Series unless you get a strong sponsor behind you.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, April 22 2009
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