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Woody: Confidence Is High On The Trucks Side

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 16 2009
Mike Skinner says times are tough but not fatal for the Camping World Truck Series.

Mike Skinner says times are tough but not fatal for the Camping World Truck Series.

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

Nashville – Veteran NASCAR truck racer Mike Skinner says the series faces some potholes in the road, but predicts that it will keep on truckin’.

“I’ve had some conversations about it with folks at NASCAR and the truck series isn’t going anywhere,” Skinner said during a Wednesday press luncheon to promote the Aug. 1 Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Track vice-president/general manager Cliff Hawks said, in response to Skinner’s optimistic forecast, “That’s music to my ears.”

Hawks is aware of speculation about NASCAR’s third-tier series being in trouble, but said, “As far as I know there’s nothing to it. Nobody has told me anything about it.”

The Camping World series, like all other levels of racing, has been hit by economic problems. Last month defending champion Johnny Benson was sidelined because of a lack of sponsorship. Last season, Bobby Hamilton Racing, a one-time championship team, closed its doors due to lack of funding.

Such struggles involving some of the truck series’ elite – amid drastic cutbacks in even the top-tier Cup series – fueled speculation that the truckers are in trouble.

“Are we in great shape? No,” admitted Skinner. “But there’ll be a truck series next year.”

The Superspeedway race is the 14th on the 25-race schedule, a schedule that some believe may have to be reduced in order to trim the teams’ expenses.

“I don’t think cutting the schedule is a good idea,” said Skinner who is third in the standings, trailing leader Ron Hornaday and Matt Crafton. He has one win in 11 starts.

“A lot of (the problem) is the economy,” Skinner added, “but we have to get past that. We have to be more accountable and not take anything for granted. We’ve got to expect a little bit less and give back a little big more. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”

In addition to the short schedule, the truck series is plagued with lack of exposure. Although all the races are carried live on the Speed Channel, that channel is not carried on may cable servers, including Comcast in Nashville and other prime viewing areas.

Also, lean purses make it hard for team owners to meet expenses. Skinner noted that a driver who finishes last in a Sprint Cup race makes more money that a driver who wins two truck races.

“What NASCAR needs to do is promote, promote, promote,” Skinner said.

He doesn’t like the personnel cutback NASCAR implemented this season as a cost-saving measure. One less man is allowed over the wall on pit stops and each truck is allowed to take either gas or tiers on each stop – but not both.

“It’s not working and it’s not saving us anything,” Skinner said. “NASCAR does a lot of good things, but this is not one of them. They need to go back to the way it used to be.”

Skinner, 42, won the truck championship in his first season of competition in 1995, driving for Richard Childress. Since then he has added 24 more victories, including one this year, and won over $4 million. His 25 wins are third highest in the truck series and he became the first truck racer to win $1 million.

“I’ve had a great career in the truck series and I hope to continue it for sometime,” Skinner said. “Our series has the most exciting racing in NASCAR and I don’t see it ever going away.”

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 16 2009
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