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NASCAR doomed the truck series when they tried to go ‘big time’

By admin | April 4, 2010

By Richard Allen

I have tried to be more supportive of the NASCAR organization throughout much of this season. They have tired to improve their on-track product at the Sprint Cup level over the past several months by instituting double file restarts, replacing the wing on the Car of Tomorrow with a spoiler, and allowing multiple green/white/checkered finishes. Also, the ‘have at it’ policy has made for some good discussion topics. There is plenty more that needs to be done but the sanctioning body has at least shown it can be responsive.

However, for what NASCAR has done to improve the Sprint Cup Series, they have had the opposite effect on the Camping World Truck Series.

In 1995, NASCAR started the truck series for the intent of providing a grass roots form of racing that would compete on tracks of one mile in length or less. Many of the races would be run apart from the Sprint Cup Series in places such as Bakersfield, Tucson, Topeka, Milwaukee and North Wilkesboro.

Then little known drivers such as Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, Mike Bliss and Jack Sprague competed in the earliest seasons of the series. Also, up and coming drivers like Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards got their starts in the ranks of truck racing. The races were entertaining and the grandstands at the smaller venues were often full.

Somewhere along the way NASCAR made the decision to take the truck series away from its roots and move it to more ‘big time’ locales(sound familiar). Apparently the lure of potential sponsorship dollars, television revenue and  larger crowds were too much for the Daytona Beach leadership of the sport to ignore.

Initially, taking the trucks to places like Daytona, Talladega, Charlotte and other major speedways seemed to work well. Large companies did offer up sponsorship money during the economic boom times of the late 1990s and the early 2000s. And, Sprint Cup drivers, who had owned teams and dabbled as drivers, suddenly took more of an interest in becoming near full time participants.

However, as the economy has turned sour in recent years, those sponsors have become less inclined to provide funding for a major touring series.

Friday’s race in Nashville serves to indicate just how much this series has declined. NASCAR declared that a crowd of 12,000 fans were on hand to watch the race. In reality, there have been estimates by those who were there that as few as 5,000 were actually in attendance.

I have been to high school football games that drew bigger crowds.

The argument has been made that running the series on bigger tracks and bringing in more recognizable drivers would assure its survival. Well, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick were in the race on Friday. That certainly did little to bring in the fans.

In my opinion, the truck series often has some of the best racing in NASCAR. However, the series once offered something fresh and unique. Now, it is just another variation of Sprint Cup racing, just like the Nationwide Series has become.

I often refer to the Nationwide Series as ‘Sprint Cup Lite’. Now, the truck series has become ‘Sprint Cup Ultra Lite’. And apparently for many people it is no longer worth their attention. The scores of empty seats in Nashville offer evidence of that.

Follow @RacingWithRich on twitter.

Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly columns appear in The Mountain Press and The Knoxville Journal.

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8 Responses to “NASCAR doomed the truck series when they tried to go ‘big time’”

  1. midasmicah Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I agree whole-heartedly. Like the cup cars, all the trucks look the same. The loss of the smaller tracks has taken away it’s personality. And one of my biggest beefs is, like in the Nationwide series, the cup drivers win most of the races. All the trucks are cup cars with truck bodies on them. Truck races used to be the most exciting nas$car races. Now they’re merely an afterthought.

  2. Steve Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 11:46 am

    I agree. The truck series used to run on tracks the Cup and Nationwide series never went to. They need to go back to these tracks. In these markets, the Truck series was THE SHOW. North Wilksboro, Rockingham, Iowa, would all be great places to host a race. Now there are too many companion events. The weekend schedules for Cup weekends are tight enough. Change Cup qualifying so that it is meaningful and send the Truck series somewhere else I say.

  3. Ginger Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Bear in mind that a lot of fans have probably left like me because Michael Waltrip is still in the booth. I like the racing but cannot stand to see or hear this annoyance any longer.

  4. Joe from Pittsburgh Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    They race trucks?

  5. Dave C Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Well, could some of the issue just possibly that Toyota has come into this series, and ‘bought it out’ ? If it wasn’t for a couple Chevy’s as Harvick, Hornaday, and Crafton , it would be all Toyota’s , and I think the public is waking up to it. This is typical of how Toyota operates - Just look at the Nationwide Series now - Except for a couple of times , the Toyo’s are pulling away from ALL others with their horsepower advantage with their FAKE engines . NASCAR just looks the other way while Toyota pays them off . They basically own the Truck series, and now the Nationwide series is next . At least they are getting a black eye with the junk they have sold and misled the public with . That is the saving grace at this point . Jack Roush and many others warned many what was to happen . Maybe they can all race together with their new young gun drivers , and homologate the Nationwide & trucks to make up a half crowd!!

  6. coolheir Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 5:09 pm

    For me personally, the ‘variety’ aspect has been all but removed from the 3 Nascar Series’.
    Years ago, the 2 lesser series’ had their own stars, up and comers or retreads that made the headlines and took home the lions share of the trophys.
    With Nascar and track owners allowing so much intrusion from the cup series into the lower 2 series, it’s become for me an over saturation.
    Where’s the variety between any of the 3 series when names like Harvick, Busch, Hamlin, Burton, Edwards etc. dominate most any headlines out of the NW series, or when Harvick and Busch do the same in the truck series?
    I don’t dislike any of these drivers, but there is such a thing as over exposure, and for me, the powers that be have allowed some of Nascars top stars to be ’starring’ a little too often in places I don’t think they should be in the first place.

  7. Brian Webb Says:
    April 5th, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    They need to go back to putting the factory steel bumpers back on the trucks like when they 1st started the series, give 200 point bonuses for qualifying the tuck you are going to drive, go back to small venues, put 2 barrel carburetors on them and go back to running them during the winter months when Cup racing and Nationwide racing isn’t happening.

  8. acrim Says:
    April 6th, 2010 at 11:52 am

    Michael (POS) Waltrip has ruined the truck races to the point where I simply can’t watch them any longer. When will the NA$CAR “media” learn that having the Waltrip huksters around simply dumbs down the sport.