NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series is set to close out its final race of the 2012 season at Homestead, the 18th season of racing for the series. Since the series humble beginnings on the west coast, the trucks have maintained a solid fan base and many argue the series provides the best racing among NASCAR’s top three national touring series. However in recent years there has been talk of the series demise due to the high cost of promoting the series, the drop in attendance at most races and the poor economy. Even though the notion of axing the series has been mere rumor, there are things that could be done to rehabilitate the series to the point where such rumors would not exist.
While the racing is as good as it has ever been the series seems to be growing stagnant in several ways. There is little difference between the truck series schedule compared to the Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series with all races taking place at tracks both the higher echelon series run. Those who remember the early years of the former Craftsman Super Truck Series likely remember a schedule that was made up primarily of local short tracks and road courses where the then Busch Series and Winston Cup Series did not race. Of the 20 races on the 1995 schedule, only nine were at tracks that either the Busch or Cup Series raced at. Every track on the 22-race 2012 schedule also has a Nationwide or Sprint Cup date.
Obviously the argument can be made that since the truck series is a proving ground for up and coming talent, racing at the same tracks as the two highest series of racing in North America is a good thing. It gives drivers experience on bigger tracks and allows them the chance to race against Cup stars like Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. However, these larger tracks cost the teams as much if not more money than racing at a short track or road course would. Because the schedule is comprised of mostly 1.5-mile speedways, teams have to test and prepare their trucks to be as fast as possible. That means more time developing aero technology and doing wind tunnel testing. All of this equates to big dollars for a series that should be inexpensive compared to the Nationwide or Cup series.
If you look in the grandstands for most truck events, there are numerous empty seats. When the series was growing in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fans packed the local short tracks to see stars like Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday, Jr., Jack Sprague and Joe Ruttman. In my view this is what the truck series needs, big-time racing at a short track with fans filling the stands and excitement filling the air. Certainly the purse for these events would be smaller than the bigger tracks but the cost of building speedway special trucks would go away and with fans actually coming to the races and watching more on television, the money differential would likely be made up and actually make the series and teams more money.
This does not mean NASCAR should completely eliminate speedways from the series. The racing at Daytona, Talladega and Texas is some of the best on the circuit. However adding races at tracks like South Boston, Myrtle Beach or Gresham Motorsports Park would bring a lot of excitement to the series. Why not bring a short track race to the west coast and race at the new ½-mile Kern County Raceway Park which is set to open soon? Adding in dates at road course tracks such as Watkins Glen, Sonoma, Road America or Portland would give the series even more notoriety and prestige while also attracting new talent to the series.
NASCAR’s Camping World Series has a mix of young guns and grizzled veterans that the other two series do not have. NASCAR fans in general clamor for more short track events. Unlike speedway races, short track races put fans on top and up close to the action. If NASCAR really did what the fans wanted, this is the kind of change they would make.