From the first checkered flag that dropped over Mike Skinner at Phoenix International Raceway in 1995 to Joey Logano’s exciting win at Martinsville two weeks ago, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has grown substantially during the 20 years it has been a national touring division in NASCAR.
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One thing that has helped the series grow is the connection it has with the fans. Aside from the idea that the America’s favorite vehicle is widely regarded as the pickup, the NCWTS has achieved a mostly grassroots following that a lot of the fans identify with. Sure, they take to the high banks of Daytona and lap the incredibly fast Texas Motor Speedway, but they also sling mud at Eldora and bang fenders at Martinsville.
The grassroots element has remained relatively unchanged over the years. The trucks once raced at small venues like Flemington and Louisville, weekly venues where average guys working the 9-5 shift would take their racers and compete for the win. Now, although most of the schedule takes place on tracks that the Sprint Cup Series also races at, the grassroots element is still prevalent in the underfunded teams with drivers running the operations in their garages.
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The NCWTS is the closest NASCAR gets to grassroots while still maintaining the national spotlight. It doesn’t hurt that some of the best and brightest in NASCAR also make a mark here. Gray Gaulding, Cole Custer, Kyle Larson, 2014 Xfinity champion Chase Elliott, and John Hunter Nemechek are just some of the drivers who have turn heads in the truck series early in their careers.
Also, the racing is nothing short of spectacular. For example, the 2003 and 2007 season openers at Daytona saw last-lap three-wide passes for the win. In 2013, Norm Benning advanced to the main event at Eldora after beating and banging his way into the final transfer spot. In 1995 at Colorado National Speedway, Butch Miller beat Mike Skinner by .001 of a second in what was the closest finish in NCWTS history.
Those are just a few examples of close racing that are found in the truck series. It doesn’t matter what type of track they’re racing on because the odds are great that the fans will get a show. Add to that any week a first-time winner may emerge or an underdog may have their time in the spotlight, and it’s easy to see that the trucks are a breed apart from the Xfinity Series and the Sprint Cup Series. The field is almost equal in the truck series, and that goes a long way towards a quality product.
One of the best things about the truck series is that it’s a series where just about every driver has something to prove. There are the veterans who want to prove that they still have the competitive drive before they retire, but there are also the young drivers with dreams of glory who aspire for greatness and view the trucks as a stepping stone towards the top.
All of this and more are why the truck series has grown to be one of NASCAR’s most popular divisions today.
Be sure to comment below with your favorite truck series moment from the last 20 years.