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The future of NASCAR's Truck tour seems increasingly in doubt

Mike Skinner, here at Milwaukee last week, has been a Truck tour mainstay since his championship seasons in the mid-1990s. However good the racing, the Trucks have had a hard time attracting an audience. (Photo: Toyota Motorsports)

   By Mike Mulhern

   Promoter Bruton Smith and NASCAR president Mike Helton are reported to be meeting Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway over the uncertain future of NASCAR's Truck series, with increasing speculation that the tour – 25 races this season, on 16 Sprint Cup tour tracks and seven other tracks – will be severely cut next season.
   Indeed even the survival of the Truck series, which was created in 1995 by the late Bill France Jr. as a budget-priced 'proving ground' for new car owners, new sponsors and new drivers, has been questioned. And those questions began even before the season started.
   General Motors, Ford and Dodge have all withdrawn financial support of the Truck tour and the Nationwide tour, leaving only Toyota officially involved. Toyota officials have reportedly decided to drop their financial support too, though Toyota racing boss Lee White insists no decision has been made.
   But NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston vigorously insists the Truck tour is "rock solid," and he says the Truck tour will not be cut next season.
   However, Truck teams have found it extremely difficult to land sufficient sponsorship for the coast-to-coast tour. Detroit car makers have been the tour's major supports over the years. But Detroit was becoming increasingly upset that the Trucks, even though they put on some of the best racing in NASCAR and have a national TV package (Fox' Speed), have been unable to attract much independent sponsorship.
    In fact Johnny Benson, who won last year's Truck championship, just lost his ride two weeks ago. And Bill and Gail Davis, who owned the team that Benson drove for in winning the 2008 Truck title, had to close up their shop at the end of that season.
   So four of the last five Truck tour champion car owners are no longer around.
   The Truck series' event at Smith's Texas Motor Speedway June 5th was an eye-opener, with just 20 or so Truck regulars for the 36-car field, with perhaps 10 or so so-called start-and-parkers.
   One suggestion to help save the Truck series has been for the four NASCAR car makers to work together to design an inexpensive 'spec' Truck engine, to cut costs.
    Another suggestion has been a 'common' engine for all three NASCAR touring series.
    Yet another suggestion has been to put the Trucks and Nationwide cars into a single series, since the Nationwide tour has many of the same problems as the Trucks. That suggestion seems to have very little support, though it would be similar to a solution NASCAR came up with years ago, with its Grand American tour and Grand National East tour.




There's no arguing that the

There's no arguing that the Truck series is in trouble. However, the photo you used does not accurately represent typical Milwaukee Truck race attendance. The scheduled event (a night race) was rained out and rescheduled for the following afternoon. This drastically hurt attendance.
According to this published report, ticket sales for the Truck race, and the Friday night attendance was "pretty good considering the economy."
+ Leonard

Good point. I wasn't using

Good point. I wasn't using the picture so much to show a crowd as to show Mike Skinner's Truck....but let me look for some more pix. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

Personally, I loved the pic

Personally, I loved the pic you used. Being a Skinnerite for years, it seemed only reasonable to have Mikes truck on this post.


Mike Skinner is one of my

Mike Skinner is one of my favorite drivers.....anyone who knows Italy as well as he does, and who drives as hard and rough as he does, and is as well-spoken and thoughtful, is A-1 in my book.

If the manufacturing support

If the manufacturing support is gone, then NASCAR needs to re-tool the truck schedule closer back to what it was when the tour started if they want it to survive. Time to put the short tracks back in, and not go to the west coast more than once during the season. Get rid of Vegas, California, Phoenix and Kansas. Only 1 race at Texas. Add Rockingham, and bring back Darlington, Richmond, and Music City Motorplex. Traveling all over the country coupled with having to run so many big tracks has drastically increased the costs from when the tour started. The racing was just as good then as it is now. There were some tracks that had pit issues when the tour started, but many of the short tracks have upgraded their pit road accesses and increased their pit stalls over the last 15 years. South Georgia Motorsports Park and Thompson Speedway would be good additions to the schedule. Killing the truck series and allowing the Nationwide series to remain as it is now would be an absolute travesty.

I'm with you, in principle.

I'm with you, in principle. The series fell victim to its own success and lost sight of the original mission. There are unserved/underserved markets that would embrace this sort of event much more so than just tacking it on as another event to be sold as part of the Track Pack everyone has to buy so they can get tickets to the Cup race. To me, tracks like Gateway, Milwaukee, Iowa, ORP in Indianapolis, Rockingham, Fairgrounds Speedway at Nashville, etc. are the sorts of places this series should be running. With the economy as it is presently it's asking enough of people to pony up for an inflated Cup ticket, never mind the cost of having to buy the Track Pack.

Can I add that the pit road changes this year are gimmicky and have not done much to help competition?

i think it's time i spent

i think it's time i spent some time considering nascar's markets -- where we go, where we need to go, where we don't need to go.....
and nascar's race week marketing: i'm starting to think -- by looking at fridays as essentially wasted days at the track all the way around, with boring qualifying, no crowds -- that nascar needs to repackage a race weekend as more 'well-rounded,' to give fans more bang for their bucks. and it's not the price of tickets that is worrisome, it's the hotel rooms, air fare/gas/meals....
So maybe some one-day shows, in-and-out: rockingham and martinsville, obviously work. but one-day stand-alone shows might be a better marketing approach for some tracks/markets.
and i have long pushed for nascar and its track promoters to put together better hotel-and-ticket packages. you can't tell me that the france family and bruton smith can't go to marriott/hilton and other hotel chains and negotiate from the top for cheaper race weekend rates. These $200+ a night hotel rates have done more to kill nascar than any rules change. NASCAR should make it a priority to find a way to offer $99 hotel room packages to its fans.....that would be the best way to revive this sport.

Hotels are a big part of the

Hotels are a big part of the problem. I'd love to go to the Labor Day race in Atlanta or even the fall race at Martinsville. There are some cheap tix to be had, but by the time I've put gas in the car, bought food and paid for lodging it's just not feasible.

Has it occurred to NASCAR

Has it occurred to NASCAR that the idea that Cup "Stars" racing in Trucks & Nationwide may actually diminish attendance? If the fans expect that a Roush or Gibbs or Hendrick Cup driver is going to win, why buy a ticket? This is in no way meant to demean the outstanding drivers who race Trucks or Nationwide solely but if they're not driving for one of the Cup team owned or supported Nationwide or Truck teams they are at a demonstrable disadvantage.

Also, what about the ticket prices for Trucks, and for that matter Nationwide? I have no idea how much they cost but shouldn't they be of such a low level that it would be easier to pack the stands, and then make up at the concession windows and parking stalls more than what was supposedly "lost" at the ticket window? Can a typical "family of 4" that's been priced out of Sprint Cup afford to go to a Truck or Nationwide race? The events are just as entertaining, and for family consideration they're also shorter. Besides, team sponsors want "butts in the seats" just like track promoters and TV executives. If the fans aren't there, neither will be the team sponsors and there goes the series.

Just wondering.

Combining the current

Combining the current Nationwide and Trucks into one series would could be a hit if promoted properly (Bruton Smith?). SHORT TRACKS ONLY, called the "ROAD RAGE CUP SERIES", mixing cars and trucks on a short track would be like driving one your local freeway!

Hey, now that's the kind of

Hey, now that's the kind of thinking I like! Let's do it at Richmond, Martinsville and Bristol. But, heck, NASCAR will probably find some computer sim that says it won't work. Me, I'd ban computer simulations from this sport...and go back to testing with real tires on the real tracks we race on. Hey, how about this -- let's ban computers from the NASCAR garage. We could call it the Jake Elder Rule: teams get a ball of string and a yardstick to set up their cars. If carburetors are NASCAR-preferable to fuel injection, well, let's go whole-hog.

The series was started out

The series was started out west with Mesa Marin and Sears Point. It was designed as a series to get to secondary markets. Take the trucks back to tracks that were 3/4 mile and below. Mix in 2 or 3 road courses. Infineon and Watkins shorten the series to 23 events and you have a winner of a series again. Send them to ORP, Irwindale, TRP, Nashville, Iowa,

Well if the Trucks were shown

Well if the Trucks were shown on a network that everyone could get then maybe viewership would increase and sponsors would be more interested! It is the best racing by far but not accessible to the general fan. I am a current dirt racer and former NASCAR champion and live for racing. But.... I don't get Speed channel and don't get to see the trucks!

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