Is the other shoe finally starting to drop for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series? After months of dire predictions that teams in series were on thin financial ice, Friday's NCWS event in Texas may have finally proved the prognosticators right.
Friday's Texas Truck Series event featured a short field of just 33 starters and based on the level of competition and the early retirement rate, it appeared that 10 of the trucks on the starting grid were 'start and park' entries.
None of the trucks in the final 10 positions of the race completed more than 26 laps or a full fuel/tire run in Friday's WinStar World Casino 400 at Texas - all of them falling out of the race with reasons like 'Vibration, Overheating, Ignition and Handling.' One truck was listed out at 'Too Slow.'
Truck Series teams have been saying all year that finances were either tight or non-existent. At the season-opening event at Daytona, everyone was pointing toward getting through the third race of the year at Atlanta. Because the Truck Schedule is so thin in the early part of the campaign, the hope was to network money to keep going past those first events.
Later, the financial timetable was moved back to Charlotte in mid-May as teams scrambled to find the means to keep going. Some have found money, most haven't. Many of those that have networked some funding will tell you privately that it isn't anywhere near enough to compete at a high level all season, but they were compelled to take anything to keep going.
That's produced a division where the difference between the haves and have nots is clearly evident. Suddenly, NASCAR's most exciting division is its most droll with the same few teams dominating the racing action week in and week out.
The Truck Series, originally designed to bring a premiere NASCAR divisions to grass roots short tracks in places like Odessa, MO, Bakersfield, CA and Flemington, NJ, hit the superspeedways in 1997 at Texas and has never looked back. Known for its tight racing action and putting on a solid show, the Trucks were anything but that Friday at Texas.
One of the longer races on the schedule each year, Friday's 250-mile, 167-lap test at Texas was hard to watch. With just 23 trucks whizzing around the 1.5-mile oval, there wasn't much racing to speak of and only nine trucks finished on the lead lap. Lead changes were few and with only two cautions in the event (the second for debris on Lap 123), things got pretty strung out at times.
This was hardly the Truck Series we've come to know and love. Friday's Texas race was - as much as we hate to say it - boring. No matter how you wrapped it, this wasn't fun to watch. There was no drama, excitement, tension and most of all, no close racing - all the things that used to make the Truck Series something you wanted (had?) to watch.
In all honesty, this has been the case with the Trucks throughout this season. Strapped by the pullout of virtually all manufacturer assistance, ridiculously low event purses, and a set of bad competition-killing rules (the pit road and throttle restricting tapered spacer initiatives are the worst of the lot), Truck Series events are much less competitive and are no longer an edge of your seat kind of entertainment experience. Instead, events like Friday's Texas Truck race now mostly feature long, mind-numbing periods of inactivity punctuated by breaks for convoluted pit stops and commercials.
Unfortunately, you can look for more of the same this weekend when another short field of Trucks - with as much as nearly a third of it populated by start and parks - takes the green flag on the massive two-mile oval at Michigan.
Double Thumbs Up
Thumbs up to the double-file restarts used in Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Pocono.
A long overdue rule, the double up of the lead lap cars get the lapped traffic out of the way and allows the front-runners an opportunity to race without obstruction.
We've been all for this rule for some time and hope it quickly filters down to the Nationwide and Truck divisions.
Kyle Channels Pete
Forty years ago, Pete Townsend of The Who popularized smashing his guitar as a celebration of the band's music and the end of a concert. On Saturday, Kyle Busch did the same wasting a special Sam Bass Gibson Guitar presented to the winner of the Nashville Nationwide race.
Of course, Busch was immediately vilified for smashing the guitar/trophy.
Busch, who discussed the incident with Bass and Gibson later without incident, also ordered two more guitar trophies for display. The broken guitar will be cut into pieces and given to the crew members as a souvenir of the victory.
What is so wrong with this?
People just need to lighten up and have some fun once and awhile. Busch sure is winning his ninth NASCAR top-three division race this season and his 30th over the past 15 months.
Now that's something people should be talking about.