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Home / Featured Content / Voice of Vito: Truck Termination, Schedule Shortcomings And JGR Shakeup?
Voice of Vito: Truck Termination, Schedule Shortcomings And JGR Shakeup?
(Credit: Getty Images)

Voice of Vito: Truck Termination, Schedule Shortcomings And JGR Shakeup?

Truck Series Termination

Word came down late Friday afternoon that the Turner Scott Motorsports Truck Series team of Ron Hornaday, Jr. would not be competing this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario. The four-time champion is currently fourth in series points heading into this weekend’s race, but that didn’t stop the doors from shuttering. While the team trucks of Ben Kennedy and Cameron Hayley will still be in the event, the most competitive driver amongst the trio earned a pink slip. Oh yeah, did I mention he’s the winningest driver in the series’ history, with 51 wins and four championships to his credit?

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

With his ride being shuttered at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, four-time champion Ron Hornaday will miss this weekend’s NASCAR Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park despite sitting fourth in points. (Credit: Mike Neff)

After some erroneous early reports had the entire operation shutting its doors, team owner Harry Scott released a statement claiming, “Turner Scott Motorsports remains in operation and will compete in this weekend’s NASCAR events. TSM’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race teams represented by the No. 42 driven by Kyle Larson and the No. 31 driven by Dylan Kwasniewski will complete this weekend as scheduled at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The No. 31 driven by Ben Kennedy and the No. 32 driven by Cameron Hayley in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will compete as scheduled at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this coming Sunday. My investment company, a co-owner of TSM, will continue to do all that it can to keep the team moving forward with or without our business partner Steve Turner. To all TSM employees, sponsors, partners and fans I pledge we will continue to do what we can to keep the teams racing hard each and every week of the season.”

Unfortunately, that investment company could invest in just so many people; several mechanics are out on the street, this Thursday along with Hornaday. While it is a huge blow to both the company who had amassed 11 wins in the series as well as the 2012 Championship with James Buescher, it is further commentary on the state of affairs for a series that continues to struggle to fill fields and lose trucks due to lack of sponsorship – or in this case, a reported dispute between owners Steve Turner and Harry Scott. There were only 29 trucks on the entry list for this weekend’s race; now, it’s down to 28 with Hornaday’s team not making the trip. Only 29 trucks showed up two weeks ago at Michigan, looking more like an entry list from 1995, the first year of the series’ inception than 2014.

Those totals prove even more discouraging considering this weekend’s race is the follow-up to last year’s wildly entertaining one that saw a last turn dust-up between Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon, as well as the antics between Max Papis, Mike Skeen, and Skeen’s girlfriend that was the talk of the track for the next several weeks. If that type of event can’t gain traction, in the form of greater entertainment and interest the Truck Series is really in trouble.

Schedule Shortcomings

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Schedule was released on Tuesday with many positive moves made. The Series will follow up the Daytona 500 in Atlanta, instead of trucking across the country to Phoenix, and the Southern 500 will return to its rightful place on Labor Day weekend. There are a few misses, however, most notably the absence of a road course in The Chase (this time around…) and the July race at Daytona being run on Sunday night. A quick glance at the calendar shows that next year, July 4th falls on a Saturday night, so that makes sense not running it in the evening when everybody will be craning their necks ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sky. That said, if there’s anything this year proved following the rain-delayed event, it was that this race needs to be ran as it always had been in years past, before noon. The race could be run on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. or even Sunday at 11:00 a.m. to help provide some room for a rain delay. A precious few extra hours’ travel time might also save a vacation day or two for fans traveling from out of state.

Meanwhile, the Chase races all remain the same…in the same order…again. Yawn. As we’ve seen in recent years, NASCAR is willing to make some changes but there won’t be a complete shuffling of the season, tracks or races overnight. There are sponsorship and marketing plans in place that need to be honored, along with that little caveat of ISC and/or the France family owning virtually every track on the circuit. But these few changes will help matters, coupled with the recent test session at MIS that proved low downforce, sticky tires that wear out, and leaving the throttle to those who dare will provide the best racing at the intermediate tracks which once were the backbone of the series. Small steps…

It’s Not Me, It’s You…

"My crew chief is being a real d...oh hi Dave!" Will Kyle Busch and Dave Rogers continue to be paired as driver and crew chief next season after five years together? (Credit: CIA Editorial Photography)

“My crew chief lately has been being a real d…oh hi, Dave!” Will Kyle Busch and Dave Rogers continue to be paired as driver and crew chief next season after an ugly past few weeks? (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

With two races to go before The Chase gets underway, Kyle Busch had another frustrating outing at Bristol Motor Speedway this past Saturday night. While the team did finish second in three of four races, between Kentucky and Indianapolis, the last four events have been abysmal by even start-and-park standards: 42nd, 40th, 39th, 36th. (On the bright side, hey, they’re steadily getting better right?) The friction this season between crew chief Dave Rogers and Kyle Busch is becoming more evident, with the head wrench becoming more willing to give it back to his driver this year. From the back and forth bickering at Pocono to this weekend’s home run zinger of “park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus!” one has to wonder what the driver and crew chief lineup will look like at JGR next season with Carl Edwards coming on board.

While Busch is locked into The Chase already courtesy of an early-season win at Fontana (by way of late-race restart) he’d be battling for his Chase chances right now if he wasn’t. Busch is currently 17th in points with just nine top-10 finishes this year, part of an overall disappointing season at Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch and Rogers have been together since 2010, and after five seasons, might it be time for a change? While the incident was written off as a miscommunication between driver and crew chief, in part because it’s so loud at Bristol, JGR can only be hard of hearing for so long.

I just get the impression that this duo has gone about as far as they’re going to get and one of them is tired of the tantrums and baggage that comes with the other. Fearless prediction: Rogers will be atop Edwards’ pit box in 2015.

About Vito Pugliese

Vito Pugliese
Promoted to Editor in 2012, Vito is one of the longest-tenured writers at Frontstretch, joining the staff in 2007. With his column Voice of Vito (Thursdays) he’s a contributor to several other outlets, including Athlon Sports and Popular Speed in addition to making radio appearances. He forever has a soft-spot in his heart for old Mopars, and presumably oil-soaked cardboard in his garage.

17 comments

  1. I read somewhere that Steve Turner was funding Ron Hornaday out of his pocket and that Rheem was on the truck as a thank you for funding Buesher last year. If thats true then why is Hornaday on Rheem’s website. Seems like someones not telling the truth and Ron gets screwed again.

  2. Marketing is a field that is well documented and plenty of people make a good living doing it. I can only speak for myself. My name on the side of the car does what for me? Well, I hope it sells something. But who sees it? Only a relatively few people, and people maybe from a (aging) demo that I’m not trying to reach anyway. We have a very small business, but one that sells worldwide, one intern, full time on “Al Gore’s Amazing Internet” (apologies to Chris Plant) will reach a lot more people, in a more dynamic manner than that car will.

  3. It’s time for NASCAR to make some radical changes to the Truck Series to lower the cost of ownership. The interest is there, the Truck races get better ratings than IndyCar races. If it wasn’t for Kyle Busch there really wouldn’t be much Cup interloping. The cost of this series has gotten way too high. I heard in an interview that Brad K. spends about $500,000 each out of his own pocket to keep his teams running. If you are a potential sponsor/owner and the cost is that high why not go Nationwide or Cup racing. Maybe they need spec engines/bodies, etc. to really bring the cost down.

  4. Yeah, “one of them is tired of the tantrums and baggage that comes with the other.” And more importantly, the “other” has become tired of pretending to support the incompetence and horrendous pit calls of the faux crew chief. The shake-up should have happened at least two years ago.

    • Yes exactly. At least YOU are fair in giving it to both sides, unlike Vito who makes it clear that he’s a Kyle hater. I would bet everything I have that had Kyle been in the 88 car with that crew, he’d have a championship by now. Frankly I’m surprised he has stayed with Gibbs. But with today’s Nascar, there’s no where else to go.

      • He could have been in that car but he whined and cried his way out of HMS.

      • There are other places to go, but one owner beat him up once already and Jack Roush said, “Been there/done that.” Dave Rogers hasn’t been flipping off officials, parked during race weekend for Truck Series antics, forcing Gibbs and Co. to roll out “The New Kyle!” nonsense every season. Nothing has changed since 2008. Nothing.

  5. When you look at the truck series, and see that the biggest owners in Nascar, RCR/Hendrick/JGR/Penske/Roush, don’t field entries….that should tell you something.

  6. The sponsorship problems are mostly tied to the (lack of) attendance and viewership.

    Given this, NASCAR needs to concentrate on two areas: getting more people to show up and to watch, and lowering the cost it takes to run a truck series to enable more people to run trucks until the sponsorship heats up.

    To accomplish the former, NASCAR needs drivers fans want to watch… which means the big names. The problem with NASCAR touting the Truck Series as basically Double A ball and encouraging fans to come watch up and coming players is that nobody goes to watch Double A ball. It’s fun to watch, the players try real hard, you might see someone who will be an major league All Star in a few years… but the fans really don’t show up and watch. Rather than discouraging the big names from showing up (for example, by not letting them compete for the championship), NASCAR needs to promote the series as another, and more exciting opportunity for fans to watch their favorite drivers go at one another. The Truck series could serve as the perfect venue for drivers to exact revenge on drivers who they feel screwed them during the previous Sprint Cup race. Let’s watch Hamlin get back at Harvick.

    And NASCAR needs to lower the cost it takes to run a truck. They could perhaps make it more of a spec series, which removes the need for a lot of the engineering work that now goes into a truck. They could mandate stronger materials that would better allow a truck to continue racing after what is now a race-ending brush with the wall or another truck. They could funnel more money to the truck series. And, in what are my most radical ideas, they could mandate that teams running in the Sprint Cup run a Truck for a given number of races… and could mandate that drivers at the Sprint Cup level also run a certain number of races. Instead of just having Kyle Busch and whoever is running the Penske car that weekend, imagine having Gordon and Johnson and Edwards and Biffle showing up on a regular basis?

    • If fans wanted to watch Cup drivers dominate the truck series the would attend and watch on TV. The actual numbers clearly indicate that they do not. I believe fans want competative separate series with unique identities, not a playground for Insecure Cup drivers.

  7. I used to really enjoy the trucks as all the drivers were racing for a checkered flag and a paycheck.
    Now the Cup guys take all the money and sponsors. The payouts are embarrassing for the lower finishers. Time for change NA$CAR. Also, I might add that my friends and I have lost our tolerance
    for hyper-poodle Waltrip.

    • There’s really only one constant Cup interloper now and that’s Kyle Busch. However, its his presence the sponsorship money he brings that keep Bubba Wallace and Eric Jones running. Brad K. makes spot starts, but that allows him to keep Ryan Blaney running. I don’t like it when Kyle stinks up the show, but his involvement is directly giving young talented drivers chances to run quality equipment.

  8. I must have missed something. I keep hearing that Cup drivers in the lower series attracts sponsors, puts fans in the stands, and increases television viewership. That said, the truck series should be overrun with sponsors, have packed grandstands, and the ratings should be right up there with NCIS and the Big Bang Theory. What happened, Brian?

  9. JohnQ,
    Very well put sir. The truck series has become a joke, and it’s a shame because they have put on some of the best races in the past. But since the buffoons of na$car love to put on these companion events, we get the displeasure of watching kyle cremate the field similar to a high school pitcher facing a little league team. Who really wants to watch that garbage? Oh and the na$car mouthpieces, some from this website, love to tell us to stop whining about it. Agreed, perfect incompetence!

  10. Let me get this straight. A series comprised almost entirely of Toyotas that has become nothing more than a non competitive playground for Cup interlopers is experiencing free fall attendance. Given that, there is increasing trouble attracting sponsorship and as could be expected trouble filling the field. Since NASCAR is the most fan deaf entity in the sports world series problems continue to be ignored. Despite racing press coverage that borders on fantasy, fans are not fooled and continue to abandon this mess. Ignore your customers wants long enough and eventually you have no customers. Who saw that coming? Not NASCAR, and not the racing press. Perfect incompetence.

    • JohnQ There is more at foot here as well. More and more companies, mine included, are seriously questioning whether there is a ROI from sponsoring a race car/truck. We sponsor one, in a competing series, and the consultants do everything but beg us to move the money elsewhere. They’ve got all sorts of charts and graphs to support the idea that a car sponsorship is a losing deal.Of course some teams, perhaps more in Sprint Cup, encourage the escalation of costs because it limits the number of competitors able to keep up. But at some point it will put first the trucks, then Nationwide out of business.

      • Russ, School me. For some time now I have wondered why any business would sponsor NASCAR. Viewership is declining steadily. NW and CWTS have what seems like not much exposure for a whole lot of money. Cup coverage is limited to about a dozen cars at most. Why invest? It just doesn’t seem like the best investment of advertising dollars to me. What am I missing?