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Truckin’ Thursdays: Bidding 2014 A Fond Farewell

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Author’s Note: A huge thank you goes out to all of my readers throughout the 2014 season! I know it was a tough one with short fields and an insanely sporadic schedule, but each and every one of you stuck by me while I continued to do what I love in writing. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Have a wonderful offseason and enjoy some great holiday fun with your family and friends!

It seems like only yesterday that the 2014 Camping World Truck Series began at Daytona International Speedway, but here we are, a few days past Homestead with the banquet completed and the series in hibernation for a couple of months. In a year that featured just eight full fields, including the one shortened to 30 for Eldora, it has been a struggle just to get teams and drivers to the track each week. But despite those short fields, there have been plenty of things to talk about throughout the season.

(Credit: CIA Stock Photography)
Matt Crafton may have won the war this season, but time after time, Kyle Busch Motorsports won each battle en route to the Truck Series owner’s championship for their No. 51 Toyota. (Credit: CIA Stock Photography)

Perhaps the biggest story came in the form of the dominance of Kyle Busch Motorsports. The organization, which made its debut in the Truck Series in 2010, came out of the gate swinging this year, winning four of the first five races with owner Kyle Busch. He went on to win three more events in the No. 51 truck, while co-driver Erik Jones snatched up three wins at Iowa, Las Vegas and Phoenix. To cap off its dream season, sophomore driver Darrell Wallace, Jr. took home four victories, including an emotional win at Homestead to close out his career with the organization. Currently, he is scheduled to run part time for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series, though with a driver as likeable as Wallace, it wouldn’t surprise me to get to January and find that sponsorship has been found for him to run full time.

The other major story this season wasn’t nearly as feel-good as KBM’s success. In late August, Turner Scott Motorsports snatched headlines across the web for all the wrong reasons. A disagreement between co-owners Steve Turner and Harry Scott, Jr. led to lawsuits filed on both sides of the spectrum and left Ron Hornaday, Jr. on the sidelines.

Before his team was shuttered, Hornaday was sitting a solid fourth in points with a ride that was already race by race. He had finished outside the top 10 in just three of the first 13 events. Despite being sidelined, Hornaday did run three of the last six races with NTS Motorsports, a team he had worked with in 2013. His best finish of 12th with that team came at Texas Motor Speedway a few weeks ago.

Fast forward to the end of the season and many question marks remain for the organization. All signs point to its closure, leaving many team employees to scramble and find a home. Bob Pockrass reported after the race at HScott Motorsports, owned by Harry Scott, Jr., plans to run Nationwide and Cup next season.

Because the only two people that know the full story of what is going on between them are Turner and Scott, the likelihood that the full details will ever come out is pretty slim, but the one thing I am sure of is that the loss of the organization that won the 2012 championship with James Buescher is definitely a blow to the Truck Series. The question remains as to whether those full time rides will be replaced in the series come Daytona in February.

But bad news wasn’t the only news this season. The series returned to Eldora Speedway for the series’ second mid-week dirt race and didn’t disappoint. Once again, the drivers spent the race slipping and sliding, fighting for position in a race that has become a very special part of the Truck Series schedule. Darrell Wallace, Jr. emerged victorious, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort on Kyle Larson’s part; he bounced off the wall so many times trying to catch the driver of the No. 54 that I lost count.

“Oh, I’d say at least … I probably hit it close to 70 times,” Larson said after the race. “No joke. I probably hit it 20 times before practice was over.

“I feel stupid. It’s tough to lose a race like that. I don’t think anybody hit the wall as many times as I hit it.”

Additionally, a number of young drivers entered the series on a part time basis since they’re not yet old enough to compete full time. John Hunter Nemechek put on some thrilling races while he shared his No. 8 truck with his dad Joe. 17-year-old Ben Rhodes impressed with three top 10s in four starts, and Brandon Jones, also 17 years old, made a handful of starts.

One of those young drivers made it through to Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and became the youngest national series winner at 16 years of age. Cole Custer ran just nine races this season and finished in the top 10 in six of those events. But at New Hampshire, he started on the pole and led three times for a race-high 148 of 175 laps en route to Victory Lane.

I could sit here and pick apart all of the bad things that happened this season and complain about all of the short fields, but I’ve already done that this season. Instead, I look back on the year and fondly remember all of the good things to come out of it, including a back-to-back champion in Matt Crafton and plenty of young talent that’s primed and ready to step into the spotlight. For now, I’ll sit back and rest a little during the offseason and look ahead to what the 2015 season brings.

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