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Truckin’ Thursdays: A Plea to Bring the Trucks Back to Darlington

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and XFINITY Series head to Darlington Raceway for NASCAR Throwback Weekend, the Camping World Truck Series sits dormant for a couple weeks before heading off to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Sadly, the series doesn’t race at the track “Too Tough to Tame,” and it’s been that way since the end of the 2011 season. What’s so disappointing is that Darlington is one of those technical tracks that can, and has, put on plenty of great shows, and it’s something that Truck Series fans are sorely missing. Frankly, the way these drivers push themselves week after week, no matter who happens to be behind the wheel is an ideal setup for the track.

The series first visited Darlington in 2001, a race in which the late Bobby Hamilton dominated, leading 125 of the rain-shortened 135 laps run. They continued racing at the track through the 2004 season before it was dropped from the schedule.

In 2010, the series returned to Darlington after five years away, and of course, the racing didn’t disappoint. Despite being stalked by Timothy Peters in the closing laps, Todd Bodine navigated his way easily around the lapped truck of David Starr and took the victory. Ron Hornaday Jr., Johnny Sauter and Austin Dillon rounded out that year’s top five.

But that return was short-lived and ended after just two seasons. According to a late-2011 story from SC Now Morning News, “Track President Chris Browning said it was Darlington’s decision to not have the race.”

“We talked about several different options,” Browning said. “They have the big picture to look after for their scheduling. We have a little bit smaller picture.”

The story went on to say that a race weekend in late September or early October would be an ideal spot for a Truck Series race weekend.

“It’s better from a weather standpoint, and the kids would be back in school,” Browning said. “And that part of the schedule going down to the wire would be a good set up for us. In a perfect world, that’s where we would be.”

Here we are seven years later, and the Truck Series still hasn’t made its return. With the 2019 schedule already revealed, it’s not happening next year either. Using this year as an example, a Friday night race would have fit perfectly as a companion to the NASCAR Throwback Weekend already in place. And it’s not like it would be all that much extra for teams to handle since the series used to race 25 events not all that long ago.

Sure, the weather may not always be ideal in late August, but it’s a hazard the sport has to face since it’s run outdoors. I mean, it’s not like we haven’t already seen our fair share of odd weather this season. A two-day snow delay at Martinsville Speedway anyone?

The bottom line is that NASCAR needs to work with the track and try to get the Truck Series back there. It’s a facility steeped in history, and seeing the teams take part in a potential triple-header throwback weekend would be worth the effort.

Truckin’ Tidbits

  • Justin Haley struck first when he capitalized on contact between Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Noah Gragson and Todd Gilliland in the final turn at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park last weekend. Already locked into the Round of 6, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet can cruise his way through the next two races knowing his chances of winning the championship are still alive.
  • Speaking of Gragson, he’s the latest driver rumored to fill the No. 1 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series for JR Motorsports next season. According to a report from Sports Business Daily, the current driver of the No. 18 Toyota Tundra is on the short list of those who could take over the ride being vacated by Elliott Sadler, who’s hanging up his helmet at the end of this season to spend more time with his family.

  • Dalton Sargeant has been eerily quiet since last week’s announcement that he would not finish the season behind the wheel of the No. 25 GMS Racing Chevrolet. While speculation about what exactly happened between the rookie driver and his team has gone rampant, the last thing posted on any of his social media accounts is the statement he sent out thanking everyone for the experience.
  • Just six races remain to crown this year’s champion. Other than Haley, who’s locked in thanks to his victory last weekend, the rest of the contenders have two more races to make their case for the Round of 6. Currently, Ben Rhodes and Grant Enfinger sit below the cut line, and they’ll have to wait until mid-September when the series returns to the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for their next shot at Victory Lane.
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The only problem I see with pickup truck racing at Darlington much
like elsewhere is the races do not get anywhere near a sellout which
means the track will lose money hosting them.

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