Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Breaking Down an Underwhelming 2024 Schedule

After many weeks of wait, NASCAR finally released its three premier series schedules on Wednesday (Oct. 4).

After several rumors swirled about the potential additions to the schedule, all three schedules seemed somewhat status quo, with the addition of a track, subtraction of a track or two, and dates changed around.

But the Craftsman Truck Series schedule seemed to have the least amount of change. Despite the schedule remaining at 23 races, there are a couple notable changes to keep in mind as 2024 approaches.

See also
2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Schedule Unveiled

A Lot of Support Races

Of the 23 races on the schedule, a whopping 22 of them are support races to another series. The lone standalone race is at The Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, Aug. 25.

North Wilkesboro Speedway is technically a standalone race, as it’s the only points race occurring that weekend, but it is still a support race to the NASCAR All-Star Race.

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Same can be said for Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on Aug. 10 – technically it is a standalone race, but because of its close proximity to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where both the Xfinity and Cup series will compete the same weekend, teams, drivers and media alike travel to the race.

Longtime readers of my columns will know that I am a big proponent for standalone races, as it gives the Xfinity and Truck series its own identity that stands out from the Cup Series. This is a perfect case-in-point. How is the Truck Series supposed to have its own identity when its schedule is just copy/paste from the Xfinity and Cup Series schedules?

The Truck Series used to have several standalone races at tracks that the Cup Series wouldn’t even touch – tracks like Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Saugus Speedway, Heartland Park Topeka, Colorado National Speedway, Evergreen Speedway, I-70 Speedway, and Tucson Raceway Park, among countless others.

These tracks helped give the Truck Series an identity separate from the Cup Series, but there were still enough support races that allowed people to move up the ladder from Trucks if they wanted to.

What Happened to Ohio?

While the Truck Series could easily go to states that don’t have NASCAR representation (such as Colorado, Missouri, or Washington, for example), there’s one state that it had consistent presence in that it will not in 2024: The state of Ohio.

Now to be honest, I’m a little bit biased because I live in Ohio and no longer have a “home track,” but for the Truck Series, Ohio has been a staple on the schedule for nearly half of its existence. The series raced at Mansfield Motorsports Park in Mansfield from 2004-2008, then returned to Ohio after a five-year hiatus by heading to Eldora Speedway. The series raced at the Tony Stewart-owned track in New Weston from 2013 until 2019, and the only reason it didn’t return was because the COVID-19 pandemic scheduling issues prevented it from doing so.

Then in 2022, NASCAR announced that the Truck Series would take the place of the Xfinity Series at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, which provided some pretty solid racing in 2022 and 2023.

However, the 2024 schedule left out Mid-Ohio, therefore no racing returns to Ohio in 2024. Ohio is now one of the 28 states that NASCAR will not compete in 2024. Why is Mid-Ohio off the schedule? Why isn’t Eldora back on the schedule?

Both tracks provided above average racing and had solid fan turnout. As other tracks such as Iowa Speedway and North Wilkesboro have proven – local fans are willing to come to races if their hometown or home state provides them.

Which leads to another talking point…

One Road Course? No Dirt Tracks? Where Is the Track Diversity?

The Truck Series is scheduled to only go to a single road course this season, Circuit of the Americas. COTA hasn’t been a bad racetrack for the Truck Series by any means, but for that to be the lone road course on the Truck Series schedule is baffling. The Trucks have raced at Mosport, Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen International, and Sonoma Raceway in the past decade – surely the series could have been given a second road course.

Then there’s the lack of dirt racing. Now to be fair, no series is racing on dirt this year, presumably because NASCAR is still finding a track that could replace the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt. However, for the Truck Series, which has been racing on dirt since 2013, Eldora and Knoxville Raceway were there for the taking.

See also
2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series Schedule Revealed

I certainly understand the lack of dirt races for the Cup Series due to its insistence on Bristol dirt and now having to find a track that is Cup Series ready, but the Truck Series has some tracks up its sleeve. Even if it chose not to go to Eldora or Knoxville, the Truck Series doesn’t have as much of a following as the Cup Series and could easily go to a track with less attendance, such as Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., for example.

Or what about Las Vegas Motor Speedway? The Vegas complex features a dirt track that has been used by the ARCA Menards Series West before – that track could easily hold a Truck Series race with no issue.

Knoxville in particular could have served in IRP-like role for the trucks, as the track is a short drive away from Iowa Speedway, which the Xfinity and Cup Series will be returning to/debuting at in 2024. The Truck Series will not return to Iowa, so a return to Knoxville could have made it a dream weekend for Iowa fans.

Only Two West Coast Races?

Surprisingly, if you look at a map of the tracks the Truck Series will compete at, you’ll find that Las Vegas and Phoenix Raceway are the lone two races the Truck Series has beyond Texas Motor Speedway.

This makes sense in a way, as the Truck Series doesn’t make the money that the Xfinity or Cup Series do. But for a series that is considered a “premier national series,” having 21 of 23 races on the eastern side of the United States doesn’t seem ideal. It makes the series feel more regional than national.

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Dropping the Hammer: Preparing To Be Disappointed by NASCAR's 2024 Schedule

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Now, despite the things that the schedule may have omitted or things that are mind-boggling about it, there are some positives about the schedule as well.

Almost Half the Schedule Features Short Tracks

With the Truck Series seemingly the only series where drivers below 18 years of age choose to compete, 11 races of the 23-race schedule feature tracks that drivers under 18 can compete at, including 10 short tracks and COTA.

Bristol and Martinsville Speedway each get two races, while the series makes stops at Richmond Raceway, North Wilkesboro, World Wide Technology Raceway, IRP, and The Milwaukee Mile. Not to mention the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Any drivers looking to pull a Conner Jones and get some experience in the Truck Series, such as perhaps William Sawalich, Sean Hingorani, or even Connor Zilisch, have almost half of the schedule to get in a truck if they so choose (or can find a ride).

Kansas Gets Two Races

Aside from the short tracks, Kansas Speedway is the lone track to have a second date, and it’s proven worthy of two races as well. The Truck Series got a second Kansas race in 2020 for COVID-scheduling purposes, but has had two dates in both 2022 and 2023, and it has not disappointed.

Both races in 2023 featured a three-wide pass for the lead, including a last-lap pass in the fall race by Christian Eckes. In the 2022 fall playoff race, Carson Hocevar ran out of fuel allowing John Hunter Nemechek to take the win from him. And in 2020, Zane Smith spun out after an awesome battle with eventual race winner Brett Moffitt.

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Not to mention other fantastic spring races, such as William Byron’s first win in 2016, Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday’s synchronous spin in 2010, Kelly Sutton‘s 2005 flip, and Ricky Hendrick’s only career premier series win in the inaugural race in 2001.

Kansas has proven to be one of the wildest 1.5-mile tracks in all three premier series, and the Truck Series gets to continue to cash in on the fun twice a year.

No Huge Gaps Between Races

This was a problem that had plagued the Truck Series for several years in the 2010s. The schedule was so spread out for the series that drivers would have upwards of five to six straight weeks off, followed by six to eight weeks of non-stop racing for the series.

Usually this came after the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, but the shakeup of the schedule in recent years has allowed NASCAR to alter the dates of 2024 races just enough to where there aren’t any really big gaps in between races.

The biggest gap between races is a nearly four-week gap between The Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, Aug. 25 and Bristol on Thursday, Sept. 19. However, aside from that, there seems to be no major gaps between racing, and no major back-to-back racing throughout the schedule.

For all the waiting we had to do, this schedule is pretty underwhelming. It has its good and bad areas, areas of confusion, and frustration from fans about the omission or inclusion of certain tracks. But given the competitive nature of the Truck Series, there should be no lack of action in the 2024 season.

About the author

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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Steve

Completely agree that the truck series needs to go to Nascar Home Tracks where Cup and Xfinity do not race. They would get a nice crowd and also give some Nascar exposure to these places.

I get it that they want these guys to get experience at tracks that the Cup series race on, but this division should not be racing at superspeedway’s 4 times a year and should be limited to the amount of mile and a half tracks too. They should primarily be racing on smaller tracks.

boogityboogityboogity

they want to keep costs down. short tracks and road courses destroy less cars, unlike plate tracks.

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