Race Weekend Central

What Can Improve the Truck Series? 1 Answer May Be Cup Drivers

I still remember the first time my boss called me into his office.

As a high school student working my first job, my heart felt like it was a mile out in front of me as I walked from my workspace to the office.

It had been just a few months into this job, and eventually, I had made a mistake that couldn’t be ignored.

Fortunately, it wasn’t anything that would lead to my termination, but it was a great opportunity for my well experienced, stern boss to get to the bottom of it quickly and make sure that I learned from that error.

Now, I am certainly no NASCAR driver, but my situation can relate to one that is increasingly more necessary with each NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race: the need for lecturing.

Let’s be honest, the 2023 season finale at Phoenix Raceway was a total circus. Each Championship 4 contender got caught up in an incident, and there were 12 cautions for a whopping 77 laps, which led to four overtime restarts at the end.

As embarrassing as that was, it was a high-stakes race, and there was an offseason ahead. 2024 will be a clean slate, right?

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If Daytona is any indication, we could be far from it. Granted, Daytona is no stranger to chaos, but the calamity we saw in the Truck opener on Friday (Feb. 16) was not a good representation of the series.

In the Fresh from Florida 250, there were 12 cautions for 52 laps, over half of the total lap count and the most cautions in Daytona history for the series. Five of those crashes involved three trucks or more, and in five of the last eight Truck events going back to 2023, there have been at least seven cautions.

MRN Radio’s lead turn announcer, Dave Moody took notice of the Daytona carnage as well, launching this post on X/Twitter the next day that would take off:

He is absolutely right. The takeaway from the race was that young drivers have no qualm about running into each other, and while the nature of superspeedway racing produces large crashes, there is still a reputation of little to no respect in this series.

What can be done? Several suggestions have already been made on social media, and there are many valid points. Altering the aerodynamics or horsepower of the trucks to create less disparity in runs could be one option on larger tracks.

One person replying to Moody’s tweet made a point that caught my attention, and one that would be desirable.

That is another issue that has been produced by the influx of dollars being more critical to the sport in recent decades. Several drivers have never had to worry about if they had the finances to race next weekend, and many don’t see a consequence for overly aggressive racing that tears up equipment.

The problem lies in the question of how can the sport be made cheaper? And to get more blue-collared drivers into the seat, Moody made an excellent point in this thread that the mentality of team owners has to change about who they pursue and hire.

Perhaps, however, another argument can be made that it is the lack of veteran, established drivers in the series. NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace vouched for this in response to Moody’s take:

You can find some pretty strong feelings among the NASCAR fan base concerning this topic. Eventually, the outcry against Cup drivers dipping into the lower series prodded NASCAR into limiting how many Truck and NASCAR Xfinity Series races they can participate in.

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Currently, the rule prohibits Cup drivers from participating in any Xfinity or Truck race they want and limits them to a maximum of five starts in each series. Initially, those were good guidelines, allowing for drivers in those series to have more of the spotlight and capture more checkered flags. Today, it still isn’t a bad regulation, but it might be forced to be altered.

Like that experience with my boss mentioned above, and like Wallace mentioned in his thread of posts concerning the matter, young people need an elder statesman to sometimes take them aside and show them that their way is not going to be the best way many times.

As Moody mentioned in his tweet, the days of Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Todd Bodine serving as the guardians of the garage are long behind. The veterans now have either been a part of the new era of aggression, or the young guys don’t look at them as established drivers like they used to.

Should Cup drivers be allowed to run an unlimited amount of regular season races? Definitely not. Yet allowing participation in a few more races, or at least at tracks where things can get chaotic, may be essential in bringing back racing integrity to the Truck garage. Allow Cup drivers to run in eight races instead of five or make it easier for teams to field multiple Cup drivers in their selected starts.

The Cup Series does not feature a roster full of clean, respectful drivers. Even so, there are still several drivers who have a respected voice in the garage or are willing to become that voice to be a guardian.

Drivers like Kyle Busch (who is competing in five Truck races this season), Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. have been guiding voices in the garage in recent. Eventually and perhaps even now, drivers such as Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Christopher Bell have to step into that role of protecting respect in NASCAR.

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Today, there are too many young drivers who know that there is a backup on the hauler if they crash. There isn’t a financial hit to many if they do tear up equipment. Eventually, a veteran has to step in and say, ‘Hey, take care of your stuff.’

Ultimately, there has to be a sense of control and respect in the Truck garage again. Imagine Carson Hocevar or Corey Heim intentionally wrecking someone like Harvick last season instead of other Truck regulars. Harvick was a great example of someone who held nothing back when it came to addressing younger drivers’ aggression, whether publicly or privately.

Remember 2013? Harvick, who was on his way out from Richard Childress Racing, had several run-ins with Ty Dillon at Martinsville Speedway, and he held nothing back when it came to confronting Dillon.

“Exactly the reason why I’m leaving RCR because you’ve got those kids coming up, and they’ve got no respect for what they do in this sport and they’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon,” Harvick said.

While we don’t need a situation where a Cup driver takes out a Truck regular (see: Busch & Hornaday in 2011), having outspoken, veteran leadership in the garage is what it will take to help steer young drivers in the right direction. If not, Mike Joy’s words about a young Busch in the 2007 All-Star Race will relate to most of today’s up-and-coming drivers:

“That boy’s got a lot of talent, if only he could harness it on a weekly basis.”

About the author

Luken Glover joined the Frontstretch team in 2020 as a contributor, furthering a love for racing that traces back to his earliest memories. Glover inherited his passion for racing from his grandfather, who used to help former NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey in his Richmond, Va. garage. A 2023 graduate from the University of the Cumberlands, Glover is the author of "The Underdog House," contributes to commentary pieces, and does occasional at-track reporting. Additionally, Glover enjoys working in ministry, coaching basketball, playing sports, and karting.

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Ron B

I’ve loved racing for 5 decades now, and I love it still. But I’m really tired of seeing a demo derby nearly every week, and then being told what a great race that was. It doesn’t seem to matter which of the top 3 series it is, or the track they run on, You can lump ARCA into this category too. It’s more common now, than actually being able to talk about a good race. I wonder if SGV isn’t thinking that maybe he made a mistake leaving Aus? I really feel bad for these smaller teams/drivers. You know, the ones that actually do have to pay to fix their stuff.
As a former modified racer, I fell into that category. If it got wrecked or I wrecked it, I had to pay for it. I was lucky to win some, and I’m very proud & grateful for that. There’s other things that I’m very proud of. Not once did I ever have to say those famous words ” I did what I had to”. I never had another driver/team owner say that they hated racing with me. I never had a competition director pull me aside, to tell me to quit wrecking everybody. Could I have won more, maybe. But here’s the thing, I could never feel great about wrecking someone for a win. Just like I could never be proud about having to cheat to win. Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way anymore, but I’m good with that.
At the rate things are going in NASCAR’s top 3 divisions, it won’t be long before you will only see 5-6 teams owning all of the vehicles, in all 3 of the divisions.

CCColorado

Good points for sure.
IMO, its the car owners who have allowed the deterioration of NASCAR. The sanctioning body shares
much blame too, as they seem to be reluctant to send these punks to the back of the field, then report to the what use to be The Big Red truck. No recourse for any bad driving,so I’ll do it next week.
But, last year Carson Hosevar ( sp! ) crashed just about every truck he could find, yet he’s driving a Cup Car this year???
Makes no sense to this old race fan.

Steve

Nascar created this by not penalizing rough driving. When Nascar has the guts to take away wins and send guys to the back of the field for rough driving, then you will see a change in behavior.

Problem is for Nascar, all these wrecks are sadly what puts people in the stands and make great TV promos.

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