Thursday, February 5, 2009

Nascar's Stepchild Readies To Steal The Show

The start of the 2009 Nascar season is just around the corner and the anticipation for the drop of the green flag at the most prestigious race of them all, the Daytona 500, is beginning to swell. I must admit that I can hardly wait myself. The Shootout, Pole qualifying, the Duels, it's a grand spectacle indeed. 

But I'm looking forward to something else just as much. Something a little less flashy with a little less notoriety. Something where good ol' boys still are welcomed to race. Where young hotshots can learn what it's like to run with a salty veteran and leave with some earned respect. 

I'm waiting for the return of the Nascar Camping World Truck Series.

Yes, that little series that started on the same track where Kevin Harvick honed his driving skills, Mesa Marin Raceway, in Bakersfield California. The same production based trucks designed by track owners' son Gary Collins and off-road racers Roger Mears, Dick Landfield, Frank "Scoop" Vessels, Jim Venable, and Jimmy Smith.

The NCWTS (formally the Craftsman Truck Series) has taken the Nascar world by storm the last few years with their side-by-side racing, photo finishes, and culminating with the closest title chase in series history as Johnny Benson out runs Ron Hornaday Jr. with the championship being decided on the final lap of the last race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2008

That first Truck Series race at Daytona not only jump started the popularity by running at a super speedway, but also because of two very unique and opposite events that happened that day. The first was Geoff Bodine disintegrating his truck in a ball of flame in the tri-oval and the second came about because of the resulting red flag period. It seems Mike Wallace and some other drivers, who had stopped on the back stretch and had gotten out of their trucks, became the first, and so far the only group of drivers, to initiate a middle of the race autograph session with the fans. That act endeared many to the hospitality of the truck racers. 

This year the Camping World Truck Series will hit network TV with two races scheduled for airing on Fox. The second race of the year at Auto Club Speedway will be seen at 3pm eastern and the first of two Martinsville Speedway races will air at 2pm eastern. The exposure on Fox, and the earlier start times, should provide a much greater percentage of the Nascar fan base the opportunity to enjoy what the Speed Channel viewers have been raving about. 

Johnny Benson will be defending his title in 2009 with a new team at Red Horse Racing, opting to leave Bill Davis Racing at the end of the '08 season with championship in tow. The economic woes of the nation took it's toll as Bill Davis Racing was later sold and one of the pioneers of the sport was no more. 2009 will also see the first full year for Randy Moss Motorsports with vetern Truck Series driver Mike Skinner coming on board. The addition of a 25 win caliber driver should put RMM in contention for some wins this season. Three time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. is back at Kevin Harvick Inc. to once again challenge for his fourth title and show the young'uns how it's done. 

All in all 2009 is shaping up to be another great year in the Camping World Truck Series. I'm looking forward to more "rubbing is racing" old school style fun on Friday nights (and a couple Saturday races as well). For those of you who haven't checked out this cowboy caddilac fun, shame on you, but you now have no more excuses with Fox bringing it right to your easy chair. So sit back, grab a frosty mug of your favorite beer and hang on tight, cause this is the best racing you'll see all weekend. Guaranteed! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Plight Of A Nascar Junkie

If your like me these past two and a half months have been tortuously long waiting for the start of the 2009 Nascar racing season to begin. The elimination of testing has ground the information super highway to a screeching halt. Teams that are normally scurrying from track to track trying to find that magical setup that will give them the slightest of edges come race day, are now stuck at their shops methodically checking and rechecking every nut, bolt and template for days on end. 

The normal trickle of video clips and photos of masked race cars circling vacant speedways have all but disappeared. In essence, Nascar has gone cold turkey on us. The complete lack of a 3500lb. "stock" car circling a track has me in the mitts of full blown Nascar withdrawals. 

I have turned into that trembling, shaking hulk of a human being normally reserved for nicotine junkies and crackheads. Well manicured fingers are now reduced to bloody scabbed nubs, and if the evils of time had not taken it's toll on this middle-aged body, I'm sure the toe nails would be next. The flowing mane of hair I was so blessed with at birth has now become but a tuft of straggly locks, trying to burn off the intake of Amp, Red Bull and Jeff Gordon energy drinks I have become accustomed to drinking on race days. 

Sleep has become impossible as I scan my cable guide looking for anything that remotely has some kind of motorized competition to it. Sports car races with engines that have barely more horsepower then my Hoover vacuum cleaner have taken on great importance in the wee hours of the morning. Renaming the various drivers Happy, Smoke and Jr. somehow make the racing more tolerable as that Nissan Sentra blazes past the Mazda 3 at a blistering 50 miles per hour. 

The endless parade of import car peep shows designed to titillate teen graduates do nothing to satisfy the insatiable need for American horsepower. Sideshow demolition derby's and trailer races only exacerbate the feelings of hopelessness. 

Through my haze of cold sweats I hear the sounds of familiar voices...Roberts, McReynolds, that Nascar Preseason Thunder? Can it be that teams and drivers are at Daytona? The 500. The Duels. That...that means the Shootout is THIS WEEKEND! I can hold onto my sanity for another few days, I can do it. The fix my mind has waited so long for is with-in reach...smoking tires, military flyovers, beer and hot dogs, and those four words that are salvation for a Nascar junkie...GENTLEMEN START YOUR ENGINES!