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.
Popularity of the series has grown to record viewership ratings last season and the increase some believe is the addition of the Daytona race back in 2000.
"When the Truck Series was a fledgling series, it was always the Tucsons, the Bakersfields, the short tracks, then we got to the bigger places," driver Brendan Gaughan said. " But you knew it had gained national legitimacy on the national touring scale when we were allowed to go to Daytona. That, in Nascar terms, tells you that you are the 'real deal'".
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!