Friday, June 02, 2017

NASCAR Miscellenia - Trucks Schedule Etc.

With NASCAR entering the summer portion of the 2017 schedule there has been plenty of talk on numerous subjects.

Austin Dillon's surprise World 600 win stirred a surprising controversy involving Adam Graves of Toyota and others regarding Kyle Busch's reaction, but that isn't even the most interesting issue going into Dover Downs' first NASCAR weekend of the season.   The big issue has been Kevin Harvick's interview on Dave Moody's radio show where he criticized the Truck Series schedule and advocated putting the races on more short tracks and also make them stand-alone events instead of Cup support races.

A little history lesson is in order - the Truck Series began in 1995 as a Winston Cup team testing program - RCR, Hendrick, Roush, and DEI (then a Busch Series team with Winston Cup aspirations) plunged full-tilt into the series and in effect monopolized it.    The series began as a short track series, but when it ran at Homestead in 1995 - the track then a 1.5-mile clone of Ontario Motor Speedway - the racing was superior to anything the short tracks produced, then or now.   The writing was on the wall and as with the Grand National Series and the Late Model Sportsman division, the Trucks quickly and steadily outgrew the short tracks and grew onto the superspeedways.  In other words the Trucks began on the short tracks but they could not stay there.

The Goody's Dash race at Homestead took a surprising backseat when the Craftsman Trucks - 2:16:00 into this video - debuted on a big track with a short exhibition race - and set the path where the Truck Series would inevitably go.

The first points race for the Trucks at Homestead saw one of the series' wildest finishes

The issue of reconnecting with grassroots racing is certainly a legitimate one, but putting Truck races onto more short tracks didn't do that then and its short track events haven't done it now.   It is worth noting what short tracks' regular divisions run - I know of no short track anywhere that runs radial tires; only bias-plies.   I'm puzzled why Harvick and others like Todd Bodine, interviewed on Moody's show about this topic a few days later, aren't asked about the disconnect between grassroots racing on bias-plies and the bigger leagues continuing on radials.   It would seem the majors conceivably can switch back to bias-plies, though present-supplier Goodyear doesn't build them.    It would certainly seem the case that switching to bias-plies would help the Trucks et al be able to attract more grassroots racers whose skill set is far better suited to bias-shod racecars than to radials, and also allow them to sustain careers at the next level better.

Bodine mentioned costs in the Truck Series, noting the level of carbon fiber pieces used instead of aluminum - this issue, though, seems more a spending issue.   He mentioned in the Moody interview something along the line that both NASCAR and teams need to make concessions to help the struggling Truck Series - this applies also the Xfinity Series, the Modified Tour, and the K&N touring series, which has suffered very badly with poor car counts.    For NASCAR,  a needed concession is twofold - take a strong percentage of TV money out of Cup and spend it instead on the other touring series, and also take a third or more of the money in the touring series out of the points funds and switch it into the race purses (I believe it was Dave Marcis who made a recommendation along this line many years ago).  

For teams, the concession needed is teams and NASCAR need to work together for a spending cap; it would certainly seem the Race Team Alliance can facilitate team owners policing each other, and it gets back to the issue of bias-plies vs. radials as bias-plies seem substantially less expensive long term than radials.   There is overall certainly that the sport's economics would be far more competitively sustainable if team spending was restricted where $1.5 million Truck sponsorships would be more than enough compared to the present $3.5 million and above, and so forth through all of NASCAR's touring series.   It is also a certainty that the sport and the teams are in no serious position to object to such course of action, they, NASCAR, etc. are in this together.

Further illustrating all of this is Brad Keselowski's take on the Trucks, saying Truck budgets are over $4 million per year and also that his team lost $1 million in 2014.   Keselowski advocates more short tracks by claiming aero would be less important and there would be less development in engines. "You can't cut your way to prosperity" in racing, according to Keselowski, though smarter decision making would certainly work.

Keselowski, though, is foolish if he thinks more short tracks would lessen aero and engine development - there is no such thing as a team that ever got better by regressing on those fronts.   His comments illustrate how the only way to make teams curb spending is to police against spending, by both NASCAR and the teams policing each other.

UPDATE June 3: Adding even more relevance to the issue is the result of the Mason-Dixon 200 at Dover.  Xfinity Series regular Darrell "Bubba" Wallace stated he may not be able to race at Michigan in two weeks.


And there is one overlooked economic issue - it is time to eliminate sponsor exclusivity deals, which do nothing but limit revenue the sport and the teams need.  Let rivals to Monster Energy Drinks sponsor racecars and races - a la Coca-Cola Mercury vs Pepsi Plymouth, Gatorade #88 vs. Mountain Dew #11, the STP Dodge winning the Purolator 500, etc.  

The mania in fan circles for more short tracks at the major league level is of course a venting of frustration over lack of passing on the bigger ovals - yet it is curious how fans have overlooked what short tracks run for their regular series.   As noted I know of no short track that runs radial tires - bias-plies are the universal norm.   Also the norm for the Late Models, Modifieds, etc. is racecars with downforce bodies - the rake put into Late Model bodies compared to Cup bodies requires no elaboration - and large spoilers, made of clear-view material as well.   Horsepower is substantially less than with Cup or Xfinity Series cars.

In other words, perhaps it is the racecars as opposed to the track type that is the issue.

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