Finally! The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be back at the track this week in Martinsville after a three-week hiatus following the Las Vegas race last month. Though truck TV ratings continue to be a bright spot among the NASCAR series, the question must be asked: do several weeks without CWTS racing have a negative impact on fans?
The CWTS series runs only 26 races a season as compared to the Sprint Cup series, which runs 36 races in a season. However, the CWTS begins at Daytona in February and ends at Homestead in November, just as the other series. As result, there are periods during the season where the trucks do not run a race at all. There was another extended break in truck racing between the March 30th Martinsville race and the April 27th Kansas race prior to the current break. Throughout the schedule there are a variety of single race dark weeks as well.
Some have pointed to cost cutting measures in keeping the truck series at 26 races and minimizing some of the travel teams must make. Cost containment, however, is not a rock solid justification. Some teams have pointed out that the CWTS teams lease engines month-to-month, and extended breaks between races still require that teams pay for those leases. A full-scale study has not been performed to see if other areas of cost savings balance out the costs of such leases during the breaks.
The most glaring question appears to be not one of cost, but one of following. In a period when NASCAR is fighting waning fan enthusiasm and difficulties in attracting sponsorships, does having the truck series silent for weeks on end make sense? Would it be better for the fan base and sponsorship draw if the trucks ran more consistently.
While it is unlikely that the season will go beyond the 26 race schedule during this challenging economy, there may be another way to tighten up the schedule. Would it be better if the truck series started a bit later in the season, say Talladega in April, and run with fewer breaks? The trucks could then still race at Daytona, just in July rather than February. The fall Talladega race date could then cover another track that would have been earlier in the season.
The bottom line is – What do you think? Do long breaks in racing hurt the CWTS? If so, what are some potential solutions NASCAR could look to implement?