Saturday, March 07, 2009

And this is only the beginning

It is about this time of the year that the Rev' starts raving about the truck series, and this year is no exception. In spite of the new pit rules in the Camping World Truck Series (CWTS)--as well as the economic situation that is leaving some of the best teams and drivers unsponsored--the trucks continue to offer us some of the best racing on television.

Atlanta is always a good race, no matter which series is racing there, and the trucks lived up to the reputation. As was the case at California, Kyle Busch held the pole position, but, contrary to the California race, he did not dominate from the start.

Kevin Harvick was feeling quite racey from the start, and he quickly took the lead. From then on, the racing for the lead never stopped. In fact, from the lead all the way back to fifteenth, the racing never stopped, and we certainly got our share of the beatin' and bangin' we expect from the Truck Series.

The new NASCAR requirement for the double pit stops receives a B- from Rev' Jim. We do have to admit, that it does add some drama during long green runs, as strategy comes into play. A stop for tires early in the fuel run, for example, may produce an advantage for a team that is looking to improve handling, and to be able to make one stop for fuel only during the caution, when and if it comes. Most teams will wait until the almost inevitable caution, and pit twice during that period.

The problem we see in this is that it takes a factor away from the racing and gives it to pit strategy. Pit strategy is fine for the longer Sprint Cup races, but, during the relatively short Truck races, it just doesn't seem to fit. Pit strategy in the Truck races should only be about who can get four tires and fuel the fastest.

However, when the racing on track is as good as it was at Atlanta, Saturday afternoon, we can forget what the pit road rules put into play.

They mixed it up for the entire 200 miles. Newcomers Ricky Carmichael, JR Fitzpatrick, and Max Papis, along with relatively new drivers like Colin Braun, Brian Scott, and Timothy Peters, race fender to fender with former champions like Hornaday, Todd Bodine, Johnny Benson, and Mike Skinner. Grizzled veterans like Terry Cook and Matt Crafton are out to show the world that their racing days aren't over, and they mix it up throughout the race as well. Still, after every restart--even though other drivers get a chance to lead for a little while--it always seems to come down to Harvick and Busch fighting for the lead.

Late in the race, with eight laps to go, Kyle Busch fell back to ninth place at the restart, having lost second and third gear. It looked like the race to the checkers would be between Harvick and Bodine.

But Kyle Busch wasn't out of the race. Lugging his engine in fourth gear, he slowly built up speed, and was challenging Harvick for second with four laps to go. Not letting off the gas for anything, Busch soon passed Harvick and raced Bodine, passing him with three to go and with Harvick on his rear bumper.

Harvick momentarily took the lead, but Busch got it back almost immediately, keeping his accelerator floored even as he was turned nearly sideways. The battle for first never let up, going into the final turn and all the way to the finish line. For the first time this year, we got the kind of finish we like to see in the truck series.

And Kyle Busch won his second Truck Series race in a row, by less than a half a second. Once again, we have to appreciate the driving ability of this young man from Las Vegas, Nevada. We could be seeing greatness in the making. Most of the fans in the stands at Atlanta Motor Speedway could have been thinking the same thing as they gave Busch a rousing and enthusiastic ovation. We couldn't see any beer cans or seat cushions being thrown. Times have changed.

The truck series season is only now beginning. Daytona didn't really count, because superspeedway racing really doesn't fit well with the trucks, and California, well, enough has been said about that. In two weeks, things will really heat up at Martinsville. Short track racing is what the Truck Series is all about.

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