The NASCAR Truck Series’ new name isn’t the only old-school change on the way.
The NASCAR Truck Series will return to its roots in more ways than one, with longtime and original series sponsor Craftsman returning as the circuit’s flagship sponsor.
In 1995, NASCAR launched what was initially called as the Craftsman SuperTruck Series. From 1996 through 2008, the Craftsman Truck Series was the title sponsor, before Camping World took over in 2009. Craftsman, as well as certain classic courses, will return as title sponsors in 2023.
The NASCAR Truck Series began as a distinct short-track series from the Cup Series.
The Truck Series launched mostly on small tracks and traveled extensively outside of the Cup and Xfinity Series schedules. The 1995 season included 18 races on tracks one mile in length or less, and majority of those tracks were west of the Mississippi River, a side of the country largely unexplored by NASCAR at the time. The series, however, is currently held on tracks in Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, California, and Kansas.
The 1995 Cup Series calendar, on the other hand, had only two events in the country’s western half. Sonoma Raceway in northern California held a Cup Series race in May, while Phoenix Raceway in Arizona was the season’s concluding stop in late October.
Because of the nature of competition on small tracks, the Truck Series began to establish its identity in the sport with races on unique courses that featured close, violent racing. For years, the series visited North Wilkesboro Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile, and Indianapolis Raceway Park (later called Lucas Oil Raceway), until they all faded away.
The Truck Series evolved become mostly a support series for Cup Series racing weekends.
The Truck Series raced only twice at North Wilkesboro, which had hosted NASCAR races since 1949, until the whole sport withdrew the 0.625-mile North Carolina racetrack from its schedules after the 1996 season and went to intermediate facilities in major media centers such as Los Angeles and Dallas.
The 0.686-mile Indianapolis Raceway Park track had been a staple in the Xfinity Series since its inception in 1982, and the Truck Series had joined from 1995 to 2011 until the Xfinity Series moved to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway across town to create a tandem weekend with the Cup Series at the massive facility. The Truck Series merely cut the race date, dropping from 25 to 22 races every season.
The Milwaukee Mile, one of the country’s oldest race tracks, was built in 1903 and previously held Xfinity Series events from 1984 to 1985 and again beginning in 1993. Beginning in 1995, the Truck Series joined in, and both ran at the historic track until 2009.
Every weekend, the Truck Series began to race at the same circuits as the Cup and Xfinity series. By 2014, the trucks have only competed in four events at tracks other than the Cup Series.
Since stock car racing originated predominantly on dirt tracks in the early days, the inclusion of a race at the Eldora Speedway dirt track in Ohio in 2013 attempted to help fill the hole. Eldora was off the Truck Series schedule from 2013 until 2019, despite the fact that the track has never run on dirt before. Knoxville Raceway in Iowa, which held a Truck Series race each of the last two seasons, is not on the calendar for 2023.
The Truck Series is pleased to welcome back IRP, North Wilkesboro, and the Milwaukee Mile.
Instead, the Truck Series has reclaimed a little portion of its former character. After kicking off the 2022 playoffs with a spectacular race at IRP, the series will return to the track in 2023. It will also compete the day before the Cup Series All-Star Race in North Wilkesboro in May.
In another unusual decision, the series will return to the Milwaukee Mile in late August to headline a weekend of racing alongside the ARCA Menards Series, which won a race there in 2021.
NASCAR has lost much of its heritage over the last two decades, and the closure of tracks like IRP and the Milwaukee Mile were clear indicators of the situation. Sure, there was more money in greater markets on larger circuits, but it also diluted what was previously unique and entertaining about the Truck Series, turning it into simply one of three races at the same venue as the other two series, which mainly had better famous drivers.
Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina is another track that NASCAR has abandoned and is now being repaved. The Truck Series raced there twice between 2012 and 2013, so “The Rock” could be the next old track to return to the NASCAR schedule.
If not, fans will be able to see racing at tracks they either remember from a long time ago or have heard about and will finally be able to see for themselves. In any case, it is a step in the right direction.
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