The Big Question: Is NASCAR’s Truck Series Dying?
By Matteo Marcheschi
Despite a thriller of a race at Kentucky Speedway Thursday night, a shadow has begun to envelop the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage. After the demise of Red Horse Racing in late May due to a lack of sponsorship, the series has struggled to fill fields. Before the Red Horse shut down, the series hadn’t failed to fill a single field all season. After, though, they failed to fill the field at both Texas, where they only had 28 trucks out of 32, and Gateway, where they had 30. And now the rumors have begun to swirl that the GMS race team will dissolve after this season, moving to Cup in 2018.
GMS fields four trucks full-time: No. 21 for Johnny Sauter, No. 23 for Chase Elliott and Spencer Gallagher, No. 24 for Justin Haley, and No. 33 for Kaz Grala. The team has three wins so far in 2017 and Johnny Sauter, the defending Truck Series champion, is the current points leader in the series as well. GMS has become a staple in the Truck Series field since they began racing in the series in 2013, and their potential disappearance would be an even more devastating blow to the series.
One reason that Truck teams seem to struggle to stay afloat is the cost: According to a 2014 MRN interview, Brad Keselowski, who owns a two-truck team, lost a million dollars in 2014. According to a June 2017 NBC Sports interview, those numbers are still accurate. “It’s a money loser. Big time,” Keselowski said to NBC Sports. Kyle Busch, who also owns a multi-truck team, says that running a truck team costs $3.2 million, but Keselowski puts that number up towards $4.5 million, if you include reinvested purse money and manufacturer support. It’s worth noting that Busch puts money from his own pocket into his team.
So what can teams do to save money or make more? There’s not much teams can do, other than win races and finish well, but NASCAR can certainly make it easier for teams to survive and have a reason to stay in the series. Using cheaper parts would be an option, such as the usage of composite bodies, rather than sheet metal. They cost less, and put small teams on a level playing field with the larger multi-truck teams by being easier to manufacture and repair.
Another way to cut costs, or, rather, simply make more money, would be to move the series to smaller tracks. While it seems silly to move the series to smaller facilities, think about it. Why would most fans (with limited budgets) stay at a hotel for more nights and spend more time to stay the entire weekend, when the Cup race is the “main attraction?” It makes plenty more sense to race at smaller tracks in smaller markets so that fans still only show up for the day, but the Truck Series event would be the main attraction. This means more people would show up and that means more revenue for the sport, the series, and, indirectly, the teams.
If NASCAR holds off on doing something to help the series, though, it could be in serious trouble. The XFINITY Series may be in the same position down the line, as well. NASCAR needs to help its lower two series, but most urgently, the Truck Series needs some serious assistance, either through cheaper parts or smaller venues. Without changes, we may see more teams go bankrupt or leave the series, and smaller fields, which would be devastating.