New Rules for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
If you are planning to watch the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this year, good luck understanding what is happening on Pit Road.
Beginning next month, cost saving plans will be put in place to limit engine use, the number of crewmembers a team can bring to the track each week, and what work can be performed during pit stops.
The first change, limiting engine changes should not bother the teams much. NASCAR will put a seal on the engines and teams will be required to run a motor four races before changing it out. Most truck races are just 200 to 250 miles. Counting practice laps, asking an engine to go 1,000 miles should not be a problem.
This sealed engine policy will also be in place for the Nationwide Series beginning next month as well. Teams will be allowed to run fresh engines for Daytona and Talladega, mainly because of the restrictor plates.
Nationwide teams will be asking a race engine to last and be competitive for 1,400 to 1,500 miles. Normally teams don't like to see practice and qualifying rained out, but with this new sealed engine policy, the teams, as well as the engines, may appreciate a little time off.
Back to the truck series and the changes for 2009. The second big change is that a team will only be allowed to bring 12 crewmembers. This will include the race-truck driver, the spotter, crew chief and mechanics. Look for a similar move to hit both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series as well before the end of the year.
The third change is the oddest one. A team can either add gasoline, or change tires on a pit stop; but not both. This sounds a lot like that pit road nightmare back in 1991. NASCAR decided to put the pit road speed limits in place due to the death of a crewmember during the final race of the 1990 season. For the first races of the 1991 season, NASCAR put stickers on the cars, a red or blue sticker, to limit pit road traffic. The "red" cars would pit on the odd laps while the "blue" cars could pit on the even laps. But this wasn't all, teams could not pit at all under caution.
This ruined the first races of the 1991 season. Several drivers saw sure wins go out the window because of the pit road rules, and I look for the Camping World Truck Series to have more problems than cost savings with this new pit road policy.
Teams will choose to leave drivers on old tires, resulting in poor handling race trucks, resulting in more wrecks, resulting in more expenses for the team owners. Can you picture a team filling their truck with gas, the truck leaves pit road with the lead and then the driver asks, "Hey, what about some tires? Do you want me to come back in next time by?" It will be like a car insurance commercial. The crew chief will say something like, "We just saved $1100 on tires, so go slid your way to victory."
One other thing with the Camping World Series, there are 36 spots open each week during qualifying. Last year several races were ran with a few slots open on the grid being unfilled. Sunday afternoon, only 31 teams were registered for the season opener at Daytona, perhaps some of the teams struggling to make Sprint Cup races should build a couple of trucks.
The Sprint Cup Series will look different this season. Drivers with new teams, new sponsors and numbers and in some cases, no sponsors at all. The slowing economy has cost several teams their sponsorships for the season. Even having a team locked in the top 35 in owner's points may not be enough to keep all the teams competing each week.
We may see more teams dropping back to a part time schedule, which aligns with the sponsorship that a team has secured for the season, like the Wood's Brothers have planned for 2009.
Bill Elliott, driving the #21-Motorcraft Ford, turned in a top five qualifying time, and was the talk of the garage area this weekend. But no matter what happens at Daytona, Elliott and the Woods Brothers have all said, we will see you in Atlanta, skipping the next two races at Fontana and Las Vegas.
After watching the crash-filled Bud Shootout, the winner of the Daytona 500, next Sunday, may just be the driver that can dodge all the wrecks. As teams continue to make the cars faster by using the bump stops in the springs, the cars continue to bounce around all over the track, while the drivers are sawing and clawing to maintain control.
Let's hope the cars continue to be tough as tanks when it comes to the impacts from other cars or with the retaining walls. The ARCA series uses the old style Sprint Cup cars. In their 200-mile event at Daytona, three drivers spent time in the Daytona Hospital due to injuries. Let's hope that the ambulance rides the rest of Speedweeks, are just to have the doctor tell the driver, "You are okay, maybe you can keep it off the wall next week."
I look for the racing to be on the edge Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. As for Thursdays qualifying races for the Daytona 500, look for a lot of follow the leader among the drivers already assured a spot in the field. As for those outside the top-35 in owners points, some will try to find a spot too hide in hoping to get in the race, others will try a last lap charge, and others will hope they have enough racing luck, to be in the 51st running of the Daytona 500.