The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series presented this logo for the 2006 season.
(Image painted by Rodrigo MarbĂˇn, Logo property of NASCAR)
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is a popular NASCAR racing series that features modified pickup trucks. It is one of the three national divisions of NASCAR, together with the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup.
The idea for the Truck Series dates back to 1993, when a group of off road racers made a prototype for a NASCAR-style pickup truck. These were first shown off during the 1994 Daytona 500, and a number of demonstration races were held during the season. These trucks proved to be extremely popular, and it led to NASCAR creating the series, originally known as the "SuperTruck Series", in 1995.
While a new series, it managed to garner quite a lot of support from prominent Winston Cup people immediately. Prominent Cup owners Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, and Jack Roush owned truck teams, and top drivers such as Dale Earnhardt and Ernie Irvan also fielded SuperTrucks for others. The series became known as the Craftsman Truck Series in 1996.
Initially, the series used a number of rules that differed from both Nextel Cup and Busch Series racing. To save teams money by not requiring teams to hire pit specialists and buy extra tires, and because some tracks -- Saugus, CA, Flemington, NJ, Tucson, AZ, and Dacono, CO most notably -- did not have a pit road safe enough for pit stops, or had pits outside the track, starting with the second race of the series in Tucson, AZ, NASCAR adopted a ten-minute "halftime" break, in place of pit stops, where teams could make any changes they'd want to the truck. The only time tire changes were possible were for the interest of safety, such as a tire failure, or a danger to the tire. The rule was popular with television and fans, and was spread for the entire schedule afterwards as pit reporters could interview drivers and crew chiefs for the break in a time without stress.
For a short time in 1995, NASCAR adopted traditional short-track rules by inverting a number of cars at the front of the grid after complaints about some races where drivers led the entire event. That was dropped quickly after some races ended as walkovers for drivers, leading entire races.
In 1996, some races went to two intermissions for full tire and fuel stops, while longer races were stopped at three times -- a limited break near the one-quarter and three-quarter marks for fuel stops, and at the halfway point for fuel and tire stops. If tire wear was a concern, NASCAR also permitted two tire changes if necessary in the first and third period breaks.
These rules were influential in driver development. Drivers had to learn to conserve tire wear for up to a half race, which allowed them to learn conserving the truck. Some drivers used the rules to learn tire conservation for other series.
In 1997, NASCAR started phasing pit stops. During the 1997 season, trucks could only legally take fuel and make adjustments during pit stops during the race. Tire changes were still illegal except for emergency causes and at break times. In mid-1998, at Fountain, CO, NASCAR switched to limited pit stops resembling other series where only two tires could be changed during caution periods. The rule was later removed and teams could change four tires, although there is a limit of how many sets a team could have during the entire race weekend, usually four sets per weekend. (In 2005, NASCAR adopted a similar rule in the Busch Series, with six sets per weekend.)
A more popular rule that was effective until the middle of the 2004 season was the "overtime" rule. Unless interrupted by weather, Craftsman Truck Series races had to end under green flag conditions, and the rule mandated that all races must end with a minimum of two consecutive laps in green flag condition, often referred to as a "green-white-checkered" finish. Since racing to the yellow flag was prohibited until 1998 (and again in 2003 under the current free pass rule), scoring reverted to the last completed lap, and until racing back to the line was legalised in 1998, if the yellow waved during the first lap of a green-white-checkered finish, the entire situation would be reset.
This rule meant some races would be greatly extended. In 1998, a CBS-televised race in Fountain, CO scheduled for 186 laps ran 198 laps (12 extra laps) because of multiple attempts, and the last such race, in Madison, IL, in 2004, lasted 14 additional laps (16.25 miles).
A July 24, 2004 rule change for NASCAR's three national series meant only one "green-white-checkered" finish can be attempted, and the race can end under yellow in one of four situations -- inclement weather, darkness, the yellow flag waving because of an incident during the final lap of a race, or the yellow flag waving after the one attempt at "green-white-checkered" begins.
Ironically, the first Series race under the new rules ended with a yellow flag on the final lap.
In the first year of the series, the trucks ran on circuits of a mile in length or less as well as two road courses. Most of the first races were no longer than 125 miles in length, with many being 150 lap races on short tracks, and were nationally televised on ESPN, TNN, WTBS, ABC, and CBS. A number of races were held at tracks that hosted only NASCAR regional events. By 1998, most of the short tracks were phased out in favor of speedways of 1 to 2 miles in length, and more of the races were held at tracks that hosted Cup and Busch events concurrently, but some races were held with Champ Car and Indy Racing League events. Road courses were phased out by 2001. Most races nowadays will last around 250 miles at larger tracks, 150 to 200 miles at most others, and 200-250 laps around the shortest tracks. In 2001, NASCAR moved the series exclusively to cable, first with ESPN, and in 2003, switched to Speed Channel.
Network television will return to the series in 2007 when FOX will carry a minimum of two races on the schedule. They will be determined at a later date, although one race is rumored to be the season-opening GM Flex Fuel 250 at Daytona International Speedway. (There is some talk about moving the Busch and Truck races because of the new television contracts where the Busch cars would race on ESPN2 on Friday, and the Truck and Daytona 500 races could both air on Fox Saturday and Sunday, respectively.)
Most of the first drivers in the series were veteran short trackers who hadn't made it into the other NASCAR series. It is worth noting that most of the early champions have used their title to become Nextel Cup regulars at one point in their careers. As the years went on, a number of younger drivers debuted in the series, using the series as a springboard for their racing careers. Current NASCAR stars Scott Riggs, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, and Kyle Busch each started in the series. Kyle Busch was 16 when thrown out of a 2001 Craftsman Truck Series race in Fontana, CA by CART (which sanctioned the Marlboro 500 that weekend) because tobacco sponsorship regulations prohibited competitors under 18 in any race during the meet, and resulted in a 2002 NASCAR minimum age requirement of 18.
In later years, though, the Truck series has also become a place for Cup veterans without a ride to make their living which currently includes Ricky Craven, Jimmy Spencer, Dennis Setzer, Brendan Gaughan (who started his career in a family-owned team, and after his Nextel Cup attempt, returned to the family operation), Rich Bickle, Andy Houston, Todd Bodine, Bobby Hamilton, Jr. and previous champions Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday, Ted Musgrave, Bobby Hamilton and Jack Sprague. A notable part-time driver in the Truck series is long-time NEXTEL Cup star Mark Martin, who has a full-time NEXTEL Cup ride but has announced that 2006 will be his last season in that series. He will race full-time in the Truck series starting in 2007.
- 1997 in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
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- 2001 in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
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- 2006 in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series