Four weeks into the NASCAR season there is little to complain about.
It’s a rare occurrence and one that will be marked down. After all, this is a sport where hearing the thoughts of others is not hard to come by. Whether you want them or not, whether they are warranted or not, they will be heard.
There have been close if not three straight sellouts for the Sprint Cup Series events at Daytona, Phoenix and Las Vegas. For those keeping score, many say there have been three perfect National Anthems. Records have been broken and the winners have been favorites.
Oh, and the overall racing hasn’t been bad either.
Saturday night though all eyes were on the Camping World Truck Series. They were a stand alone event not only at the Darlington Raceway but of the weekend with Cup and Nationwide heading into their first break of the season.
Promotions ran wild and while it wasn’t a sell out by any means, the crowd for a Saturday night event was well above expectations. The starting field was impressive, past champions and Sprint Cup Series stars were ready to battle the Lady in Black.
Everything fell right into place. So much so that defending CWTS champion Todd Bodine took time in his media availability to address the state of the sport, something he had plenty to say about.
“The state of the series is pretty obvious,” Bodine started.
“We’ve got probably the best field of trucks that we’ve ever seen in the history of the series and we do have a lot of younger kids coming in so the experience level may be down a little bit but we’ve got a lot of kids that have a lot of talent and a lot of future and a lot of promise,” he said.
Young kids like Cole Whitt who set a new track and won his first career pole, It was just his fourth career CWTS start. There’s sophomore sensation and fan favorite Austin Dillon who had an incredible rookie season in 2010 with two wins and seven poles.
Saturday there were 11 rookies in the field. There was also an 18-year-old female competing.
As a past champion of the sport as well as a driver that has been around for many years, Bodine has the ability to speak about such topics. On Saturday when he wasn’t talking about the racing he was bubbling in talking about the CWTS.
The sixth annual Too Tough To Tame 200 was one that he was looking forward to for many reasons. The aforementioned attendance was on even the driver’s minds as Bodine mentioned the fans before and after the race, even if he did exaggerate his numbers.
“The state of the series is strong,” Bodine stated.
“Really strong. I think you’re going to see by the crowd that we’re going to get here [Saturday],” he continued.
“Everybody kind of didn’t understand why we’re here at a standalone race last year. Last year they [Darlington] struggled for attendance – there’s no doubt. It was kind of last minute thing, but they’re really been promoting it and they’ve been doing a great job in the area.”
Bodine continued to talk about the crowd but it was his statement about how strong the series is that was the most important part. When polling some fans they’ll tell you the trucks produce some of the best racing on any given weekend. However, they do struggle to put fans in the stands.
Yet, as a whole the CWTS does just fine. The 2011 season has started off on a great note for the sport in general and the complaints, at least those more than normal, have quieted down. It could be for a few different reasons, such as the euphoria of a new season starting or still trying to figure out all the rules changes.
“The series as a whole is really strong,” he said.
“The fan base is up. The ratings are up. The truck count is up and the quality of equipment is up. Everything about it is up and that speaks volumes for it.”
It means the CWTS will head into their own break before returning to action at Martinsville on April 2 on a high note. They currently are in the midst of a close point battle, have had three different winners to start the season and produced plenty to talk about.
Yes, things are going pretty well for NASCAR right now. The naysayers have gone on a hiatus and everyone in the sport is riding the wave while it lasts and pleased with the direction it is heading.
Said Bodine after this third place finish, “Look at the crowd we got. This tells you what the Truck Series is about. These fans are hardcore, they came out here on a Saturday night just to watch Trucks race. Everybody at home, we appreciate you watching. The Trucks are the greatest.”