Truck date up for grabs after Atlanta relinquishes fall race

Updated: August 7, 2008, 4:47 PM ET

AP Photo/John Amis

The Craftsman Truck Series has rumbled through Atlanta twice a year since 2005.

Atlanta to drop one of its truck dates in 2009

The changes to the Craftsman Truck Series next season won't be limited to a new title sponsor.

Atlanta Motor Speedway will host one truck race in 2009, not two as it has since 2005, track president Ed Clark told Tuesday. Atlanta will retain its spring date on the truck calendar and relinquish its fall race.

"It was a tough decision to make. The trucks have been fabulous. I don't think we have had a bad truck race since the very first one -- you'll recall, [Mike] Skinner came across the line sideways, going for the win [and finishing second to Bobby Hamilton]," Clark said. "It just kind of got into how the schedule would fall, which kind of activities would fall on which day, that kind of thing. We'd rather do one and do it extremely well and have good results than kind of spread out two."

Iowa Speedway, reported this week to be a candidate to replace Mexico City on the 2009 Nationwide Series schedule, may also be in contention for Atlanta's vacated spot on the truck schedule, a source said. Rusty Wallace, the 1989 Cup champion and designer of the .875-mile short track, has lobbied for Nationwide and/or truck events at the 2-year-old facility, but NASCAR has not made any commitments.

NASCAR officials would not comment on the 2009 truck schedule but said they would again have 25 races.

If a new track does not join the fray, previous hosts of truck series races have expressed interest in returning. Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, which held its first NASCAR race in 1950, staged truck events from 2001 to 2004 at various times of year. When it couldn't come to terms with a truck race over its Mother's Day Cup weekend for 2005, the series went elsewhere.

The track has completed $10 million of capital improvements in recent years and has hosted truck team tests this season, with drivers raving about the new, smoother racing surface.

"We all as a full group are missing out on running Darlington," said points leader Johnny Benson of Bill Davis Racing. "With the history of the racetrack, we should be part of that, too. We're part of the NASCAR family, we should be part of that deal, also."

Track president Chris Browning agrees.

"I know our fans have asked us the last few years if we were going to bring the truck series back," Browning said. "The track seems to be a great fit with the trucks, for whatever reason we just haven't been able to work it out. There's a couple different scenarios we could certainly look at, but we would probably want to tie it in with our Cup weekend."

Richmond International Raceway was the most recent track to leave the schedule in 2005 after hosting races since the series' inception in 1995. NASCAR swapped Richmond for Talladega in 2006, putting the trucks on the 2.66-mile giant superspeedway.

"We hated to lose them, but we didn't want to stand in the way of growth. Talladega had that opportunity to run on a Saturday afternoon of a Cup weekend -- it was tough for us to stand in the way," RIR president Doug Fritz said.

"I'd like to think the trucks one day might return to Richmond. It comes up in every conversation with Wayne [Auton, truck series director]. I've said, 'If there's an opportunity for you and works for us, let's explore it.' Our fan base likes the truck series."

Representatives at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway confirmed that their tracks would continue to host two truck races next year.

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to He can be reached at


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Braun will keep on truckin' in '09

Colin Braun


Colin Braun has the inside line on the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, leading by 13 points over Donny Lia. Whether he holds on to win it or not, the 19-year-old Roush Fenway driver will return for a sophomore truck season.

"I think with the experience I have gained this year we can be contenders for a lot of race wins, and hopefully the 2009 championship," said Braun, 14th in points with four top-10s and a high finish of third at Kansas.

Braun has also made five Nationwide starts, winning two poles. If he wins rookie of the year in the No. 6 Ford, he'll be the third Roush driver in four years to win the award and sixth overall.

It's not always automatic that the rookie winner returns the following season. Last year's winner, Willie Allen, lost his ride due to sponsorship and has made only two starts this season. Erik Darnell, the winner in 2006, has continued in Roush trucks, but another Roush driver, Todd Kluever, left for a Nationwide ride after winning in 2005 and never returned to the trucks.

Stremme making two starts for BBM

Maybe it's not easy when your part-time teammate is Kyle Busch, but rookie Marc Mitchell has struggled in the No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota. He's fifth in rookie points and has one top-10 finish in 12 starts compared to the No. 51, driven to two wins by Busch and nine top-10s (one by Shane Sieg).

To get another perspective, David Stremme is driving the No. 15 this week at Nashville and Aug. 20 at Bristol, Tenn. Stremme, a full-time Nationwide driver this year and a Sprint Cup regular with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates in 2006-07, has one truck start, in 2006.

"I want what's best for Billy Ballew Motorsports," Mitchell said. "I truly believe that we're one of the best teams in the truck series garage, but we haven't always had the results to show for it. [Stremme] has a lot of experience and can give me some advice on how we can help improve performance."

Benson perhaps best bet at Nashville

For the third time in three seasons, points leader Johnny Benson will try for his third consecutive win. The previous two attempts fell short, but the 1.33-mile concrete oval at Nashville is a friendly track for the No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Toyota. Benson won there in 2006 and is the only one of seven previous Nashville winners competing this week.

Ron Hornaday Jr., trailing Benson by 15 points, was second at Nashville last year for Kevin Harvick Inc. ThorSport Racing's Matt Crafton has finished 13th or better in his past five starts on the concrete oval with three top-10s, but it's not his favorite spot on the schedule.

"It probably would be a decent racetrack if they would put asphalt on it," said Crafton, third in points. "It's a nice facility but the racing's horrible -- it's mostly follow-the-leader. I don't think that's much of a race."