Sunday, February 22, 2009

Rearview: San Bernardino County 200

Rearview: San Bernardino County 200

The second round of the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is in the books and to no one's surprise Kyle Busch dominated for his second consecutive series win at the 2-mile track. Busch was so strong that he led 95 of the race's 100 laps and won by over nine seconds. Only Chad McCumbee, who led under caution during a round of pit stops, and Colin Braun, who led late after Busch made his final stop for fuel, kept Busch from pitching the proverbial no-hitter. It's a fair bet that the rest of the series will be using the three-week break between the Fontana race and the next race at Atlanta to try to figure out how to stop the No. 51.

Todd Bodine was the runner-up, and was just barely into turn three when Busch flashed across the line. Bodine's team is still searching for the funding to compete through the entire season. It's a sign of the times that a team that has scored eight straight top five finishes dating back to last season and opened the 2009 season with a first and a second can't find sponsorship.

It looked early on that Matt Crafton would be a factor for a top-five finish, but unfortunately he was brought to pit road with a plastic bag over the grille opening on the front of his Chevrolet. Crafton might have had the second-best truck in the field, but was forced to spend nearly 50 laps one lap down. Once back on the lead lap he simply didn't have enough time to race back to the front. Despite his problems, Crafton managed to finish eighth. The No. 88 team should be a strong contender week-in and week-out.

The unique pit stop rules got their first real test at California as long green flag runs forced crew chiefs to make the difficult decision to either forego tires on the final round of stops or make a second stop for fresh rubber and give up valuable real estate on the track. Some teams, like Chad McCumbee's, played their strategy a little different and took tires on a different schedule and had fresher rubber on at the end. It worked as McCumbee gave SS Green Light Racing its best NCWTS finish - a strong third-place. For others, the gamble didn't pay off. Mike Skinner made two stops, one for fuel and one for tires, and ended up dropping off the lead lap at the end.

Speaking of Skinner, he must have run out of patience with Brian Scott sometime during the week at Daytona because he surely didn't give the youngster any room at all leading up to Scott's spectacular frontstretch crash. Yes, Scott technically did pull up into line ahead of Skinner just inches shy from being clear. But Skinner kept his foot on the gas knowing what the end result would be. It was another tough break for Scott who had a long couple of weeks in Daytona with a crash in the ARCA race, a crash in Truck practice, and another crash in the race. Three races and four wrecks is a frustrating way to start the year.

It's ultimately ironic that the California race is televised on Fox. The race will likely be the most viewed NCWTS race of the entire season since it was broadcast over public airwaves instead of on cable, but it is also the race that will likely have the fewest fans actually in the stands watching.

I've always liked the idea of the series having a couple of chances to race on Fox. It increases the viewership numbers (which helps those sponsors and justifies some of the money they are spending) and it allows the series to be seen by some people who might not otherwise have watched. However, using the regular NASCAR on Fox crew is a mistake. The regular crew has intimate knowledge of the series - owners, drivers, crew chiefs, and crew members. The NASCAR on Fox crew concentrates solely on Cup racing and during the broadcast it showed. Early graphics showed the viewers at home that Matt Crafton has one career NCWTS win coming in 2008 at New Hampshire. Close, but no cigar. Crafton's first series win came last season at Charlotte. He does have one pole, that coming in 2005 at New Hampshire. Maybe no one at home noticed but that's simple stuff that's easy to check and easy to get right. Later in the show, Larry McReynolds talked about Johnny Sauter's owner - former California Lt. Governor Mike Curb. He said Curb was the car owner for Richard Petty when he won his 199th and 200th Cup victories in 1984. That's correct, Curb did own Petty's car for his historic victories. Except that Mike Curb doesn't own the truck Johnny Sauter drives, Duke and Rhonda Thorson do. They've been a part of the series longer than any other active owner except Jack Roush.

It's great to have the race shown on Fox but spending those two hours showing Truck racing to the nation shouldn't be an afterthought by the crew showing it. They should spend as much time and effort to get it right as they do with the Cup race or even the other ancillary shows throughout the weekend, like Trackside.

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