Bobby Labonte leads Ricky Craven en route to victory in the Kroger 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series continues to grow in popularity, but like any organization there is a need to contain costs and improve the product.
The series made a decision to do just that in March.
For starters, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rule book has been amended to require body extension panels and larger cowl flaps. The rule changes, according to NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton, give teams the opportunity to reduce costs and improve the handling of their race trucks. The amendments follow recent wind-tunnel tests conducted by NASCAR.
“Evaluation of our rules is an ongoing process based upon NASCAR’s three principles – assisting our teams reduce costs, foster close competition and safety,” Auton says. “Addition of the skirt flaps will enable our competitors to utilize the same truck on a more varied configuration of tracks.
“Following incidents involving several trucks during our race at Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR felt it necessary to explore a number of avenues to make the trucks more stable and driveable. The rule changes are an outgrowth of this research and testing.”
Under Section 20-B-3.6 of the rule book, all trucks will be required to install a vertical extension – side skirt – flush with the outer sheet metal at the bottom, on both the right and left rocker panels. The extensions must be the same length front to rear as the rocker panel, cut only for exhaust and jack clearance with a minimum of four inches ground clearance on the right side and three inches of ground clearance on the left side.
The lower edge of the extension may be constructed of a plastic type material.
Rule 20-B-5.12.2 has been amended to increase the size of the truck’s cowl flaps – two trap doors, hinged at the front in a way that the wind will keep them closed when the truck is moving forward – from two inches by 10 inches to four inches by 15 inches.
Kurt Busch is the defending NASCAR Nextel Cup champion, and part of his duties is to reach out to fans – young and old. In that vein Busch, who drives the 97 Sharpie Ford for Roush Racing, is now part of the Sharpie Retractable Autographs for Education program.
“It’s a great program that Sharpie has introduced,” Busch says. “The big program got kicked off at the Super Bowl with Howie Long. It’s the program where we’re going to go across the country to different middle schools, high schools, even elementary schools, and I’m going to want the kids’ autograph this time around instead of me giving them mine.
“What the program is really set up for is to give $1 million in school supplies to schools across America. I kicked it off at Vegas at my own middle school that I went to. Then the autographs from the kids will actually ride along on my deck lid at select races.”
Busch first brought along the autographs at Bristol, one of his favorite tracks.
“[My success at Bristol] has been a combination of crew chief, car, driver and team,” Busch says. “You can’t be weak in one area and expect to win at any racetrack for that matter. But Bristol, it’s a unique place. I went there my first time as a rookie, wrecked out real early. The fall race, Sharpie decided to sponsor it. I said, ‘Wait a minute, this is going to be a problem here. This is my worst racetrack, and my sponsor is now the sponsor of the fall race.’
“All kidding aside, I thought once I got comfortable with that racetrack on how you can be very aggressive with how you drive and how you set a race car up there, then be patient enough to know when to race and not get into trouble, and protect your race car. So it’s a matter of protecting your race car at certain points and then being overly aggressive at other points of the race.”
While some drivers are nervous heading to the small venue, Busch is not one of them.
“I get all juiced up about it,” he says. “Our team is definitely gassed up every time we go to Bristol. It’s a fun racetrack for the team. Everybody that goes there, you’re just in a different atmosphere at Bristol. You have to – it’s a love/hate relationship. Right now our team definitely loves going there.”
One aspect Busch enjoys is the proximity of the fans to the track.
“You definitely know at the night race when all the flashbulbs are going off,” Busch says. “It’s the most unique feeling we get around the circuit. When you take the green flag at Bristol or the checkered flag, there are so many flashbulbs going off, you feel you’re in someplace special. There are only a few dates we have at Bristol to allow that to happen.
“The fans, they really let you know if you’ve done a good job or bad job at Bristol. It’s really fun.”