By: Ashley McCubbin
Throughout the season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series grew a reputation for being aggressive, with several vehicles finding themselves wrecked throughout the events.
The discussions only heightened as the drew closer to the end, in the form of a multitude of incidents and post-race scuffles at Martinsville Speedway. Though while it became a topic in the media center afterwards, Grant Enfinger says it’s not new to this year alone, and in fact “been happening for quite a while.”
Enfinger has always tried to race everybody cleanly, though says a few years ago, he decided that he was “going to race everybody how they race me.” It was why when Matt Crafton “carried him into turn one by five or six truck lengths,” it set the bar for what happened in return.
“It was kind of our expense in wiping me out to get to the two trucks,” he explained to NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I didn’t mean to spin him out, but I meant to get back to him and get underneath him, which is probably not something that you’d want to do – but you have to race guys like they race you, otherwise you don’t have any respect.”
Carson Hocevar also felt the lack of respect at times this year in his rookie campaign.
“I don’t feel there’s a lot out there,” he admitted. “I feel like you come in, nobody knows you, and you’ll get pushed around very easy. It’s like a new kid on the playground, he’s going to get pushed off the slide first compared to the kids that have been there for a while. It’s difficult. Everybody’s agenda, right? We’re all in must wins or put in that box to where you don’t race whose around you, but you’re going to spin them, wreck them, because there’s no penalty for it.
“There’s still respect out there, but there’s none when you get to the front, just because those wins are so rare and hard to come by, and there’s penalty for it so everybody takes advantage of it.”
The Reasoning Behind the Racing
When you ask a majority of the drivers why felt the racing it is what it is, it boils down to one thing – the importance of winning, and the playoff format.
“I think if you talk to all the competitors, all the team owners, they don’t want to be put in the position to where you have to teak someone out, but that’s the position we’re put in, and NASCAR has said there’s no re-precautions,” Enfinger explained. “Basically they’ve said, ‘you can do what you want under green, just don’t wreck somebody under caution.’ It’s a tough situation. I feel like we’ve had four races that we’ve just destroyed most of the trucks out there and that’s unfortunate.”
A lot of the incidents ultimately boil down to someone feeling they were wronged, as Enfinger discussed earlier in relation to Crafton.
“I mean, it’s so circumstantial,” Hocevar commented. “I can’t say that if I wouldn’t gotten back up there that I wouldn’t had done what all the guys up front were doing, because you do what you can to make everything happen due to no penalty for it, and there’s nothing that they’re going to do about it. NASCAR hasn’t drawn that line in the sand yet. If I’d done that, I feel they would do that all of a sudden with the way things are going, but there’s no line in the sand that NASCAR does.
“It’s really boys have at it, so really no matter who it is, I get roughed up a little bit and it’s game on. That’s really how I was with the 21 (Zane Smith). We’re both must wins and he moved me out of the way, so every shot that I got at his bumper, I shot him, where I don’t think I touched anyone the whole race. It’s really that fine line to where it doesn’t matter who’s up front, you need to win the race.”
There’s also the fact that once something does happen, it is used for promotional material the next week.
“I feel that’s going to be a constant win-lose situation for NASCAR because they want this drama for TV, right? NASCAR is in the entertainment business and they need this drama to sell,” Hocevar explained. “They’ll act like they don’t want it on Sunday, and then Monday, they’ll promote. It’s kind of that double edged sword. If you really don’t want it, then why are you using it in your promos for next week’s race?”
While recognizing there’s a line between entertainment and sport, Enfinger added he feels its heightened by having Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville in the same round that decides who makes the Championship 4 at Phoenix Raceway.
An easy fix would be to change the layout of that round, but making other decisions to fix things is not as simple s it looks. The post-season format brings forth drama that increases ratings, so there is no way that it may disappear entirely as some may think would help.
Additionally, giving the series total control is not always the best way.
“I don’t want NASCAR to step in like Formula 1 does or something like that. but there’s need to be an incentive to not wreck these trucks,” Enfinger explained. “We’re in a format where it’s win and you’re in, points don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things as you want to win at all costs. Maybe there’s a way that you start in the back in the next week or you lose the points, and maybe it would discourage some of the blatant wrecking.
“But I don’t know what to do until NASCAR steps in and say it’s a problem – and I know some of the fans like it, some hate it, but its what we’re up against.”
Hocevar also points out that bringing the series in would just bring more controversy, as what would they judge intentional and not. He questions whether people simply getting loose under a guy by accident would be sent to the back or not, leaving the officials to judge what’s aggerssive and what’s blatant.
“If they don’t step in, everybody is going to have to somehow self-police it,” he added. “You get him back next week, or you cry about it on twitter, or you go beat him up in the parking lot. There’s some way of self-policing, and ultimately, everybody really needs to try and save the team owner’s money because all we do is tear stuff up for entertainment value. Then our owner’s complain about it, out sponsors or whatever complain about it Monday, and that may be a self-policing, too. You have to lobby your case on why you did it and why you tore your truck up on Monday.”