Commentary

GOOD & BAD: 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Season

Another year of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition is in the books, with Ben Rhodes hoisting the crown. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

Although I was unable to watch all of the races, let’s take a look back at some of the good and the bad.

THE GOOD – The Truck Series visiting multiple road courses in a season. After the highlight reel gathered by Canadian Tire Motorsports Park the past couple years, you’d think that’d happen sooner.

Nigel Kinrade Photography

THE BAD – Unnecessary caution time on a lengthy road course. Other series have adapted local cautions – where you roll at a slow speed through the section of the spun vehicle until the safety crew has rectified the situation, and that may be something for NASCAR to look at adapting if this carries through to the Circuit of the Americas.

THE GOOD – Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, and Sheldon Creed were your shining stars on the Daytona road course with the No. 98 coming out on top. Who knew that’d be a preview for the title, as two of the three made the Championship 4 but each made an impression.

THE BAD –  When you are racing against the best drivers for the championship, mistakes can prove costly – no matter how big or small. While Ben Rhodes celebrated his title, Nemechek and Zane Smith were reminded the hard way.

THE GOOD – The Buckled Up 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a balance between great battling and ultra craziness in seeing the battles around the track. The restarts would see plenty of battles through the field with drivers trying to secure positions, with that only continuing through a run. If you had a good handling package, you could certainly make passes to move forwards. It seemed no matter where you looked, a battle caught your attention.

Rusty Jarrett

THE BAD – Inexperience showing it’s hand as the number of cautions were plentiful. So despite the great display of battles at times, this sometimes overshadowed things, including the controversy we saw at Las Vegas.

THE GOOD –From the drop of the green flag to the checkered, the Pinty’s Truck Race on Dirt was eye-catching, thrilling, and will hold it’s rank on the list of events this year. Whether it was side-by-side competition, or drivers slipping through the top and kicking dirt in the air, it’s what you’d expect.

THE BAD – Caution laps probably frustrated the fans more than the restarts some weekends, as the sanctioning body dropped the ball big time. An accident that happened with 30 to go at Darlington resulting in 12 circuits under caution is a blatant disrespect display in wasting laps away, taking away from possible excitement. It is only made worse when NASCAR flew a red flag initially, withdrew it, and then wasted another eight laps away.

It only got worse when they followed the same protocol following the next yellow flag, despite getting right near the end of the event. Rather than going green with five to go, another three circuits wasted to go green with just two remaining.

Ultimately, though, it’s not a one-time thing by the sanctioning body either, as evident with the NASCAR Cup Series at Kansas Speedway last week, too. It makes you wonder if this continues whether they need to instill not counting caution laps in the final 10, perhaps 20 circuits to ensure a fair finish for the fans.

John Harrelson | Nigel Kinrade Photography

THE GOOD – Kyle Busch Motorsports’ rise back to the top. After only three victories in 2020, the wins were plentiful in 2021, thanks to addition of Nemechek’s experience and other changes within the organization.

THE BAD – The late-race restart at Darlington Raceway that they probably want to forget. Both Nemechek and Corey Heim showed speed all race long, till they spun the tires, made contact, and boom – they collected 16 other trucks with them in the process. It can’t always be your day, though.

THE BAD – The safety response to Parker Klingerman’s wrecked truck. As a fire raged underneath the hood, the workers just walked over casually, only acting as they should have been upon the driver’s request.

THE BAD – The Championship battleis rightfully at the forefront of everyone’s mind, though it can grow annoying hearing the same four names mentioned on the broadcast all night long. Stewart Friesen put himself in a position to possibly win and challenged both Chandler Smith and Creed, though barely got discussed along the way. There are fans of all the drivers in the field tuned in. While you may want to turn your focus up say 30-50% on those four, there should be respect to those who may be there to support someone else.

THE GOOD/BAD – For the longest time, there was a saying – what would you do for a Klondike bar? On Saturday, it turned into how far will you go for a chance at the Championship 4?

Desperate times cause people to make moves that perhaps they would not make otherwise, pushing over an envelope. It’s fine, and understandable. That’s short track racing, right? The hard racing coming to the line, battling three-wide and giving each other a lane was all about that. The fact that Friesen got into the wall, bounced off it as a byproduct of him, Todd Gilliland, and Zane Smith all wanting the same piece of a real estate is part of the game in racing tight quarters. It’s why fans flock to their local tracks to see similar battles.

However, when you cross the line and do not show respect, that’s where in lies the problem. Unfortunately, it’s been an issue in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series all season long. Anybody remember what happened at Knoxville? What about the trade of comments? It was put under the microscope in watching Austin Wayne Self hook John Hunter Nemechek going into turn three, over a simple bump the previous turn.

The argument you hear from drivers like Smith is “I’m racing for my job,” or “I’m doing whatever I can to prove myself,” You may have gotten the job done, impressed with your talent, and shown you can drive. But have you really earned an opportunity? Team owners aren’t going to want to hire a driver that is wrecking equipment on a weekly basis, or finding themselves at the wrong end of feuds.

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