Trucks ready for the road in Canada
For the first time ever, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will leave the U.S. borders and travel north to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
The series has competed 16 times at four previous road courses – Topeka, Sonoma, Portland and Watkins Glen – with 10 different drivers finding victory lane. The last time the truckers traversed a road course was at Watkins Glen in 2000.
The 2.5-mile, 10-turn, high-speed circuit, formerly known as Mosport Raceway, opened the gates for the first time in 1961. The facility has hosted USAC, IndyCar, SCCA, GRAND-AM and Formula One. CTMP will be the 50th track to host the NCWTS since the series began in 1995.
Labor Day weekend is always an extremely busy racing weekend. ARCA is in Du Quoin, Ill., the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series cars are in Atlanta, and IndyCar races in Baltimore.
With all of this activity, it appears the normal group of road-course “ringers” will not be a part of this inaugural Truck Series event. If we dissect the entry list, there are, however, quite a few names that stand out as potential winners.
The only former Truck Series road course winner entered in the event is Ron Hornaday. The four-time series champ has 11 top-10 finishes and three wins on his resume on the road courses.
The driver of the No. 9 truck has posted six top-10 finishes this season, but sits 115 points behind series leader Matt Crafton. No driver other than Hornaday has raced in the Camping World Truck Series on a road course.
Max Papis may be the most recognizable name on the roster. The mad Italian has nearly 100 NASCAR starts, and has posted four top-five finishes in the Nationwide Series with a career best of second at Montreal in 2010. He has spent the last two seasons helping Austin and Ty Dillon learn the art of turning right and left. With three Champ Car victories and having competed in hundreds of different race cars, he may have the experience it takes to get his first stock-car victory.
The No. 6 truck returns to action with the Truck Series debut of driver Mike Skeen. It is very possible you have never heard of Skeen before, but he could be a dark horse for this event.
Skeen claimed the pole position and won the last four consecutive races in the Pirelli World Challenge GT Series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He currently drives the Hawk Performance Corvette in World Challenge, and has captured multiple wins. He also has victories in the SCCA Pro Racing Trans Am Series.
To me, the early favorite is Miguel Paludo. The Brazilian-born racer started in go-karts at age 14, and moved trough regional touring cars on his way up to the Porsche GT3 Cup, where he captured the championship in 2008 and 2009. His career best finish came recently at Pocono, and I have seen the chemistry building between him and 12-time race-winning crew chief Jeff Hensley. The No. 32 team has posted top-10s in five of the last seven events, including two top-five finishes.
Looking over the remaining entries, most of the other drivers have no road-course experience or some in other forms of racing – just not stock cars. I will be very interested to watch Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott and James Buescher.
To me, the quality of a driver’s equipment may make a big difference in this race. The layout of this facility will test engines and brakes to the Nth degree. If the less-experienced drivers in the highest quality vehicles can stay on the asphalt, they very well could beat the more experienced racers!
My real surprise was the absence of DJ Kennington, Andrew Ranger, J.R. Fitzpatrick and Jacques Villeneuve. These are top name road-course racers with rich Canadian history. I was equally surprised that Ron Fellows (a two-time Truck Series winner on road courses) did not enter. It may be a good thing for the show that he did not!
This event is an expensive proposition for the teams.
Many teams built brand new equipment. They need high-dollar braking systems. The course requires five to six spotters, as opposed to the normal one or two. They pay a fee for every radio in the hauler and they pay an extra fee to dismount all the tires purchased from Goodyear. Many of the teams will have abbreviated pit crews — partially because of cost, partially because some crew members are not eligible for entry into the country, and partially because everyone is racing somewhere else that weekend. It will be interesting to see if that factor plays any role in the outcome of the race.
There will more than likely be a first-time road-course winner (if Hornaday does not win), and could very well be a first-time series winner (Paludo, Skeen, Papis, Guenette, Hackenbracht, Quiroga, Elliott)!
After a 13-year hiatus, the trucks go road racing. For the first time ever, they compete internationally. Will this event be a wild card in the championship points race??? Tune in to FOX Sports 1 Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET to find out.