By John Close:
A quick rundown of the final results from Saturday’s NASCAR Truck Series event at Iowa Speedway reveals that only eight of the 35 starters made more than $12,000 in prize money.
Not included in that group was series regular and current division point leader Matt Crafton. Crafton had a solid run finishing sixth, but he still only cashed for $11,785 of the posted purse for the event.
Less than 12-grand for sixth place in a ‘Big Three’ NASCAR Touring Series race?
Even worse was that those who finished 22nd through 35th at Iowa Saturday – or approximately one-third of the field – made less than $7,600.
That’s brutal, especially when you consider it cost even the least competitive teams a minimum of $20,000 to compete at Iowa Saturday.
That’s a bare bones ‘Start and Park’ effort folks – no new engine, not even a refreshed one.
Tires? Two sets of tires rung up at more than $3,000. Travel costs included thousands more to run the team’s $4 a gallon diesel fueled semi-truck hauler from North Carolina to Iowa and back. Meanwhile, travel for the driver and a skeleton crew – either airfare or fuel for the team van – NASCAR license and garage pass fees, hotel rooms and meals all took a big bite out of a team finances this past weekend.
When you add it all up, $7,600 in prize money barely – if at all – floats the financial boat.
And remember – that’s just for the start and park teams.
If you actually race – like Crafton did – it’s costs significantly more.
How much more?
Front-running and championship-contending Truck Series teams average out their expenditures in the $100-$140,000 per race range. Theoretically, that means that Saturday’s Iowa winner Timothy Peters and his Red Horse Racing team lost $60,000 – or more – in cashing their winner’s check of $39,885.
Crafton? You do the math. It’s even worse and he had a great run with no problems. Others who crashed or broke, well, not so much.
To say this is upside down economics is an understatement.
It wasn’t always like this.
Back in 1998 when a top team budget was approximately $1 million for a season, the Truck Series race at Las Vegas paid more than $84,000 to win. Last year – in an era where $2.5-$3 million is the cost of competition number for the division’s top teams – Nelson Piquet, Jr. ‘banked’ just over $37,000 for his Truck Series victory at LVMS.
I’m no math major, but given it now takes three times more money to compete in the Truck Series than it did in 1998, it hardly seems right that the full field payouts in many races today are barely half of what they were 15 years ago.
It begs the question – where is the money going?
Of course, the answer is NASCAR.
Grabbing big bank from the six-figure ‘sanctioning fees’ it charges tracks to host an event – along with television rights money, license and garage pass cash, and a cut on every tire sold – makes NASCAR the clear financial winner at every Truck Series race.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine how any teams make things work financially in the Truck Series – from the start and parks to the big guns like Peters’ Red Horse Racing.
That said, here’s a crazy thought – If the Truck Series is truly a ‘Big Three’ NASCAR series, then why not finally treat it like one?
How about tweaking the payouts for Truck races to minimum $10,000 to start and guarantee at least $50,000 to the winner?
Honestly, it’s still not enough, but it would be a start to allowing teams an opportunity at financial stability.
And it’s not like NASCAR can’t afford it. Just last week, International Speedway Corporation (ISC) – the parent company of NASCAR – reported $178.4 million in revenues and a net income of $22.4 million.
And that’s just for the second quarter of this year folks.
If NASCAR is truly values the Truck Series, it will pony up the cash to save it from financial implosion and make it part of racing landscape for years to come.
If not – well, you can be the judge of that.
Please allow me a personal moment here to wish my brother Lou a Happy Birthday.
Lou turned a very young 73 this past Saturday. As deep as my racing roots go, Lou was there when our father started his racing career right after World War II.
Lou remembers cars and events that are only real to me in photos and bench racing tales. He’s even got the scars to prove it after brushing up against the red-hot exhaust pipes in the rush to congratulate our driver ‘Wild Bill’ Fitzgerald after a big ‘roadster’ victory in the late 1940’s.
Today, Lou and I are the only ones left in a family that included parents Lou Sr. and Katie, along with sister Donna. That said, any birthday that either of us celebrates these days is pretty dang special.
So here’s to my brother Lou. Happy Birthday bro. Keep ‘em coming. You’re
About John Close
John Close covered his first NASCAR race as a professional media member in 1986 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Since then, Close – a former Associated Press newspaper sports editor – has written countless articles for numerous motorsports magazines, trade publications and Internet sites.
Close has also authored two books – Tony Stewart – From Indy Phenom To NASCAR Superstar and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series – From Desert Dust To Superspeedways.
Close also spotted more than 150 NASCAR Cup, Nationwide and Truck events from 1995-2008. His third book – On The Spot – a volume about the history of NASCAR race spotting, will be published later this year.
You can direct comments/inquiries to Close at firstname.lastname@example.org.