Through the Field: A Helping Hand
If you caught the NASCAR Truck Series race this past Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, you may have noticed that many of the trucks looked very similar – that’s because many of them were. Ten of them were sponsored by Camping World, which has served as the title sponsor of the Truck Series for more than a decade.
That program was started on Twitter by Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis, where he announced that any truck without a sponsor for the race could design a paint scheme incorporating the Camping World logos and branding and receive at least $15,000 from Lemonis and the Camping World companies for doing so. It also included a higher payout structure for higher finishes in the race, and two teams earned bonuses with top-10 finishes.
To be honest, it’s a shame that it even had to happen. The idea began after seeing a wide variety of trucks that did not have a sponsor in some or all of the opening races of the season. That included the 2020 champion, Sheldon Creed, who was on track at the Daytona road course in a plain white No. 2 truck. His team, GMS Racing, owns multiple trucks and is in a position to absorb a minor amount of financial troubles, it appears. But, many of the smaller teams running sponsorless in the series are really struggling.
Lemonis obviously sees potential in the drivers and teams in the truck series; he wouldn’t be serving as the title sponsor of the series if he didn’t. But this type of situation was yet another unprecedented moment stemming from the COVID-19 crisis as it enters what could be its final few months.
The sponsorship assistance from Lemonis helped GMS Racing, which is able to not only hire some of the series’ most talented drivers and put them on the map but also to give a helping hand to multiple of the series’ smallest teams, such as those owned by Jordan Anderson, Norm Benning and Timmy and Tyler Hill, all of whom, more often than, not are in a week-to-week search for funding and frequently drive blank trucks.
While Lemonis may not plan on doing another free-for-all, he has continued to incentivize teams to earn further sponsorship from his brands and help teams get better at the business side of racing.
The moral of this story is simple. If you’re in a position to help someone out, especially if you have faith in them and want them to become the best version of themselves, you should absolutely consider doing so. Of course, we can’t all walk around handing out $15,000 checks, but even lending the slightest helping hand in life can be immeasurable.
We’re all doing the best we can, and we’re all in this together – let’s act like it as much and as often as possible.
While only one Cup Series car featured Camping World branding (Daniel Suarez, who has been outperforming expectations in the brand-new Trackhouse No. 99), two drivers earned their first victories of 2021 in the last two races, making one team owner a very happy man in the process.
Hendrick Motorsports is on that two-race win streak, with William Byron winning at Homestead and Kyle Larson returning to victory lane for the first time since joining Rick Hendrick’s race team.
We still have yet to see any of the dominant names from 2020 earn a victory. And the question becomes not only if and when they can return to victory lane, but if some will even be able to make the playoffs. The battle is going to be the closest it’s been in years, and it’s going to leave some good race teams out.
The next two races are once again going to be good indicators of who will be up front this season. Phoenix is up first and will be a great learning opportunity as it is once again the championship race in 2021, and Atlanta is the last chance for the usual suspects to earn a checkered flag before what will perhaps be the wildest Cup race in decades at the Bristol dirt track. Set yourself up well heading into those races:
Kurt Busch: As we discussed in the most recent episode of “The Backroad,” the No. 1 team is well on its way to a stellar season. They have had to battle adversity all season, including in the last two races. Homestead saw Kurt Busch earn an eighth-place, but he should have been in the top five if not for a tire issue. The 2004 champion was fast in Vegas as well but sustained damage in Chase Elliott’s spin and finished 19th. With the speed the team has shown, once their luck changes, Busch will see victory lane sooner rather than later.
Kyle Larson: He’s locked up a playoff spot, but we haven’t seen the last of Larson running up front. The No. 5 team – which had worked on the No. 48 previously – hadn’t been to victory lane since Jimmie Johnson’s last win in 2017. This win will only improve the momentum they had been building in the season’s opening weeks.
As it appears Larson has become a better person and understands that incidents such as the one that occurred last year are unacceptable, it’s full speed ahead for him on the track.
Kevin Harvick: Another plug for “The Backroad” – I briefly touched on the fact that Stewart-Haas Racing has had trouble meeting expectations of late and that Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 was pulling the team up. That hasn’t happened in 2021; in none of the four races have we watched and thought Harvick was a true contender to win. Maybe his age is starting to show or maybe the team is truly taking that step backward, but I don’t see things improving for Harvick in the springtime.
Matt DiBenedetto: While the No. 21 team has had rotten luck to start the season, I believe it’s going to affect both driver and team more than we realize. After seeing Austin Cindric, who has already been announced as the driver of this car in 2022, run up front in much of his first Cup start at Daytona while they had been out of the race, it will be easy to look ahead to see what’s on its way.
And while Matt DiBenedetto is not a bad driver and is very likable, the victory that we all think is coming may not be on the horizon after all, nor will a ride in the Cup for next year. Trust me, I don’t want any of that to be true, but I am genuinely worried that it won’t be another good year for the No. 21.