This story was originally published on Feb. 4, 2019.
Things just got a lot more exciting on the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series circuit.
As if that was possible.
Already considered one of the most intense and exciting series in auto racing, the Gander Outdoors Truck Series will get an additional jolt of adrenaline in 2019 thanks to the new Triple Truck Challenge, a three-race program that provides drivers in the Truck Series an opportunity to win up to $500,000 in bonus money.
Slated for consecutive stops at Texas Motor Speedway (June 7), Iowa Speedway (June 16) and Gateway Motorsports Park (June 22), the Triple Truck Challenge will award a $50,000 bonus to the race winner of any one of the three events; win two of the three races and pocket an additional $150,000; win all three and collect a cool half a million dollars.
Similar to the current Dash 4 Cash in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the program is different enough to give the platform its own identity.
“It’s neat in the sense that it’s a little bit different,” said NASCAR’s Ben Kennedy, managing director of racing operations and international development. “There’s no qualifying ahead of time or any of that. It’s solely focused on the Truck Series drivers — you have to declare driver points in order to participate and then you’ve also got to win. It focuses on winning.”
Kennedy said there was much discussion internally as well as with series sponsor Gander Outdoors — “They were very involved in the process; they’ve really been involved a lot (transitioning) from Camping World to the Gander Outdoors brand. They’re really excited about the Truck Series and what we’re going to bring to the table this year.”
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A three-race program wasn’t the only idea considered, and the three specific tracks selected weren’t the only ones on the table. But Kennedy said after officials threw “a ton of ideas and concepts at the wall,” the Triple Truck Challenge at Texas, Iowa and Gateway made the most sense. Additionally, only drivers declared for points in the Truck Series will be eligible to enter these events.
As a former racer (he made 17 starts in the Xfinity Series, 73 in the Truck Series and 49 in K&N Pro Series competition), Kennedy knows how important finances are to teams in the series. The opportunity to win anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 is huge.
“Putting half a million dollars on the line is certainly a big number for any team,” he said, “let alone a Truck Series team. I think anytime you can shake it up, especially in the summer, and especially at stand-alone tracks, it’s big.
“We learned on the Xfinity side that running consecutively really helps build that energy and excitement. You don’t forget about it; it’s fresh on your mind.”
Johnny Sauter won last year’s spring Truck race at Texas while Brett Moffitt and Justin Haley were the respective winners at Iowa and Gateway.