August date takes place of Atlanta's second Truck race
In his efforts to find a new entitlement sponsor for NASCAR's Truck Series, chief marketing officer Steve Phelps has been handed a nice enticement: A Saturday night race in the nation's third-largest market.
On Tuesday, NASCAR announced the 2009 Truck Series schedule, with plans to visit Chicagoland Speedway on Aug. 28. That replaces a second date at Atlanta -- and gives NASCAR's third national series some extra presence near the Windy City.
With Craftsman -- headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Ill. -- opting out of series sponsorship at the end of the season, NASCAR president Mike Helton said the search for a replacement is ongoing.
"Steve Phelps and his folks are very hard at work on narrowing it down and landing on a specific sponsor for that series," Helton said. "Hopefully in the next few weeks, we can put it out in public."
Chicagoland Speedway president Matt Alexander was ecstatic about the announcement, which places the race one week before Labor Day. The track's Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series weekend is in July.
"It's a strong addition to our schedule," Chicagoland Speedway president Matt Alexander said. "Having a night race is absolutely incredible. We've built a lot of momentum on that. There's a lot of buzz around that event.
"Even with that momentum, I really believe we've only scratched the surface in this market and developing more motorsports fans. Adding NASCAR Trucks to our schedule clearly falls in line with that line of thinking."
Helton said NASCAR had been looking at ways to manipulate the schedule to accommodate Chicagoland's interest in a date.
"When a Truck race became available, Chicago had -- for some time -- been wanting one," Helton said. "It makes sense for that series to be in that market area, as well. We're glad that it worked out for '09.
"It's just a matter of balancing out what we think is the right place, the right time, availability and what's good for the NASCAR community as a whole. When we decided to put the Truck Series event at Chicagoland and the Nationwide Series in Iowa, it came after a good deal of thought process."
The Truck Series schedule remains at 25 races for 2009, and Helton said that's done with financial stability in mind.
"The Truck schedule is purposely kept at a number of events that we feel like is reasonable for the owners and participants to be involved in," Helton said. "Most of it is economics and part of it is just the ability to move around with the people and resources."
It also makes for a lot of off-weeks early in the season, Helton admitted. After the season-opener at Daytona and a trip to California, the series runs only three races over the next 11 weeks.
"When we moved to opening the Truck Series at Daytona during Speedweeks -- which was the right thing to do -- it spread out their season," Helton said. "We do have multiple weeks off in that series because it starts earlier than it originally did."
Iowa Speedway landed a Nationwide Series race but was left off the Truck calendar for 2009.
"The schedule just didn't permit," Iowa Speedway president Jerry Jauron said. "There was no open date. We can respect that and we feel like we're not given a race ... but you earn it.
"Down the road, obviously, if an opening exists in the [Craftsman Truck Series] and eventually in Cup, we will definitely entertain the idea of bringing those series to Iowa as well."