Last year’s inaugural Camping World Truck Series race at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa was a brutal affair.
The 179-lap race on Knoxville’s half-mile dirt surface included 14 caution flags for 80 laps, almost half of the race. Twelve of the 40 starters were eliminated in crashes.
The series returns to Knoxville Saturday night, and at least two series regulars expect a repeat of 2021.
“The racing last year was really, really, really rough,” said Ben Rhodes, last year’s series champion. “It got to the point where certain trucks — and I’m not going to name any numbers or names — would just turn right or left into you on the straightaways. I don’t want to partake in any of that. If I’m around them, I’ll just let those individuals go.”
Rhodes said problems started last year because the track “rubbered up” early in the race, turning the dirt surface into one similar to harder asphalt.
“The track rubbers up quickly, and you have so much grip,” said Rhodes, who finished seventh. “When you have a lack of banking and rubbered-up dirt, you go slow and that can lead to chaos. At dirt tracks like Eldora you have hard racing, but this was just a lot of intentional stuff. I wasn’t a fan of all that.”
Rhodes won the Truck race on Bristol Motor Speedway’s dirt surface in April.
Derek Kraus was fifth last year at Knoxville, his best finish of the year, but he agreed with Rhodes that the race action is likely to get more than a little crazy.
“It’s such a tough race to balance,” he said. “Once the track rubbers up, it becomes one groove and you have to stay in it. If you start on the outside on a restart, you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose a couple of spots. It becomes a fight to get to the bottom.”
Austin Hill won last year’s race.
Only four races remain in the Truck regular season. The playoffs are scheduled to begin July 29 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
The Truck Series is the only NASCAR national series racing this weekend.