There are solely a handful of occasions able to packing out native brief tracks these days, however the Bandit Huge Rig Sequence has shortly turn into a star attraction wherever it goes.
The visible is simply an excessive amount of to withstand: Over a dozen 13,000-pound vehicles racing door to door at 80 mph on tracks no bigger than a half-mile at historic venues like Hickory Motor Speedway (N.C.), Hawkeye Downs (Iowa) and Greenville-Pickens Speedway (S.C.). They race onerous — and, in fact, they crash even more durable.
The October occasion at Hickory was paired with college bus races and a demolition derby. It proved to be such a scorching ticket that late-arriving followers had been really turned away on the entrance gate. In the meantime, the road to get in prolonged a full mile outdoors of the car parking zone.
When was the final time that occurred with any regularity at brief tracks not named Bowman Grey Stadium (N.C.)?
The Bandit Huge Rig Sequence drew a packed home final month at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
Montgomery Motor Speedway race director Nicholas Rogers mentioned its date on the Bandit schedule was the best-attended occasion he’s ever seen on the Alabama venue. In truth, Bandit Sequence director of operations Brian Madsen says all however 4 races had been full sellouts this season.
“I don’t actually know what to say besides that we’ve been completely shocked by the expansion of the Bandits,” Madsen mentioned. “If you happen to would have requested me two years in the past, I might by no means have predicted this type of success.”
In any case, the tour was born from the failure of the short-lived and now-defunct ChampTruck World Sequence that took the identical inventory semis and raced them on street programs. It was a cool idea however didn’t fairly register with the blue-collar, truck-driving target market. The collection folded in 2016. Madsen spearheaded the transition to ovals final 12 months, and most of his drivers adopted go well with to the newly christened Bandit Huge Rig Sequence.
A six-race mushy launch emerged instantly after ChampTruck closed. It expanded to 13 races throughout the Southeast and Midwest this 12 months, and a West Coast tour was just lately introduced for 2019.
The fast development is due partially to the affordability of the Bandit Huge Rig guidelines bundle. Every race presents a $50,000 purse and $10,000 to the winner. The championship factors fund is ready to pay $20,000 to the eventual collection victor.
In the meantime, the vehicles are lower than $25,000 to construct, offering a return on funding few different disciplines presently can provide.
Getting up shut and private with the vehicles is a part of the attraction to the Bandit Huge Rig Sequence.
Driver Mike Morgan, nicknamed “88 Mike” by his fan base, made the soar to the Bandit Sequence after successful the 2015 ChampTruck championship. When not turning laps, he works as a grasp technician at a Mack dealership in Tennessee. Together with his Southern drawl and everyman attraction, Morgan embodies the spirit of the Bandit Sequence.
“I’ve raced all the things from SCCA to bikes, however I knew I wanted to be part of this once they introduced big-rig racing again to the US,” Morgan mentioned. “That is who I’m and what I do. The competitors is fierce, and there’s nothing like sliding considered one of these 13,000-pound vehicles wheel to wheel on a decent brief observe.”
On account of ChampTruck’s road-racing roots, the Bandit Sequence has a various roster made up of conventional short-trackers and road-course ringers.
Tommy Boileau was a veteran sports-car racer who by no means pictured himself driving a giant rig round Southern brief tracks. However the former Richard Petty Driving Expertise supervisor and present driving teacher has confirmed to be a fast learner on ovals and one of many self-discipline’s first stars.
“I drove for a automotive proprietor out of Hungary,” Boileau mentioned. “He had considered one of these vehicles on show on the Efficiency Trade (PRI) commerce present in Indianapolis. They employed me to race the truck on street programs, and now we’ve someway ended up right here on brief tracks.”
The collection’ fast success can greatest be traced to business truck drivers and their households. Morgan says a big proportion of Bandit Sequence followers have some connection to the trucking trade. They arrive to the observe already ready to cheer for Mack, Freightliner or Peterbilt.
The collection boasts model loyalty for it is many sponsors.
These are pure, built-in rivalries and maybe eventual advertising companions for the still-growing collection.
“We now have model loyalty,” Morgan mentioned. “I don’t imply to disrespect NASCAR, however when Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge all look the identical, followers simply have a tough time investing in sure groups.
“Our followers are very keen about which vehicles they need to win or lose.”
Morgan argues big-rig racing has the wow issue of Monster Jam with the accessibility of native Late Mannequin occasions.
“Probably the most enjoyable I’ve is hanging out with our followers,” Morgan mentioned. “Racing wants youngsters to outlive. They inform their dad and mom to return to our races as a result of we’re nonetheless cool. So if I’ve to remain till 2 a.m. signing autographs and serving to youngsters get into my truck or blow the horn, that’s what we’re going to do.”
He simply would possibly save short-track racing within the course of. Not even 20 years in the past, Hickory was dwelling to the NASCAR Xfinity Sequence; now it’s largely an afterthought in its personal group. However the Bandits put tracks like this again on the map this 12 months.
“Properly, to begin with, I hope that we’re not only a novelty,” Boileau mentioned. “We expect this could proceed to develop. However we take plenty of delight in what number of followers present as much as watch us race. Each observe wants some sort of huge occasion to simply get individuals speaking. So we simply need to placed on a very good present, and hopefully, we go away these tracks in a greater place than we discovered them.”