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ANDERS: BKR shutdown another blow for Trucks

NASCAR Dover Auto Racing
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Brad Keselowski gets ready before practice for the NASCAR Cup series auto race, Saturday, June 3, 2017, at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Friday, August 18, 2017

This seemed inevitable.

Brad Keselowski’s announcement Thursday that he will be shutting down Brad Keselowski Racing, which fields two full-time Camping World Truck Series teams, at the end of this season is a big one for many reasons.

For one, it shakes up the driver lineup for that series next season. Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe have evolved into consistent frontrunners in that series. The pair has a combined 16 top-10s and eight top-fives in the 14 races run so far this season.

Beyond that, and more importantly, it’s another indictment of owners’ ability to stay afloat running a team at that level.

Keselowski’s team is the second high-profile truck team to shutter its operation this year. Red Horse Racing abruptly shut down in May after 12 years in the series due to lack of funding.

BKR’s trucks have had support from multiple companies, and yet Keselowski has been open in the past about the fact the team lost money on a yearly basis. As such, one of the biggest names in the sport who has used those trucks to give opportunities to young drivers like Ryan Blaney, Ross Chastain and Tyler Reddick (who finished second in points in 2015) is forced to close his doors.

Keselowski said this weekend that the move is tied in part to his desire to one day field cars in the Monster Energy Cup Series. He told reporters he plans to turn the team’s race shop, located in Statesville, into the home of a manufacturing business that would eventually become the “profit center” to help finance that.

That said, he also said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway he would “probably not” be shutting the team down if it were able to break even.

Dwindling crowd sizes and ever-increasing costs have called the Truck Series’ viability into question for a while now. Even though I’m firmly on the side of not wanting Cup drivers running lower series races, Keselowski and Kyle Busch owning teams in the truck series represented some of the sport’s top stars investing in its future at a lower level.

But even Busch, who has multiple owners championships to his name in the trucks, has admitted the venture is one that is almost guaranteed to lose money. For a former Cup Series champion, that’s survivable.

For smaller teams, such as Red Horse Racing, the increasing difficulty of putting together a competitive effort is becoming harder and harder to conquer. That’s a shame, because I think the Truck Series is — or, at least, could and should be — one of the most unique forms of motorsports there is in this country.

Time will tell if it’s able to survive, but when someone the caliber of Keselowski abandons ship, that’s never a great sign.

PREDICTION

Speaking of Blaney, he has never finished in the top 10 at Bristol, but he was fourth in the first practice Friday and fastest in final practice. I think he sneaks up and snatches a win tonight.

PICK: Ryan Blaney.

Contact Jordan Anders at janders@reflector.com, 252-329-9594 or follow @ReflectorJordan on Twitter.

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