You already know the world’s biggest races.
The Monaco Grand Prix. 24 Hours Of Le Mans. The Daytona 500. The Dakar Rally. The Kentucky Derby, for good measure.
What you probably didn’t know is that there are also racing series for pickup trucks. They’re just a little less prestigious.
Pickup truck racing has its roots in ‘91, in California. Three years later, a prototype racing truck was showcased on the big state: the Daytona 500. In 1995, NASCAR brought the first pickup truck racing series to life. Races took place at Mesa Marin Raceway, Portland Speedway, Saugus Speedway and Tucson Raceway Park. The competition enters its 26th season this year.
The qualifying field consists of 32 trucks, with 24 advancing to the second round. That number is halved for the final round. Fun fact: The driver holding pole position for the championship race is awarded the Keystone Light Pole Award. If he happens to be under 21, the award is responsibly renamed to the 21 Means 21 Pole Award.
Trucks racing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series weigh in at more than 1.5 tons, including fuel and driver. Unrestricted, the engines rumble between 650 and 700 horsepower. Ford, Chevrolet, and Toyota are currently represented in the series. Seven of the past eight championships were won by drivers racing in a Tundra.
The most notable pickup truck racing series outside of the United States takes place in the United Kingdom. Aptly called Pickup Truck Racing, it was founded in 1997 with the aim to bring American truck culture to Europe. That goal is a work in progress.
Nevertheless, the series has enjoyed success for more than two decades. Last year’s circuit included 10 races at seven tracks around the U.K. This year’s race calendar kicks off the first weekend of April and finishes on November 8th, with events taking place on both road courses and ovals.
Each truck is specially designed for the competition and must meet identical technical specifications. That means Pickup Truck Racing is a single-make series. Translation: the best driver wins. The machines boast 230 bhp (brake horsepower), two-litre, multi-valve, twin-cam engines, and weigh in at just under a ton. Since 2013, they’ve been outfitted for right-hand drive, as is the custom in the U.K.
Races are high-octane battles inspired by the American saying, “if you ain't rubbin', you ain't racing." Trucks barrel along the truck mere inches apart at “fast and furious” speeds. But it’s the drivers who are the real draw – “characters from which folk heroes are made.”
Elsewhere in the world, pickup truck racing has footprints in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil. Up to seven different series have taken place in the United States at a time. While the sport’s popularity has probably already peaked, we’re super stoked it exists in the first place.