What ever happened to U.S. Semi Truck Racing?

In the motor sports obsessed U.S. you would think semi truck racing would have an active and devoted following but yet there is nothing. To add more confusion truck racing is very popular all across Europe with an actual racing body devoted to the sport. Yes, I know us Americans have the truck version of NASCAR but we all know that doesn’t count. So what is the deal? A little digging around the web reveals an former racing league by the name of the Great American Truck Racing Series. Through the late 70′s and into the mid 80′s this group hosted a series of truck races at tracks across the country. By all accounts interest was high and participants numerous. There was even TV coverage with high production values and announcers like Brock Yates. Check out some of the clips below. It’s amazing to see Brockways, Autocars, Whites, and Macks all racing side by side on step oval tracks.

Ahhh, now I could watch this each Sunday for a few hours. Sadly, it was not meant to be. BangShift.com did some digging on the GATR series and found that tracks hosting the big rigs suffered for it, literally. The weight of these racing trucks put together with the 10+ tires they ran would actually destroy the tracks by removing the top layers of asphalt. Running the trucks proved to be rather expensive with high insurance and tire costs. Sometime in the late 80′s GATR disappeared and with it American semi truck racing.

If you still need a fix the video below shows what our European brothers enjoy.

And while there may not be a true national presence like GATR the rigs still race all across the country at small tracks, where some would argue the purest forms of racing still exist.

*UPDATE 6/26/2014* It looks like big rig racing is returning to America! Click here!

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18 Responses to What ever happened to U.S. Semi Truck Racing?

  1. Wife says:

    REALLY!!?

  2. Pingback: Truck Racing Returns? |

  3. virgil taylor says:

    nothing put truck racing out of bussiness but nascar i raced trucks back then and people loved it at atlanta,rockingham,phoenix,pocono,bristol,dover,ontario,texas world speedway every track we went people loved it but it wasnt nascar so they made the tracks stop running us. the tracks wanted it the people wanted it but the giant nascar wasent making any thing off of it so it had to go. sad but true so we raced on dirt small tracks but it wasnt the same so it died. if you want to thank someone thank nascar old great american truck racer#44 virgil taylor

  4. Mike Ryan says:

    Hey Virgil, if you read this, get in touch with me. We are starting a new big rig series and it would be good to know some GATR guys to help flesh out the history.

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • virgil taylor says:

      hi mike glad to here that someone is thinking of starting up another truck racing series that would be awesome if I can help just let me know. if anybody needs a driver I have a helmet

  5. Mark Carpenter says:

    My dad, Ervin Carpenter, used to race on the G.A.T.R series. I’ve seen numerous races from Atlanta to Pocano to Toledo Ohio. Virgil, I’m sure you know my dad and fought in the same battles as he did. The racing was awesome…sure hate those days are gone.

    • virgil taylor says:

      sure did know your dad he and I go way back before truck racing he and I go back to the days of Carolina and metrolinaand then we drove trucks for some of the same companys magnum and Carolina western I also worked for him twice sorry to hear about his passing I will miss him but I got some good memorys he and I used to have some good battles both on and off the track good to here from you sorry it took so long to respond but I don’t use this computer very much if you talk to Brenda tell her I said hi hope she is doing ok well I better go for now take care talkto you later

  6. Chuck Rudy says:

    Virgil, it would be great to hear from you again……there’s a GATR page on Facebook, your old narrow nosed Pete is in the pics somewhere as well as the #21 which I recall you driving from time to time…..drop on in, a few of the old crowd is there too.

  7. Cecelia Lawrence says:

    Loved to watch the trucks race at Ontario Motor Speedway in Fontana ,Ca.

  8. Alex says:

    Let’s get racing back into Ohio

  9. josh says:

    with today’s technology and lightweight materials trucks can become much lighter and use less tires. this would keep reading surfaces in tact with much less damage. American truck companies need to research and make prototypes. Let’s get big truck racing back on tv

  10. would like to find some one who has pics of gatr in the 80 s we had trk #80 larry wickersham dont have any picks any one who has some i will buy thanks jim

  11. Wayne says:

    There is an interesting story about truck racing on the oval tracks. Ask Burt Reynolds if he can remember. There really was a “Bandit” before the movies “Smokey and the Bandit” came out. It came from and idea they got from everyday over the roads trucks racing on the big speedway. If you ever heard of “Southern Shaker and “Bandit” you would remember the days of truck racing. These guy’s had road trucks with KT650′s cranking out over a 1000hp. Oh yes, they weren’t worried about fuel mileage back then. These guy’s would up and down the road at over 120MPH, they were the Outlaws of those days. I know of one driver that was clocked at over 130 on I-10 in Arizona.

  12. kevin ware says:

    I agree we need to bring back the sport as a new Diesel Technician I have been looking into semi truck racing teams and cant find them. however if I was a car guy or light truck series guy no problem. So let’s bring this sport back so guy’s like me who love the Big Rig’s could have a chance to work with the teams.

  13. Michele Flock says:

    My dad Jim Doyle had a 2 race trucks in the 80′s. #39 and #69. I would attend every race with him, my brother Jimmy and my mom. It was some of my best memories with my family.

  14. Jason McMahan says:

    It’s great to hear someone else is intersted in getting this started again. I’m young enough to get involved but been around these trucks my entire life and would love to build a truck for this event.

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