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

  1. Pingback: Truck Racing Returns? |

  2. 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

  3. 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.



  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. Cecelia Lawrence says:

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

  7. Alex says:

    Let’s get racing back into Ohio

  8. 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

  9. 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

    • Shon McKeone says:

      Had nothing better to do, but do a lil’ searching. All this bringing back some great memories. And of coarse had to watch the videos posted above. And guess what…. I found your dad, and his truck. Not sure how to post links in these forums. But if you go onto YouTube, and look for poster VooDooRocketry, and look for video….GATR 1986 Big Rig Racing year in review. For a few short seconds, starting at 6.25, there she is, in all her glory…. nearly 8ft of hood and all. So far that is all I have found. But its cool to see it again. Hope that helps a little. Will let you know of any I may find.

    • Shon McKeone says:

      That’s what I get for losing touch with important people in my life… Jim, I’m sorry (4 years too late). I just found out about his passing. I regret not knowing. Through my father I was lucky enough to know him and your mom. Forgive me for not knowing, before asking stupid questions. He and my father went back a long time, when they were first building Interstate 80. And was lucky enough to have him around for me, after my parents passed back in 97. Will keep digging for anything I can find. Really wish those pics I had would turn up….

  10. 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.

    • Rob Williams says:

      You guys remember the Kenworth “Special K”? owned by Kenneth Farmer, near Section Alabama. I remember in the late 70’s that it was the fastest street legal big rig in the world back then. I am just curious. I tried researching that truck on line, but came up with nothing.

      • Jeremy Gouge says:

        I have the truck now … I bought it from a very good friend. Still has that big K in it and right now it is painted some random brown color but will be restored back to its glory!

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    • charlie baker says:

      not sure if you remember me,,,,,,i drove the 39 for your dad. you re right,
      they were some really good memories. your dad was the greatest, always
      enjoyed hanging with him. hope you and Jimmy are doing great.

      • Konly Beard says:

        Charlie, How many people can say that they went THROUGH the turn one retaining wall at Poccono?

        after someone (Bill Metzger ?) blew a left front and went sideways directly in front the #39, causing a T-bone, they both went THROUGH the wall. My parents still have the polaroids.

        GATR – Simply awesome !!!

      • Brett mingesb says:

        If this is the Charlie that drove for the Carolina raceing team I would like to say hello .I use to build the truck with buck horne and I miss those days I hope you are doing well . My name is Brett minges

      • Jody Measamer says:

        Hey Charlie my dad was your crew cheif in cup, Larry Measamer he’s wanting to get up with you

  13. 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.

  14. Shon McKeone says:

    Great memories, will for sure jump on the band wagon if/when they bring back the trucks. Especially if they let us fire up some our old iron, and pair them up against these plastic turds they call trucks now. Jim Wickersham…. I too would love to see pics of your dads truck… #80, meanest Mack “R”, ever. I used to have some from when it was retired and sat out in front of his home and shop…. I80 Towing. But too many years and miles since then, now I can’t find them. Just the ones burned into memory. Wish I could help. Do you know where the truck is today? I left the area about the time they closed the old 76 Truckstop. Heard he sold to G&S and moved to Colfax. Just wondering if he might still have it. Lol, bet he still has “The Hooker”.

    FYI, we lived just down the road in Mitchellville, my dad was Matt McKeone… if that helps remember who I am…

  15. Brady says:

    Hi there everyone. Big rig racing has been growing in Calgary Alberta Canada since the early 90’s we have expanded to many tracks south of the border such as south sound speedway in tenino Washington and the bullring in Las Vegas Nevada. With the closure of our track in Calgary, the rigs will take on more tracks in the states. The series is called NORTH AMERICAN BIG RIG RACING

    check it out on Facebook/northamericanbigrigracing
    And the website http://www.bigrigracers.com

    It would be great to see some new faces down at the track

    Stay tuned for anymore info and season schedules

  16. Brady says:


    This is a link to one of the first races this season in salt lake city

  17. Wayne yates #97 says:

    I’d like to just ask were I can get the spec from to build a late model Gatr truck single tag

  18. ChampTruck says:

    We finished our first season with ChampTruck at some of the best tracks in the United States.

    We will be at West Palm Beach in early April 2016. We would love to see you there!!

  19. Mark Hayward says:

    I am trying to remember the name of the Female Truck Driver who used to race Big Rigs. Not NASCAR racer Shawna Robison. I keep finding her in searches.

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