Industry Spotlight

March 2018
Interview with Craig Kruckeberg of the Minimizer Bandit Big Rig Series
Minimizer Bandit Big Rig Racing Series
  • Mark Harter
  • Minimizer Bandit Big Rig Series

Gentleman, start your engines and put the hammer down! What started out as a hodge podge of former Champ Truck Racing Teams has become a full-blown racing series and is packing short tracks across the USA and gaining fans and momentum at every track they visit.

So who are "they," you ask? The answer is, "they" are the Bandits! We were able to sit down with Minimizer CEO Craig Kruckeberg for a short interview about the Bandit Big Rig Series, his involvement, the teams, the trucks and the fans!

If you've been involved in the trucking industry like many of us have over the years, many of our readers probably remember the now defunct GATR Series. While NASCAR, IndyCar and Sportscar Racing are popular and prominent, GATR lost its audience and disconnected itself from the industry. The trucks evolved and became something they weren't - a class 8 truck! Now enter the Bandit Big Rig Series, big trucks that look like big trucks and racing on American oval short tracks! It’s a show unlike any you will see anywhere else in the world!

Growing up in Indianapolis, I've been an avid IndyCar fan and love the Indianapolis 500 and all it's tradition and history. When you think of Indy, names like Andretti and Unser immediately come to mind. And while these drivers and cars get the glory, many fans prefer a night at the local short track, watching modifieds, midgets and sprint cars driven by local racers that do battle every Friday or Saturday night for a trophy that's not made of sterling silver and adorned with faces or named after the Borg-Warner Company.

For many years, the closest I could get to combining my love for racing and love for trucks would be walking the paddock at a race weekend and admiring the transporters. While I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of GATR races years ago, it's now a distant memory. So when I discovered the Bandit Series last year, I became an instant fan! Racing trucks that look like trucks!

Craig Kruckeberg is sitting at his desk and begins by telling us how it all began. "It all got started one night in the fall of 2016. Racing for braggin' rights and a case of beer as a one-race event at Greenville Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. That first Bandit Series race captured the interest of short track racing fans and so much so that five other tracks quickly inquired about bringing the Bandit Big Rigs to race at their speedways.

"Let's face it, the trucking industry is pretty boring for the most part, and this is different. You never see class 8 trucks racing on a 1/4 mile short track,” continues Craig.

Bandit Big Rig Series Trucks
Ricky Rude's Bandit Series Truck

While there are no 1/4 mile tracks on the 2018 racing schedule, Craig told us that "the trucks are just too big and 1/4 mile tracks wreck trucks and just don't have enough room." So all races during the 2018 season will be run on 3/8 and 5/8 mile or bigger tracks beginning at Mobile, Alabama, on March 10th with the season culminating in the Racing Capitol of the World, Indianapolis, Indiana, at Lucas Oil Raceway, which is just west of Indy in the suburb of Clermont, on October 6.

There are currently 10 Bandit Series teams and 24 Bandit Series Racing Trucks in existence. They expect 19 to 20 trucks to be in attendance at the first race in Mobile, Alabama, with all 24 rigs racing at the second race of the season in Hickory, North Carolina.

We asked Craig to give us the specs on a Bandit Big Rig. "Basically, it's a stock truck. You can play with the engine, but we have a black smoke rule, meaning that if you over play with it, you will have to back it down." What about safety and the rest of the truck? "The interiors are gutted, a roll cage is installed, and the truck has to be a single axle unit. A bunch of teams start with tandems, remove an axle and cut the frame, remove a sleeper if need be. The fuel tanks need to be removed and replaced with a racing fuel cell, the batteries need to be located inside the frame rails, a full containment racing seat is installed, the glass windows are removed and that's about it!" he continues explaining.

Bandit Big Rig Series Trucks in Action!
Minimizer Bandit Big Rig Racing Series Trucks in Action!

"I always tell people it's easier to repair a Bandit Truck than a racecar. It takes longer, but it's so basic, and we're keeping the series that way,” Kruckeberg says. So how much does it cost to build a Bandit Truck? "You can build a Bandit Truck for $20 to $25K and be really competitive," as Craig continues on with enthusiasm.

Bandit races consist of four 10-lap heat races, two 15-lap races and a 30-lap feature race. The trucks will typically hit speeds of 100 to 105 mph on the straightaway of a tri-oval backstrech or frontstrech and a racing event usually lasts anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours.

In Europe, truck racing is huge, and companies like MAN, Scania and more are involved. Corporate sponsorship is more prevalent as well, and right now US companies are in a wait and see what happens mode and Craig gets this. "They want to see if we're gonna be around for the long haul" he tells us. And he understands this reasoning, as the series is so young. "But at the same time, the Bandit Series brings an excitement to the trucking industry and can be used as a recruiting tool for jobs such as diesel mechanics, drivers and other positions." Kruckeberg continues on, as he explains the value he sees in the series and the potential it has to bring awareness to the trucking industry.

"The automotive industry has understood the value of racing, and the technology it brings to road cars, while the trucking industry and its manufactures are a bit slow to realize this," Craig tells us. "We're keeping this basic, blue collar, OEM parts, engines, etc. We want the trucks to look like trucks, and each Bandit truck to be unique. We're not going to allow a big manufacture to come in and fund a team and drive the prices up," Kruckeberg continues. "The response has been great, from drivers, owner-operator and small fleets. These are our fans and they get it."

"Overwhelming" is the one word that Craig said after we asked him how the fan response has been from the general public. "Our demographic is the 25 to 55 year old male, but surprising, that same age demographic with women has been shocking, as the women have seen our series on Facebook, sharing our posts and telling their boyfriend or husband they want to go to a Bandit race!" Craig also tells us that because his truck is painted yellow like a big Tonka Truck, his truck has grabbed the attention of young fans as well!

"We're very fan friendly,” says Craig. "We invite the fans to come down and look at our trucks. We put the kids up in a truck so they can see one first hand. We want them to have a fun time at our race and see it all first hand," as Kruckeberg explains in more detail about a Bandit event.

With the Louisville Mid-America Trucking show scheduled for March 22-24 this month, we asked Craig if the Bandit Series would have a booth or be racing in the area. He told us that they had looked at possibly putting on a race in the Louisville area, but were unable to secure a track, and with races scheduled before and after the MATS show, they would not have a booth or a truck on display this year due to logistics.

See the Bandit Big Rigs in action, check out the 2018 racing schedule below!

2018 Minimizer Bandit Big Rig Series Schedule
  • Watch the Bandit Big Rigs in Action on their Official YouTube Channel!
  • Special thanks to Craig, Jason and Caleb at the Bandit Big Rig Series!

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