Ted Musgrave's Dodge Ram Wins NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Title
TED MUSGRAVE (No. 1 Mopar Dodge Ram): "For the last couple of races, the best thing we were going to do when we came out with a 63-point lead at one time is just keep Dennis (Setzer) around you. If you race him and you're within a truck or two (he) can't gain enough positions or points to get you. It was a different type of strategy toward the end of the season. It's kinda tough running that way. I'd rather be out front racing with Todd (race winner Bodine). If I was fourth, fifth or sixth back there on the backstretch the last lap, I might not be sitting here. It works two ways. You put yourself in a guaranteed position to win the championship. Jim has been trying for 10 years and a lot of things have happened through the years that we kinda missed it. Each and every year we've been in the top three since we've been together, so we knew we were contenders and sooner or later we'd make the breakthrough. It's pretty cool. Ten years tough and so is Jim.
"It's pretty cool. When I first came up racing around the United States a little bit and never stayed at one track all year long to try to win a championship because when the seasons were coming to a close and had big races I ventured out into different states to see how good we really were and I didn't think a local hometown championship was going to elevate you to NASCAR. Going out and running against the best in the Midwest and United States kinda told me whether I needed to step it up or if I was OK running with them. Now that I'm settled in here with NASCAR, I figured, 'OK, let's go for a championship.' Everybody knows how hard it is in the Cup Series to do it. It takes a lot of effort and teamwork and everything. I knew when I had the truck offered to me by Jimmy Smith through Mopar I believed it was a winning combination. I thought we could win championships and we almost won 'em a couple of times already. With one championship, I'm greedy. I want another one."
JIM SMITH (Owner Ultra Motorsports Dodge Rams): "I don't think this is any surprise to anybody that this is one of my highest accomplishments in motorsports. We've won a lot of races, led a lot of laps, the most poles. We've done it all and this has eluded us for nine years. It's something I'm going to cherish. I wanted it desperately. I think whatever you're racing, you always want to be No. 1 in your sport. We achieved that today. I couldn't be prouder of Ted and the Gene (crew chief Nead) and the entire Ultra Motorsports race team.
GENE NEAD (Crew chief No. 1 Ultra Motorsports Dodge Ram): "I would say this is the worse year of racing we've ever had together, but the end result was a lot better. I feel like in years past we've been a lot more competitive week in and week out than we've been this year, but it's all about the way the season ends up."
YOU NEVER CHANGED YOUR IMAGE, BUT YOUR LUCK FINALLY CHANGED
TED MUSGRAVE: "Probably three-quarters of the way into the season I had to rough up some people pretty bad. I wasn't taking nothing from a couple of guys cutting me off. I just turned them and kept on going. Even Dennis tried to chop me off at Martinsville and I had to shove him up in the third groove. There were times when you just had to do it. You just couldn't be a nice guy no more, but I had to do that to get myself in position to win the championship. It wasn't like I was going to take anybody out. I just wasn't going to give anybody an inch, stuff like some guys do to me. It was just return."
DID YOU THINK YOU MIGHT NOT EVER WIN THE TITLE?
TED MUSGRAVE: "Yeah, I thought I was a carbon copy of Mark Martin. How many times has he finished second? I can't even recall. Mark's been a champion in ASA and everything he's been in, but the Cup one always seems to elude him. I thought for awhile I might have the same syndrome here. Every time we got up there and tried to win the championship something would get slipped away from us. Thinking about it, I'm looking forward to racing against him in IROC. I can go race against the best in the world and have some fun there, too."
COMMENT ON RACING CONSERVATIVELY WITH A POINTS LEAD
TED MUSGRAVE: "Three weeks ago when we got ourselves in this position you say you're not going to be conservative. You've got to go for it. I've got to run as hard as I can. A lot of times you just play mind games. We go in and unload and you put in a fast lap and you look over at the team that's chasing you and they're scratching their heads. They might get off kilter. Sometimes you say one thing and you do another. Same thing today. We had a really good truck, but we've won everything but the championship. Hanging around Dennis, I don't care if he would have come in and gone to the bathroom I would have gone with him. No matter what I was going to stay next to that truck. You say you're going to do this or that, but you're fooling 'em. You're just going to go out and win the championship."
WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND AFTER THE RACE?
TED MUSGRAVE: "I was trying to figure out how I was going to wreck that pace truck. I told them that if I won the championship I was going to wreck him off the backstretch. I tried to wreck him in turn four, but he had a little more grip than I did. We'll get a bill for the door. You're just trying to make sure you don't screw up. You get all your sponsors in there and it's hard to acknowledge the whole crew of Ultra Motorsports. You think about how you can name 'em as a group. Things like that go through your head."
WAS IT A SLEEPLESS NIGHT LAST NIGHT?
TED MUSGRAVE: "No, you think about it. The truck was OK. Nobody could adjust on their stuff. We were thinking about what conditions were going to be like this morning. You think about your strategy. You try to put yourself in the zone, block everybody out and run your own race. Waiting another day was worth it. I don't care how long we had to wait. Jimmy's heart rate went up a little bit when they canceled it, but other than that I was fine."
IS YOUR LIFETIME CONTRACT WRITTEN ON A NAPKIN?
TED MUSGRAVE: "Most definitely. Some people get in this sport and the first thing they say is they're going to write a contract and need a lawyer to do this and blah, blah, blah. How many times have we seen that? Oh, I've got another year in my contract but by the way I'm leaving. That ain't it. We've got a word here. We don't need contracts. If I don't' have faith in him and he doesn't have faith in me, we don't need to be together. That's the way we are. We're racers. We don't care about those contracts and all that BS. We're just here to do a job and we're going to do it together as hard as we can."
DID YOU THINK YOU'D EVER WIN ONE?
TED MUSGRAVE: "You've been in that position where you think the brass ring slips away from you. Dennis Setzer has been second three years in a row. That's tough to take, and maybe that kind of wore on his mental part of it. You feel for that. I've had it. Three years ago we thought we'd won this deal. I made a mistake. I couldn't see out the windshield and it was Dennis. I was penalized and go the championship taken away. I know what it's like. I know what he's going through. He's a good racer. He'll be back next year and be one to contend with for the championship again."
COMMENT ON THE TWO CLOSE CALLS IN THE RACE
TED MUSGRAVE: "The first one Deborah Renshaw got sideways. She tried to correct it one way and it went back the other way and it looked like she was going to go up the racetrack and then down the racetrack and then up the racetrack. My spotter was saying go low, go high. There was a lot of smoke and I could kinda tell from all the experience I've been racing, when there's a crash in front of me, I don't know if I've got nine lives or what, but I usually always make it through. I made it through that one. On the second one, when there's a green-white-checkered or when there's five laps to go you know darn well, and I even told these guys on the radio that I was going to keep my eyes wide open because you know darn well something is going to happen. Sure enough I could see it starting to develop and we picked our way through that. That's exactly what I was saying before. Our truck would have been up in that area, but I just wanted to stay around Dennis so I'd know I had a cushion and let them guys do whatever they needed to do. They were racing for positions and I was racing for a championship. I had to put a bubble around me and stay back there and pick my way through them."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WAITING AN EXTRA EIGHT HOURS OR WHATEVER TO RACE TODAY?
TED MUSGRAVE: "Last night when it rained we all knew there was nothing we could do or NASCAR could do about the rain. It was just another day at work. You wanted to get it over with. Everybody's plans changed, motel rooms, airplane flights, a lot of behind the scenes stuff had to get changed. Running at night, I think if it did get in last night it would have been anticlimactic. It would have been so late, nobody would have been around and nobody would have recognized it and we would have been sleeping by now. I think was a good choice to get it done in the day time."
WHAT WERE THE MOST DIFFICULT TIMES LEADING UP TO THIS?
TED MUSGRAVE: "We had a few races we struggled at IRP and a few places we didn't get the handle on, but then there were a few places where you look back and we overcame adversity. It was pretty hard at Atlanta when we blew a tire and had the truck really wrecked bad and came back and finished 13th. There's been a few times when you were down and out, but everybody's got that. Every team has a bad two or three weeks or whatever. We're just going to go home and work on those times we didn't run good and figure out why."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE NASCAR'S OLDEST CHAMPION?
TED MUSGRAVE: "I've got a lifetime contract with Jimmy Smith and I told him I'd drive for him until I quit. You're the oldest champion. I'll come back next year and try to make it again. As far as I know if I can go out and win races and win championships, why quit? Just keep going. If I get to the point where I can't get the job done, I might do something different. I don't want your job. You pull your hair out all the time. I don't know what I'll do."
"Jim Smith and all these guys are well deserving of this championship. My hats are off to these guys. We never give up. That's the nice thing about it. I never give up in the race and the team doesn't give up, either. It was a cat and mouse game for us today. We didn't go out and win the race and put ourselves in jeopardy trying to do it. We just stayed around the 46 all day long and even though we were a lap down it was a good strategy.
"Sometimes you've got to pull the wool over their eyes like we did the last couple of weeks. We had a better truck, but I just had to stay around Dennis and kinda rattle some cages. The older you get the smarter you get I think. As a matter of fact I think I'm the oldest champion now. Oh, my gosh. I'm going to come back next year and try to make it older yet."
JIM SMITH: "I'm so proud of Ted and the team and the job they did today and the season they had. To help Ted win his first major championship means so much to me and Ultra Motorsports."
DO YOU THINK MORE THAN ONE MANUFACTURER WILL EVER BE DOMINANT IN THE TRUCK SERIES?
JIM SMITH: "We all know NASCAR strives to do that. They don't like to see dominance by any one manufacturer. There was a lot of griping in my camp this year about Toyota. I said, 'guys, remember back a few years ago we won 12 of 24 races. What do you think they were saying about us.' They've done their homework, and we're going to have to work real hard to run with them next year."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WAITING AN EXTRA EIGHT HOURS OR WHATEVER TO RACE TODAY?
JIM SMITH: "I spent a month in Homestead yesterday."
JOHN FERNANDEZ (Director, Dodge Motorsports Operations): "It's great to see Ted and Jimmy Smith win one, especially Jimmy. He's been with the sport since the beginning. Being one of the founders of this sport, and his ability to finally win one after such a heart-breaking disappointment two years ago, it's great for everybody on that team. Ted is a racer's racer. Gary Scelzi won the NHRA Funny Car championship this season in a Dodge Stratus, and now Ted wins one in a Dodge Ram. Maybe that's the secret. Maybe I should start recruiting older guys."