Experience may be key Ingredient to Dodge dominance in Inaugural Charlotte truck race.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., (May 14, 2003) - Time is on the side of many Dodge Motorsports NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams heading to Charlotte this weekend - seat time at Lowe's Motor Speedway that is. The Truck Series will kick-off its inaugural race in Charlotte when the green flag falls for Friday night's Hardee's 200, but for a few Dodge drivers this race is on familiar ground.
Four of the five Dodge drivers in the top-10 of the NCTS standings have Winston Cup Series experience under their belt. What's more, Dodge drivers Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave, Robert Pressley and Jason Leffler have combined for 60 Winston Cup Series starts at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The number of Charlotte starts for the rest of this year's current top-10 class: zero.
Brendan Gaughan, driver of the No. 62 American Racing Wheels/Orleans Dodge Ram, currently ranks third in the series and will make his first start at Charlotte on Friday night. However, Gaughan isn't too unfamiliar with the racetrack. He raced in a 2000 ARCA race and has taught driving lessons for the Richard Petty Driving Experience at the speedway.
"Quite frequently when we start out on some new tracks everyone is on equal footing," Gaughan said. "But this won't be true this time. It will be a mixed bag, with some racers knowing the track well, guys like me with some experience and others racing on the track for the first time. A lot is going to depend on equipment, and that's where I think we will have an edge."
Bobby Hamilton has been happy with the equipment supporting his No. 4 Square D Dodge this year. Hamilton has been on a dominating run that has earned him a 36-point series lead over Rick Crawford. Hamilton is the only driver on the circuit to have led a lap in each race, and is the only driver to have finished in the top-five in all four races this year. The NASCAR veteran earned a fourth place finish in the 1998 fall Winston Cup race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and he's looking to match that finish or better it on Friday night.
"I've told people that I want to finish in the top five all season, and I realistically think we can do it," Hamilton said. "I realize there are going to be times that something tears up or we miss a setup and it will be hard for us to get a top-five. But honestly, I think our team has the capability to finish strong in every race we enter.
"I want to win at Lowe's Motor Speedway. That track just has something about it that makes it prestigious. To me, it's like how everyone wants to win Daytona. I want to win here."
Jeremy Mayfield is another Winston Cup notable piloting a Dodge Ram in this weekend's race. Mayfield will sit in the No. 7 American Tire Distributors Dodge Ram, a third Dodge entry out of the Ultra Motorsports stables. The Hardee's 200 will mark the first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race for the full-time driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid.
"We were posting some good times testing the Dodge Ram for Ultra Motorsports last week, and I said to the guys, 'Man, you're going to have a hard time keeping me out of this thing,'" Mayfield said. "It got some of their guys excited, and it got me excited. So when Jim Smith asked if I'd be interested in running the truck in this weekend's race, I was really pumped to do it. It's just another example of the relationships that the Dodge teams have with one another. All of the Dodges are one big team here. This is a win-win situation, and hopefully we can put this Dodge Ram up front for everybody involved."
* After four races, the NCTS championship race reads like Dodge's 2003 driver lineup. Dodge has three drivers in the top-five of the rankings, and five drivers in the top-10 (1. Bobby Hamilton, 3. Brendan Gaughan, 4. Ted Musgrave, 8. Robert Pressley, 10. Jason Leffler). Tina Gordon, driver of the No. 31 3M Post-It/Microtel Dodge Ram, took reign of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year race after finishing 17th at Mesa Marin, but gave up the top spot to Carl Edwards after failing to qualifying for the race at Martinsville.
* Bobby Hamilton is the only driver on the NCTS circuit to have earned a top-five finish in each race this season. Hamilton admitted at Bakersfield, Calif., "I told our team at the beginning of this year that we wanted to try to finish in the top-five in every race this season. ... That means we are going full steam ahead to prove ourselves. If we finish somewhere around the top-five every race, then I think we will have reached a big landmark for our Square D Racing Team."
* Ted Musgrave has moved up the most points in the NCTS standings since the season-opening race at Daytona. Musgrave has made up 26 spots to move from 30th to fourth in the series after posting top-five finishes in the last three races. Jason Leffler has made up the second-most positions, jumping from 29th to 10th.
* Ultra Motorsports continues to exhibit its qualifying prowess in 2003. Since becoming teammates in 2002, Jason Leffler and Ted Musgrave have combined for 14 poles over the span of 26 races, with a 4.94 qualifying average. At Daytona in February, the Ultra Motorsports teammates both qualified within the top-three for the eighth time since the beginning of 2002 (a span of 23 races).
* Bobby Hamilton's victory at Darlington was his 10th as team owner of Bobby Hamilton Racing - Joe Ruttman (five), Bobby Hamilton (three) and Robert Pressley (two). Joe Ruttman earned the team's first victory in March of 2000 at Phoenix Int'l Speedway, winning the race from the pole position in the No. 18 Dodge Ram. All 10 victories were earned in a Dodge Ram.