NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Breakfast. TED MUSGRAVE (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge Ram) NOTE: Musgrave, a 48-year-old Franklin, Wis., native, has won 13 races in 74 starts (17.5 percent) in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He has nine ...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
TED MUSGRAVE (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge Ram)
NOTE: Musgrave, a 48-year-old Franklin, Wis., native, has won 13 races in 74 starts (17.5 percent) in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He has nine career poles and won the 2003 Bud Pole Award with four poles last season. In three full seasons, Musgrave has finished second, third and third in the Craftsman standings. He finished third last season, 18 points behind the champion. Musgrave talks about driving for Ultra Motorsports owner Jim Smith and how he plans to change his style in 2004.
"I've got a race shop at home with a sign that says Musgrave Motorsports. We took that sign down and now it says Maddog Motorsports. I've taken it for the past 25 years, and I'm going to start dishing it back out right now. That's the way it's going to be. That barbwire on the truck last year was just to hold emotions in. I took the barbwire off the paint scheme, and the emotions are coming out.
"Right now it (winning championship) don't mean nothing. It's all about winning races. After what happened last year with the championship deal, it doesn't mean anything to me. I'm just going to go out there and race hard and show 'em what I can do. I've got a new crew chief, Shawn Parker. This is a perfect deal for him. Everyone knows what Shawn has gone through the last six months. He came to the shop with the knowledge that can win us the championship. He's really smart. He's been a Cup crew chief. He's been a car chief for Rusty Wallace. He's been with Roush Racing. I can't remember all the places he's been, but he came on board with us. We've got a new truck chief and some other new guys. Andy (Houston) is going to be with us full time this season. Everybody saw the two crew chiefs, Dennis Connor and Shawn Parker, working together at Daytona. Andy would take the truck out in the morning session, and I'd drive it in the afternoon session. I wanted to get it in the draft so I could knock some people around.
"I will say one thing about Andy. We're teammates. I know Jon (Wood) and Carl Edwards are teammates and they can share things. Andy and I can share the same truck, same HANS device, same helmet. I think Jon and Carl share the same lipstick.
"We've been running good since we've been in the series. We've got Skinner back in. I think he ran a couple of races last year for a couple of teams. His aggressiveness on the racetrack will make it exciting. I know that for a fact. We've got so many talented people coming in the series now. I think this series is going to be the one to watch. Everybody is telling me they're going to watch this series more than anything else right now."
TALK ABOUT THE NEW MOPAR TEAM MEMBERS IN 2004
"I had two original guys that had been with us a few years that stuck with us. Everybody else is gone. Even the crew chief is gone. Like I said earlier, my notes can be on E-Bay. It doesn't matter. The whole Craftsman Truck Series has got my notes, so it's going to be like racing myself out there. The toughest guy is going to win. "
WAS THERE JUST THE ONE INCIDENT THAT UPSET YOU LAST SEASON?
"It was building up. They made a bad call at Las Vegas. They pulled me in the pits under green and I lost a lap. They said I had a lugnut loose. All five were on tight and they never gave me the lap back under the caution. NASCAR should have. It just builds up. The inspection line, the (expletive) that happened through the year. Like I said, when I quit NASCAR I'm going to write a book and I'll never get back in because I'm going to tell the full side of the story."
SOME FORMER CHAMPIONS ARE COMING BACK TO RACE THE TRUCKS
"That's cool. I love it. We've got a new manufacturer coming in, and that's going to bring in a lot of hype. Veterans are coming back in. Mike Skinner with Larry McReynolds is coming back. I think the competition level is going to be better and the hype is going to fill the stands and get better TV ratings. We'll put on a better race. I think it's going to make everybody in the truck series have to motivate themselves. I'm going to have to get better. Chevrolet has regrouped. I think the whole year is going to be a big turning point. I think the common template is pretty good. That'll calm down some of the finger pointing. That's a good step."
TALK ABOUT WISCONSIN RACERS
"You can race five nights a week in Wisconsin. Matt Kensethjust won the Cup. You've had Alan Kulwicki win the Cup title from up there. Travis Kvapil won the truck title last year, and he's from Wisconsin. The racers up there own and operate their own equipment, so they know their cars inside and out. It's a great area to learn how to race. Most people think it's just beer drinking and cheese curds up there, but it's more than that. They think of cows and milk when they think of Wisconsin and there's a lot of area up there where we race around the cows. There's a lot of competition up there, and Wisconsin does produce some pretty good race drivers. I think just about everybody who owned their own cars up there had to buy their own equipment. That was my way of living for a few years. You could race five nights a week or six or seven sometimes because you could race twice on Sundays. A lot of us raced for a living. That was our job. If you didn't finish, you didn't get paid. You learned how to take care of equipment."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON THE EXTRA FIVE POINTS FOR WINNING?
"I don't know. I'm not going to add up points. Points don't mean nothing to me any more. I've had it. I've had championships taken away. The five points for winning, I don't think it's going to make much difference. Everybody is going to race the same way they always did. It may be a little bit bigger spread, but at the end of the season I don't think so. I think the guy that deserves it, the guy who won the most races and did the best, is the most consistent, like Matt Kenseth, he's going to be the champion anyway. I don't think the points system is going to make any difference."
COMMENT ON NEW CUP POINT SYSTEM
"That's completely out of my vision right now. I don't care what they do over on that side of the fence. Right now, my focus is on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. They can have what they want, and I don't care what they do. I don't think I'm going to do any Cup races this season. We did that the last couple of years, but Jim Smith is trying to get the 7 up and running. I don't need to pull anything away from that. I'd love to go to Darlington and run, but I don't want to mix it all up. They're trying to stand on two feet right now, and it's a tough situation."
IS NASCAR AWARE THERE'S NO MORE MR. NICE GUY HERE?
"I hope they know it. If they don't know it, they're going to find out pretty quick. I'm not there to beat NASCAR. I'm just not going to take stuff I normally did. I'm going to be as nice as I can to please the public like I always did, but on the other side, I'm just going to do my job as hard as I can and nothing is going to tear me away from that. It doesn't seem like it (being a nice guy) gets you anywhere, so let's just change it. If you're going one direction and it seems like there's no light at the end of the tunnel, turn around and head in the other direction. That's where I'm going."
COMMENT ON NEW MANUFACTURER IN TRUCK SERIES
"It's going to raise the bar. NASCAR wants WWF on wheels. I'm Hulk Hogan. I'm ready to go. They're going to be good. They're good in other series. Look at them in open wheel and off road. They do a good job, and the same thing will happen in NASCAR. That's their very first V-8 pushrod motor, and that's a tough thing to hurdle right now. I think they're real close, and they're going to get better. Look at the people they brought along. They've got Skinner and Larry McReynolds. They've got good drivers. They're going to be good. It's just going to take awhile. They don't need concessions. They don't need to run in at Daytona and say we need a bigger hole in our plate because we can't keep up. They've got to go through the same thing everybody else did. You can't expect to be a winner right off the bat. You've got to pay your dues, so stop crying and go to work."
COMMENT ON TRUCKS RACING AT ATLANTA
"I think it's going to be good. From what you see in the Cup races, you run high, low and in the middle. I think you'll see three-wide racing. It'll be exciting."
ARE YOU JUST TRYING TO PSYCHE YOURSELF UP?
"It's not only in racing, but even stuff that happens in the offseason.... I know people say it's part of racing, but they come in and steal your guys, your notes, your crew chief. They do everything but take yourself and your equipment to another shop. That's kind of blackballing a guy from behind. They come in and say I'm hiring all your guys away and taking all your notes away. It's a dirty deal that's happened all at once. Why should I sit back and smile anymore about it? They all waited until the end of the year so they could get their Christmas bonuses. Then they left. Some left without even saying anything. They just picked up their toolboxes in the middle of the night and left. It doesn't matter. If they want to go, let 'em go. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I heard some of them says where they went to wasn't as good as where they were. I'm going to laugh about it pretty soon when we start racing. We flew to Daytona to test, and all the guys who left my shop had to drive to Daytona and back. We're back home having fun, and they're still on the highway. Ha. Ha. Ha. A couple of things got to us, but it's a good attitude to have right now."
ANDY HOUSTON (No. 2 Team ASE/Carquest Dodge Ram)
NOTE: Houston, a 33-year-old driver from Hickory, N.C., drove six races for owner Jim Smith's Ultra Motorsports team in 2003 and scored six top-10 finishes. He has three wins in 98 career starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and won the 1998 rookie of the year title in the truck series.
WILL PART OF YOUR JOB BE PROTECTING MUSGRAVE IN 2004?
"That wasn't part of my job description, but it looks like that's the way it's gonna be. He's fired up, and I couldn't be happier than working with Ted. I think he and I have more in common than what he's had with some of his past teammates. We come from the same mold, same type of racing. We both like being hands-on and spending time at the shop. I've got a lot of respect for him, and I hope he has a lot of respect for me. I think we're going to be able to communicate with each other and make both of these teams more competitive than they've been and they've already been phenomenal. I think we'll be pretty strong. As long as Ted is pulling off this new 'bad boy' image with everybody else and not me, I'm OK with it. He's going to be hard to handle. I'm just glad I'm on the same team with him."
THE TWO OF YOU TESTED THE SAME TRUCK AT DAYTONA
"It was by design. We had some other trucks we could have taken down, but until you get down there and make changes to the body, you cut pieces off and see what's working and what's not working, if you can do that on one truck and then apply it to the other one, it saves a lot of time. That's what we were trying to do. We're leaving tonight for Talladega, and we're going to spend two days down there with both of our primary race trucks. I think we're going to come out of the box swinging, and I'm excited about it."
DID YOU LEARN A LOT IN THE SIX RACES WITH THE RAM LAST YEAR?
"The first place I drove their truck was at California Speedway. We ran strong. We had a good day and had a shot at winning late in the race until we got a fender knocked in. I enjoy driving 'em. We had six top 10s last year in six starts, and if you run like that every week you're going to be in contention for the championship. That's what we're hoping to accomplish this year. We'd like to leave Daytona with a top five and win some races along the way and be in the hunt, hopefully with Ted, when we get to Homestead. The truck is a rocket. We've been working on being strong at the end of the race. If we can be as strong at the end as we were at the first of some races last year, we'll be in contention to win."
YOU RAN 17 CUP RACES IN 2001. ANYTHING LEFT TO PROVE THERE?
"Yeah, that I'm perfectly happy where I am right now. I had so much success before in the truck series. The Cup series didn't work out. I thought I could be competitive there with the right opportunity, but that's not my goal anymore. My goal is to be competitive here and win races, to have some fun and support my family and enjoy life."
ARE YOU ONE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED GUYS IN TRUCK SERIES?
"Yes, and a lot of the time I think we get lost in the shuffle. That's fine with me, because you can kind of sneak up on 'em. You've got guys like Steve Park, who has won Cup races. Skinner and Sprague are back. It's going to be competitive. It says a lot for the series. It's grown a lot and guys aren't turning their noses up at it anymore."
IS TRUCK RACING A NOTCH ABOVE OTHER NASCAR RACING?
"I think so. Our races are usually a little more physical. I think it makes for better racing. The draft works well in a lot of places. You can lean on each other without getting out of shape. You can suck up on the back of somebody and it doesn't spin 'em out. I'm excited about Atlanta. That's going to be an awesome race. With the package on the truck, I think we'll be able to run flat out just about the whole race. Any time you go somewhere new, it's a challenge and I'm excited about it."