DODGE'S ROOKIE TEAMS LOOKING TO KEEP THE BEAT AT MEMPHIS MILLINGTON, Tenn. (June 20, 2002) - The emergence of Dodge Motorsports' NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie class reached a culminating point in Ft. Worth, Texas, as Brendan Gaughan...
DODGE'S ROOKIE TEAMS LOOKING TO KEEP THE BEAT AT MEMPHIS
MILLINGTON, Tenn. (June 20, 2002) - The emergence of Dodge Motorsports' NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie class reached a culminating point in Ft. Worth, Texas, as Brendan Gaughan piloted his No. 62 NAPA/Orleans Dodge Ram to his first career victory. Gaughan and fellow Dodge Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate, Bill Lester, both earned career-high finishes that night, keeping them on pace with the series' points leaders heading into Memphis.
"The competition is definitely tough out there," said Gaughan. "Finishing well is not like taking a walk in the park. There are at least ten to twelve guys who can win at any given race. Not only is having a good truck important, but you have to be able to out-think the competition every step of the way."
Gaughan's victory stretched his advantage in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings to a 21-point lead over second place. He has been the top-finishing rookie in more than half of the races this season, and has shown veteran consistency by marching his way to a season-high ninth place ranking in the championship standings - he hasn't ranked below 13th all year.
"A few more top finishes could easily move us into the top five," Gaughan said. "We know our NAPA Dodges are capable of winning, so the rest is up to me. Memphis is a short track, and although I've never raced there we're hoping our past experiences on similar tracks will hold us in good stead."
Bill Lester, rookie driver of the Bobby Hamilton-owned No. 8 Dodge Dealers Ram, has earned career-best finishes in the past three consecutive races, and will try to beat his most recent top spot of 11th by cracking into the top-10 at this weekend's O'Reilly Auto Parts 200. Lester ranks 18th in the points standings and is only 35 points out of the top-15. The Oakland, Calif., native is a mere three points out of second place in the rookie standings.
"Points are not that important right now, but we do like moving up as opposed to the other direction," Lester said."We just need to keep doing what we have been doing the last few weeks, and everything will fall into place as far as the points battle is concerned. If we get too caught up in the points right now, then we'll lose our focus on the big picture."
"The team has always been good at Memphis with Bobby (Hamilton) and Joe (Ruttman), so they are pretty excited about going back. I just hope we can continue the solid finishes."
Far from being a NASCAR rookie, Ted Musgrave, driver of the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram, expects to show Dodge's newer drivers a thing or two about short track racing at Memphis. Musgrave was leading the points race when he took the pole in the season's first short track race at Martinsville, but was relegated to his lowest finish of the year (24th) after being caught up in the accident of a lapped car. In the six short track races of 2001, Musgrave earned two wins, one pole and four top-10 finishes. Musgrave finished sixth in last year's Memphis 200 while battling severe brake problems.
"We're going to have a Mopar Dodge specifically built for the short tracks," Musgrave said. "The chassis, the body and brakes will all be a little bit different. It's going to be a lot like my old late model days where you drive it hard down in the corner, stop the thing, and stand on the gas coming off. You dive into the corner and you really have to get on the binders to whoa the truck down and set yourself up for a good exit. It's my kind of racing. That's the way half-mile, quarter-mile and three-eighths mile racetracks are. Memphis is just a little bigger with faster speeds. If you're a good short track racer, you will get around Memphis really well."
* The Dodge teams of Ultra Motorsports have an average qualifying position of 2.3, and have yet to qualify outside of the top-five in 2002. Jason Leffler earned his third pole at Texas, while Musgrave has sat on the pole twice this year. Both drivers have led in all five races of the 2002 season for a total of 598 laps - nearly half
of the laps run this series. * Scott Riggs was the top-finishing Dodge Ram in last year's Memphis 200, finishing in the runner-up spot. Riggs, in the No. 2 Team ASE/CARQUEST Dodge Ram, earned the highest Dodge finish at Memphis in that race. Dodge will be looking for its first victory at the track this weekend. Bobby Hamilton sat on Dodge's only pole position at Memphis in his No. 4 Dodge Ram in the 2000 race.
* No. 8 Dodge Dealers Ram driver Bill Lester has been the top-qualifying Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate in five races this year. Brendan Gaughan was the top-finishing rookie for the fourth time this year with victory at Texas. Both drivers have started in all seven races of 2002.
Dodge has the lead in...
* Manufacturer's Championship Standings (Dodge- 52 points, Chevy - 44, Ford - 37)
* Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings (Brendan Gaughan 86 pts, Lester 3rd -62 points, Rodney Sawyers 5th - 34 points, Angie Wilson 6th - 26 points)
* 635 out of 1224 laps on the year (57.0%)
After seven races this year, Dodge Rams have earned:
* Four wins
* Five poles
* 12 top-fives
* 21 top-10s
* $1.28 million in winnings