Dodge Racing Las Vegas Preview

K AUTOMOTIVE AND DENNIS SETZER - SUCCESS AND TRUST 1999 has been a season of success for the K Automotive team, which campaigns a Dodge Ram for Dennis Setzer in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). K Automotive has posted five wins in their...

K AUTOMOTIVE AND DENNIS SETZER - SUCCESS AND TRUST 1999 has been a season of success for the K Automotive team, which campaigns a Dodge Ram for Dennis Setzer in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). K Automotive has posted five wins in their NCTS history, more than any other team piloting a Dodge Ram on the circuit. Setzer, currently third in driver points with four events remaining, is poised to battle for the series title. What makes the success of the 1999 season so sweet for this team shows in the history of this racing family.

K Automotive is a family-run, family-owned team based in the shadow of DaimlerChrysler World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. Bob and Kay Keselowski are the husband-and-wife couple who oversee team operations week-in and week-out. Kay is the owner of the race team and spots during the race for Setzer. Bob, 48, co-owner and race team consultant, is no stranger to racing. In his 23-year racing career he has won 25 ARCA races, the 1989 ARCA championship, more than 30 races in the NASCAR Grand American Series and one NCTS event.

K Automotive has been involved in the NCTS since the inaugural season in 1995 when the team ran one Dodge Ram on a modest budget of $100,000 from motor-home manufacturer Winnebago. The team competed at all but two of the season's events.

When the Dodge division of then-Chrysler Corporation returned to NASCAR competition in 1996, K Automotive was selected as one of the corporation's factory-backed teams, and in '97, K Automotive landed the Mopar sponsorship and full factory support from Dodge and Mopar. The season brought K Automotive, Dodge and Mopar their first NCTS win with Bob behind the wheel.

1998 proved to be a taxing year for the team, particularly after Bob was forced to relinquish driving duties halfway through the season because of a blocked artery in his leg. Setzer, 39, took over for Bob on July 4, with the objective of continuing K Automotive's winning ways. As the '98 season came to a close, Setzer earned his first series win.

Setzer brought an impressive list of credentials to the team, including championships at four North Carolina short tracks and a NASCAR Busch Grand National Series debut in 1994 where he won two races in his rookie season, becoming the first BGN driver to do so.

After successful off-season surgery to repair the blocked artery, the '99 season saw Bob Keselowski transition into a slightly different role with the team, this one as owner and driver of the team's Mopar-sponsored engineering truck. Setzer signed on to drive the #1 Mopar Dodge full-time. And as the success of the Dodge Motorsports program unfolded in the 1999 season, so did the success of K Automotive.

"Dodge has made significant strides with their truck program in 1999," said Kay Keselowski. "Everything about the Dodge program has fallen into place, and that success has been driven home by not only our race team, but by all of the Dodge teams."

Setzer, meanwhile, has been welcomed to the K Automotive family by the Keselowski family and crews. "The entire team has a good relationship with Dennis," said Kay, "and there's a lot of trust among us. When I spot for him at a race and tell him that he's 'clear low' [of the truck behind or in front of him] and he doesn't hesitate to turn down, that makes me even more aware of the trust we've built over the last year-and-a-half."

Three of five Keselowski children are heavily involved in the family's racing effort. Cathy, 32, manages the team's fan club is the office manager; 17-year-old Brian recently launched a late-model stock-car driving career and is the team's jack man, tire specialist and works in the shop full-time; 15-year-old Brad, a high-school student, works in the shop after school and is the official scorer on select race weekends; he is a successful midget car driver.

"I really owe a lot to the Keselowski family," said Setzer. "They gave me an opportunity to turn my racing career around, and I've found a home with this team. This group is talented and knows how to win races, and I hope I can bring them the championship this season and defend that championship with them in the 2000 season."

Setzer has earned wins this season in Texas, Tennessee and New Hampshire. He is 146 points out of the championship points lead.

BY THE NUMBERS After 21 races, here's how this year's Dodge Motorsports NCTS statistics match up against last year's:

WINS 1999 - 4 1998 - 1

POLES 1999 - 9 1998 - 0

ALL-DODGE FRONT ROWS 1999 - 7 1998 - 0

TOP-FIVE FINISHES 1999 - 29 1998 - 9

TOP-10 FINISHES 1999 - 59 1998 - 25

ADAM PETTY MAKES HIS MARK ON THE NCTS Adam Petty, the fourth generation of the legendary Petty racing family, made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut on Sept. 9 at Richmond International Raceway.

Nineteen-year-old Petty, competing this year in the NASCAR Busch Series, requested additional driving time, and had his eye on the NCTS. With the three premiere NASCAR racing series competing in Richmond for the weekend, Petty seized the opportunity and his grandfather, Richard, prepared a Dodge Ram for him to race.

Petty qualified his Dodge Ram 25th and showed his strength during the event by moving up to the tenth position by the time the checkered flag fell.

"I really had a great time driving that Dodge truck at Richmond," said Petty. "The truck was fun to drive, and the longer wheelbase, compared to my Busch car, made a big difference. So did the extra horsepower. I really wanted to get the extra seat-time and learned a lot in the truck race that helped me the next night in the Busch race. I would really love to run in the NCTS again." Petty has two top-five and three top-10 finishes in 24 Busch Series starts.

DODGE TRUCKS TEST AT DAYTONA Last Monday, Dennis Setzer and Jimmy Hensley, at the invitation of NASCAR, joined two Ford and two Chevrolet teams for a test session at Daytona International Speedway. The stated purpose of the session was to allow NASCAR to collect technical and aerodynamic data for future planning purposes for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

"The trucks were stable at Daytona," said Setzer, driver of the #1 Mopar Dodge and currently third in NCTS points. "I think the NCTS would put on a great show for the race fans if we get a chance to race here. In fact, it would be good for NASCAR to have all three of their premiere series race in their backyard."

"The test at Daytona went really well," said Hensley, pilot of the #43 Dodge By Petty. "The truck was really stable and performed well not only in the draft, but running by itself. I didn't see that much of a difference from how the trucks handled at Daytona compared to tracks in California and Michigan."

RAMMIN' AHEAD... 9/24 The Orleans 250 Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas, Nev. Television: Sept. 24 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN

10/8 Kroger 225 Louisville Motor Speedway Louisville, Ky. Television: Oct. 8 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN

10/15 Blue Bonnet 300 Texas Motor Speedway Fort Worth, Texas Television: Oct. 15 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN

10/30 NCTS Challenge California Speedway Los Angeles, Calif. Television: Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. on ESPN

DODGE RAM FAST STATS After the Sept. 9 Virginia is for Lovers 250, Richmond, Va.

Dennis Setzer, #1 Mopar Dodge 1 pole, 3 wins, 9 top-five finishes, 16 top-10 finishes Started seventh in Richmond, finished third $377,855 total winnings in 21 NCTS starts Third in championship points

Randy Tolsma, #25 Supergard Dodge 1 pole, 0 wins, 1 top-five finish, 9 top-10 finishes Started eighth in Richmond, finished eighth $181,455 total winnings in 21 NCTS starts 11th in championship points

Jimmy Hensley, #43 Dodge By Petty 1 win, 6 top-five finishes, 11 top-10 finishes Started 14th in Richmond, finished 15th $230,010 total winnings in 21 NCTS starts 10th in championship points

Stacy Compton, #86 RC Dodge 5 poles, 0 wins, 11 top-fives, 16 top-10 finishes Started second in Richmond, finished 21st $297,920 total winnings in 21 NCTS starts Fourth in championship points

Joe Ruttman, #18 Dana Dodge 0 wins, 2 top-five finishes, 6 top-10 finishes Started 11th in Richmond, finished 29th $119,880 total winnings in 15 NCTS starts 22nd in championship points

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Adam Petty , Stacy Compton , Dennis Setzer , Joe Ruttman , Randy Tolsma , Jimmy Hensley