Dodge Rams Look to Make it Three in a Row at Michigan
BROOKLYN, Mich., (July 27, 2004) -- For Dodge Motorsports, Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in Michigan is as close to a "home game" as the NASCAR circuit allows. Michigan Int'l Speedway practically sits in the auto manufacturer's backyard -- less than two hours away from DaimlerChrysler Headquarters -- and the two-mile oval has given Dodge Rams the allure of a home-field advantage in recent years.
Dodges have scored all three NCTS pole positions in the track's four year history (no race was scheduled in 2001, and qualifying was not held in 2002). From Stacy Compton's top effort in 1999, to Jamie McMurray's in 2000, to Jason Leffler's record-breaking qualifying run last year, Dodge Rams are familiar with starting Michigan races up front.
But, they're no strangers to finishing the race in that position too. The past two races at M.I.S. were paced by the winning Dodge Rams of Brendan Gaughan and Robert Pressley, respectively.
Steve Park, who has taken Brendan Gaughan's place driving the No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge Ram, hopes to share in the same success as Gaughan, the winner of last year's race.
"I like Michigan," Park said. "We had a really good run there last year with RCR in the NEXTEL Cup car. It is a fast racetrack. It is really wide and is good for passing. It usually produces a good three-wide race for the fans. This is one of those racetracks that I've competed on in cars but never trucks, so I'm looking forward to seeing how the Craftsman Trucks race there."
Park and his team are depending on the continued strength of their Kroyer Racing Engines, which were such a crucial part of Gaughan's success in 2003, and continue to be in 2004 for the No. 62 Orleans Dodge Ram.
"Our Dodge Ram couldn't have been any better," Gaughan said after his victory in Michigan last year. "There was no need to make any adjustments all day long."
Park is currently 14th in the points standings heading into Michigan, 396 points out of first place. He is steadily gaining ground in the points race, having gained eight spots in eight races after top finishes of fourth, fourth and sixth in recent weeks.
Ted Musgrave is another driver enjoying a hot streak as hopes to collect his third straight top-10 finish. Musgrave has earned a win and four top-three finishes in the last six races. His third-place effort in St. Louis boosted him three spots higher in the points standings, moving him from ninth to sixth and 227 points behind the leader. Musgrave's No. 1 Mopar Dodge Ram finished in the runner-up spot at Michigan last year.
Bobby Hamilton, arguably the most dominant of all the Dodge drivers this season, hopes to recover some momentum this weekend in Michigan after a disappointing finish at Gateway International Raceway. Hamilton and the No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram team notched their second victory of the season at Kentucky two races ago, but were collected in an incident during a green-white-checkered flag finish last week that took Hamilton from a battle for the win to finish 17th.
"After the wreck in Gateway my team worked for three days straight," Hamilton said. "Some of the guys in the fab shop didn't even leave to get things finished before we tested. The team was determined that we would race this truck in Michigan and test it before that in Kentucky. I went along with that because I saw how motivated it made my team to see it through. We worked on the truck Tuesday night and left straight from the shop to drive to Kentucky at five am. Once we unloaded that truck it took off. It was extremely fast and was even better than when we raced there. That is what makes working that hard worth it. My guys are really seeing results of determination this year and that motivates me to work harder myself. It's paying off."
Hamilton, the only driver to claim three wins this season, will attempt to cut into Dennis Setzer's lead in the standings as the halfway point of the season approaches. He is currently second in points, 64 behind Setzer.