RAM REPORT MICHIGAN 200 Michigan Speedway Brooklyn, Mich. July 24, 1999 NASCAR news, notes and quotes from Dodge Motorsports LOOKING FORWARD TO RACING IN MICHIGAN With the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) heading to its...
RAM REPORT MICHIGAN 200 Michigan Speedway Brooklyn, Mich. July 24, 1999
NASCAR news, notes and quotes from Dodge Motorsports
LOOKING FORWARD TO RACING IN MICHIGAN With the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) heading to its second superspeedway of the season, the Dodge Ram drivers are ready to race and win in DaimlerChrysler's back yard. Dennis Setzer, driver of the #1 Mopar Dodge and currently fourth in points, was the first Dodge driver to win on a superspeedway when he took the checkered flag at the Texas Motor Speedway in June. Setzer looks forward to defending his Texas Speedway win and running in front of the manufacturers and sponsors in the Detroit area.
"I really like the superspeedways, and working with Bob Keselowski has helped our speedway program," said Setzer. "Bob ran a lot of these larger tracks in the ARCA series and he'll be behind the wheel of a truck at Michigan - that helped us at Texas and I'm looking forward to it again in Michigan. It would also mean a lot to win the race being so close to Detroit. There will be thousands of Mopar and Dodge employees at the race, and I hope I can give them something to cheer about."
DAIMLERCHRYSLER EMPLOYEE APPRECIATION DAY In recognition of the first visit by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to Michigan Speedway, the Dodge Motorsports teams have planned a two-day employee appreciation tour visiting DaimlerChrysler employees in southeastern Michigan.
With Michigan Speedway just an hour outside of Detroit, and all three manufacturers involved in the NCTS, Dodge Motorsports decided that getting the employees excited about the truck race would be a way of thanking them for their continued support of the Dodge teams.
Immediately following the race at Nazareth Speedway on Sunday evening, all five Dodge drivers flew to the Detroit area where their two days with the employees began Monday morning. Jeep/Truck Engineering (JTE) - where all of the engineering behind the Dodge Ram production truck and the race truck takes place - was the first stop for the Dodge drivers. More than 2,500 employees were on hand to meet and greet the drivers.
>From JTE the drivers moved on to Mopar World Headquarters. More than 3,000 employees met their Mopar driver, Dennis Setzer, and the other Dodge Ram drivers.
Tuesday morning means a day at DaimlerChrysler World Headquarters in Auburn Hills, Mich. The drivers are scheduled to sign autographs for thousands of employees before taking several top-level executives out in Dodge Ram two-seaters the DC evaluation road. The evening concludes with an executive dinner where the drivers will rub elbows with the individuals who run one of the most powerful automotive companies in the world.
"This program was created to bring our NASCAR Dodge Ram program to our employees and executives in the Michigan area," says Bob Wildberger, Senior Manager NASCAR Truck DaimlerChrysler. "We are very proud of the success that Dodge has found in the truck series and we hope to share that excitement with our employees."
DaimlerChrysler also organized a program to offer discounted tickets to Saturday's NCTS race to more than 80,000 employees.
STACY COMPTON'S STRUGGLE After switching from Ford to Dodge at the beginning of the 1999 season, Stacy Compton and the RC Dodge team started with eight top-four finishes in a row and the lead in championship points. Compton and his Impact Motorsports team had proven that they were ready to win races and contend for the championship.
But bad luck has struck the team for the past several weeks. A loose tire resulted in a 15th place finish in Watkins Glen. A blown tire ended up with a 17th place finish in Portland, and a missed shift at Milwaukee dropped Compton from third to 10th by race end.
In the closing laps at Nashville Speedway two weeks ago, Compton was leading the race when several lapped trucks crashed in front of him and he had nowhere to go. He finished 27th.
"This team and I are doing everything we need to do to win races and win the championship," says Compton. "We just need to get a little luck on our side. We are quick every week and we run to the front every week, but if luck isn't on your side then it won't be your year. When the luck comes back to us, the rest of these guys better watch out."
"At the beginning of the season we had raised the bar for all of the other teams in the series," said Kevin Cram, Compton's crew chief. "We were getting the great finishes and the rest of the field had to catch up. With a few off weekends, they've gotten closer to the bar that we set. We have also encountered several weather changes over that past few weeks that have made it difficult to set up the truck. The hot weather causes changes in springs and shocks that we're still working with. I guess it's time for us to raise that bar again."
THE KESELOWSKI FAMILY - MICHIGAN BORN AND BRED, AND READY TO RACE When you talk about racing in the state of Michigan, you can't help but mention the Michigan-based Keselowski family. K Automotive owns the #1 Mopar Dodge driven by Dennis Setzer, but Keselowski is still the name that's heard most often on pit road.
Bob Keselowski owns the race team with his brother, Ron Keselowski. But the responsibilities of running the team go much farther than the brothers.
Bob's wife, Kay, serves as the team manager and spotter on race day. Bob and Kay's oldest son, Brian, 17, is the jack man during the race and works on the truck during the week and every race weekend. Brad, age 15, is the couple's youngest son and scores for the team. Brad also has a successful racing career of his own, dominating the quarter- midget sprint car division, and his father hopes to move him up to the televised Thursday Night Thunder series midget next year. The Keselowski daughters, 33-year-old Ginger, 31-year-old Kathy and 25-year-old Dawn work in the office on the fan club, the web-site and general office duties.
Brad enjoys being a part of the family team as does his brother Brian. If there is a disadvantage, however, it's when a problem arises on the race team - somehow or another, it becomes a family problem. Both sons plan to become professional race car drivers and, no surprise, they've both set their sights on Winston Cup.
"It's really great to have my entire family around me every race weekend," says Bob Keselowski. "I grew up racing, and that's all I've ever known. When I started dating Kay, we always went to the races. Then once we were married, she knew she had to get involved in the race team because it was probably the only way she was going to get to see me.
"We raised the kids around racing and they've chosen to stay in the business," said Kay Keselowski. "The boys really want to become drivers, and the girls are content to work in the office and pursue their own lives. Bob and I help all of them achieve whatever goals they choose."
SETZER'S SUCCESSFUL SEASON Dennis Setzer and the #1 Mopar team are on the road to a record-breaking season. And the statistics support it:
After Setzer's win at Nashville Speedway two weeks ago, Setzer became the first Dodge Ram driver ever to repeat wins in a single season. K Automotive has more wins with the Dodge Ram than any other Dodge Motorsports team. Four of Dodge's seven NCTS wins have come from the K Automotive stable.
The '99 season started on an inauspicious note - Setzer's truck motor let go on the first lap of the Florida Dodge Dealers 400 at the Homestead Speedway outside of Miami, Fla. Setzer finished the race in 34th position, but since then his race finishes have improved dramatically. Setzer has scored six top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes and has two wins so far this season. He has also moved from 34th to fourth in championship points.
"This team has really done some amazing things this year," said Setzer. "They've made incredible pit stops and great calls to get this Mopar Dodge to the front. We haven't shown all of our cards yet - we have our sights set on the championship."
GINO ACROSS AMERICA Kevin "Gino" Ryan, a regular contributor to this report, has the week off, prepping the Keselowski truck for this weekend's Michigan 200.
DODGE RAM FAST STATS After the July 18 Napa Autocare 200 in Nazareth, Pa.
Dennis Setzer, #1 Mopar Dodge 2 wins, 6 top-five finishes, 11 top-10 finishes Started third in Nazareth, finished seventh $245,135 total winnings in 15 NCTS starts Fourth in championship points Randy Tolsma, #25 Supergard Dodge 1 pole, 0 wins, 1 top-five finish, 6 top-10 finishes Started 24th in Nazareth, finished fifth $131,405 total winnings in 15 NCTS starts 12th in championship points
Jimmy Hensley, #43 Dodge By Petty 1 win, 5 top-five finishes, 8 top-10 finishes Started seventh in Nazareth, finished ninth $164,035 total winnings in 15 NCTS starts 11th in championship points
Stacy Compton, #86 RC Dodge 2 poles, 0 wins, 8 top-fives, 11 top-10 finishes Started fifth in Nazareth, finished 10th $198,550 total winnings in 15 NCTS starts Third in championship points
Joe Ruttman, #18 Dana Dodge 0 wins, 1 top-five finish, 2 top-10 finishes Started sixth in Nazareth, finished 22nd $66,205 total winnings in nine NCTS starts 24th in championship points
RAMMIN' AHEAD... 7/24 Michigan 200 Michigan Speedway Brooklyn, Mich. TV: July 24 at 1 p.m. on ESPN
8/1 Pennzoil/VIP Discount Auto 200 New Hampshire International Speedway Loudon, N.H. TV: Aug. 1 at 12 noon on ESPN
8/5 IRP 200 Indianapolis Raceway Park Indianapolis, Ind. TV: Aug. 5 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN