Musgrave fills Ultra Dodge program
By Dave Rodman
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 22, 2000) Veteran NASCAR Winston Cup driver Ted Musgrave got an early Christmas present when team owner Jimmy Smith signed the Franklin, Wis., driver Friday to pilot Ultra Motorsports' No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram for the coming season.
Ultra will try to reward Dodge with its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship in 2001 with Ted Musgrave and sophomore Scott Riggs.
"I'm proud as punch that somebody of his caliber wants to drive for Ultra Motorsports in a truck," Smith said. "Ted will be helpful in our testing program with both the Cup and truck teams -- we have a veteran on our hands."
Musgrave was on a short list of possible drivers for Smith's NationsRent Ford in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series before Smith signed his NCTS driver, Mike Wallace, to drive his Winston Cup cars.
"Ted and didn't really know each other that well," Smith said. "But he made an appointment to see me, we met and he had a great personality. His wife is into horses and so is mine. We were finalizing Mike as the Cup and I called back Ted and asked him if he would be interested in the truck deal, and he was."
Riggs was announced in October as the driver of the team's No. 2 Team ASE Dodge, and will work with Ultra's veteran crew chief Tim Kohuth. Musgrave, whose career has faltered since he was fired by Jack Roush midway through the 1998 season, will join veteran mechanic Fred Wanke, who worked with Bobby Hamilton Racing and Joe Ruttman at the end of last season and joined Ultra in the off-season.
Musgrave, who celebrated his 45th birthday on Dec. 18, has made three NCTS starts in his career, with two top-5 finishes. His best finish was a fourth at Phoenix in 1995, where he ironically finished sixth the next year. Musgrave's best NWCS championship finish in nine full-time seasons was seventh for Roush in 1995.
Wallace drove Ultra's No. 2 Team ASE Fords in 2000, when he won two races and two Bud Poles and finished fourth in the NCTS championship. Wallace was named Dec. 15 as the driver of Smith's NWCS entry.
Musgrave drove in 18 Winston Cup races this season, primarily for Team SABCO following the death in July of Kenny Irwin. He scored no top-10 finishes.
Wallace worked with Kohuth in 2000 before the veteran mechanic joined Riggs in the off-season. Musgrave has worked previously with Wanke, who formerly had great success with Rich Bickle at Darrell Waltrip Motorsports' truck team. Wanke began the season with Petty Enterprises and Steve Grissom. He joined BHR and Ruttman in mid-season and finished the year there.
Dodge announced that it had realigned its support program at the end of the summer. It dropped its backing of the K Automotive team owned by Bob and Kay Keselowski and moved its support to Smith's team, which switched from Ford to Dodge in the process.
"Whenever you have a Winston Cup talent driving for you really have an edge," Smith said of his newest driver. "He wants to win the championship, I do and so does Dodge."
Smith said Musgrave's ability and experience and Riggs' enthusiasm and potential could make for a potent combination in 2001.
"Scott is more impressive every day that we test with him," Smith said of a Dodge test at Atlanta Motor Speedway that Riggs was quickest at. "He just needs an opportunity to show what he can do."
The series' seventh season begins with the Daytona 250 during Speedweeks 2001 on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway. -nascar.com-