Offweek news and notes 2005-07-11

* Ballew, Wauters succeed with unique, multi-driver strategy * Setzer increases points lead with first three out of last four victory run since 2001 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 11, 2005) -- Given their choice, Billy Ballew and Richie Wauters...

* Ballew, Wauters succeed with unique, multi-driver strategy

* Setzer increases points lead with first three out of last four victory run since 2001

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 11, 2005) -- Given their choice, Billy Ballew and Richie Wauters might not do it this way.

But the pair, owner and crew chief, respectively, have boosted a very independent Billy Ballew Motorsports team to fifth place in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series owner championship standings using a unique and improbable approach: Match the team with a different driver and sponsor virtually every week.

That's not supposed to work -- but so far it has.

Kyle Busch drove the No. 15 Chevrolet to victories at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway. Kerry Earnhardt and Busch won Bud Poles, Earnhardt at Daytona and Busch at Michigan. Seven different drivers -- Busch, Earnhardt, John Andretti, Blake Feese, Shane Hmiel, Johnny Sauter and Martin Truex Jr. - have contributed four top five and six top-10 finishes to the ledger.

And the team may put another driver or two in the seat before Busch's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup schedule allows the 20-year-old Las Vegas competitor to return for the season's final nine races.

Ballew is pleased with the results -- especially when competitors from teams with greater support, equipment and staff wonder how he does it.

"In any business, success is having everybody pulling on the same chain," said Ballew, 45, an Atlanta, Ga. retail and wholesale automobile dealer. "We keep it simple."

"We don't spend any money foolishly," said Wauters, a 44-year-old, Green Bay, Wis. native. "And you can take any one of our 12 guys and there's not one any better working for another team. Nobody specializes. They're all universal."

The team may be enjoying its best season, but the principals hardly can be considered overnight sensations. Ballew sponsored dirt late model teams before moving to the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) in 1996 with veterans Mark and Tony Gibson.

He did a hit-and-miss NASCAR Craftsman Truck program until late 2003, when Ballew hired Wauters --seasoned car builder and crew chief. Wauters was the long-time crew chief for Wisconsin short track star Scott Hansen. The tandem won an estimated 200 races.

Billy Ballew Motorsports won its first race last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Shane Hmiel driving, and finished 14th in owner points.

Both Ballew and Wauters credit its engine contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc. for boosting the team to an elite level. Ballew also is pleased that NASCAR NEXTEL Cup owner Rick Hendrick chose his team to help with driver development -- which brought some sponsorship to the table as well.

"Letting us use his drivers (Busch and Feese) is proof that he's a believer in our equipment," Ballew said. Wauters, considered a no-nonsense style crew chief, enjoys working with younger drivers.

"They don't have any bad habits and they listen to everything you say," he said. "And they'll drive the wheels off the truck every lap."

Wauters is particularly impressed with Busch, calling him "a natural and a wheelman. He's raced our truck three times and never put a mark on it."

Based on the season so far, Ballew and Wauters believe winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck owner title is a possibility even though few -- themselves included -- would have made such a prediction six months ago.

"It would be a modern-day David and Goliath story, wouldn't it?" Ballew said.

NEWS & NOTES

History gives nudge to Setzer -- maybe ... Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet) extended his championship lead to 83 points over Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) with his July 9 victory at Kentucky Speedway. Setzer, who finished second in the point standings in each of the two past seasons, hopes history repeats itself in 2005. Champions Greg Biffle (2000), Mike Bliss (2002) and Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge, 2004) won at Kentucky in their title years.

Setzer first since 2001 to win three of four ... With wins at Michigan International Speedway, The Milwaukee Mile and Kentucky Speedway, Setzer is the first competitor since 2001 to post victories in three of four starts. Musgrave was the last three-of-four winner. He won at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Mesa Marin Raceway and Gateway International Raceway.

2005 season officially in "home" stretch ... Twelve races remain on the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule. Action resumes July 23 at Memphis Motorsports Park. The year's first 13 races produced nine different winners, 12 different Bud Pole qualifiers and seven of 11 finishes of less than one second. Two races saw the caution flag come out during the final lap. Setzer (three), Hamilton (two) and Busch (two) are multiple winners. Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and Bill Lester (No. 22 Waste Management Toyota) are the only multiple Bud Pole qualifiers with three and two poles, respectively. Chevrolet leads manufacturer point standings with eight victories -- the seventh time the truck maker has enjoyed eight or more wins in a season. Todd Kluever (No. 50 World Financial Group Ford) is the leading Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender by a large margin -- 84 points -- over Shige Hattori (No. 9 AISIN Toyota). Kluever's best efforts are both seconds -- a finish at Kansas and in qualifying at Kentucky.

ETC. ... Four drivers -- Musgrave, Hamilton, Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE Dodge) and Ricky Craven (No. 99 Superchips Ford) -- have held a top 10 point position following each of this year's 13 races. ... Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) each have led eight races. Skinner is the miles leader with 460.160 while Hornaday has led the most laps -- 325. ... Lester officially became the series' 27th $1 million career winner with his Bud Pole and 22nd-place finish at Kentucky Speedway. Lester's series total is $1,007,826 over 91 starts. His NASCAR national series winnings of $1,016,576 include a 21st-place NASCAR Busch Series finish at Watkins Glen International in 1999. ... Sophomore competitor Brandon Whitt (No. 38 Cure Autism Now/McMillin Homes Toyota) was sixth at Kentucky to record the first top-10 finish for the 22-year-old El Cajon, Calif. driver and Red Horse Racing. ... Morgan-Dollar Motorsports' Eric Phillips, with five wins over a 26-race span beginning with Travis Kvapil's July 31, 2004 victory and Setzer's Kentucky triumph, is the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' leading crew chief over the 11-plus month span.

10 YEARS TOUGH

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has a heritage of close finishes from the first event in which Mike Skinner edged Terry Labonte by .09 second. And that margin of victory ranks only 10th closest in series history. The closest finish remains Butch Miller's .001-second win over Skinner on July 15, 1995 at Colorado National Speedway, a .375-mile paved oval north of Denver. NASCAR officials reviewed television tapes of the finish before awarding the win -- his first and only in the series -- to Miller.

FAST FACTS

Next Event: O'Reilly 200 presented by Valvoline MaxLife.

Where: Memphis Motorsports Park.
When: 7:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, July 23.

Track layout: .75-mile paved oval.
Race length: 200 laps/150 miles.

Posted awards: $525,550.

TV: SPEED Channel, 8:15 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2004 winner: Bobby Hamilton.
2004 polesitter: Jack Sprague.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday -- Practice 9:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Qualifying 3:30 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.

Top 10 drivers: 1. Dennis Setzer 1,929. 2. Ted Musgrave 1,846. 3. Bobby Hamilton 1,776. 4. Ron Hornaday Jr. 1,731. 5. Ricky Craven 1,721. 6. Jimmy Spencer 1,717. 7. Terry Cook 1,660. 8. Mike Skinner 1,644. 9. David Reutimann 1,624. 10. Matt Crafton 1,466.

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , John Andretti , Bobby Hamilton , Terry Labonte , Mike Skinner , Jimmy Spencer , Greg Biffle , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Terry Cook , Matt Crafton , Kerry Earnhardt , Shane Hmiel , Johnny Sauter , Bill Lester , Blake Feese , Mike Bliss , Brandon Whitt , Todd Kluever , Butch Miller , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil , Scott Hansen