* Musgrave wins title, becomes NASCAR's oldest national touring champion
* Craftsman Truck pioneer Smith captures owner championship in 11th season
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 21, 2005) -- Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) wasn't leaving anything to chance.
Musgrave, once bitten at Homestead-Miami Speedway, chose discretion over valor with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship on the line. His 19th-place finish in Saturday's Ford 200 was workmanlike -- and all he needed to capture the title.
Musgrave entered the 2005 season's deciding race with a 55-point lead over Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Z71 Silverado Chevrolet). He shadowed his rival throughout the race and finished one position behind Setzer, who wound up second in the championship standings for the third straight year.
The final margin of victory was 55 points -- 3,535 to 3,480. Musgrave becomes the series' eighth champion and sixth consecutive different champion.
"I just wanted to stay around Dennis so I'd know I had a cushion and let (the rest of) the guys do whatever they needed to do," said Musgrave, who thus was able to avoid a final-lap accident involving several of the frontrunners. "We had a better truck but the older you get, the smarter you get."
In winning the title in his fifth full season in the series at age 49 years 11 months, Musgrave became NASCAR's oldest national touring series champion. He finished second to Jack Sprague (No. 60 Jeff Wyler Toyota) in 2001 and third in each of the past three seasons.
He came closest to the championship in 2003 when a late-race penalty at Homestead dropped him from a potentially title-clinching finish.
Musgrave, who never had won a title in more than 30 years of competition, had resigned himself to leaving that page of his resume blank.
"Yeah, I thought I was a carbon copy of Mark Martin," said Musgrave of his former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teammate at Roush Racing. "How many times has he finished second? The Cup one always seems to elude him. I thought for awhile I might have the same syndrome here. Every time we got up there and tried to win the championship, something would get slipped away from us."
Musgrave's 2005 performance -- a win and 11 top five and 15 top-10 finishes -- gave Ultra Motorsports' Jim Smith the owner's championship. Smith and three other off-road owners commissioned the building of a prototype truck in 1993, brought it to a Daytona Beach trade show the following February and convinced NASCAR Vice Chairman Bill France to organize a truck racing series.
Smith, a Southern California businessman, has fielded at least one truck in all 267 races of the series that began in early 1995. Ultra drivers have logged eight top-five championship finishes and won 36 races.
"It's a great day even if it was an ugly race," said Smith. "To give Ted his first championship is big for me."
Smith's relationship with Musgrave remains decidedly "old school" in a 21st Century racing world. The pair inked contractual details on a cocktail napkin and sealed the deal with a handshake.
"I've got a lifetime contract with Jimmy Smith and I told him I'd drive for him until I quit," said Musgrave. "I'll come back next year and try to make it again. As far as I know if I can go out and win races and the championship, why quit?"
NEWS & NOTES
Disappointment but no tears for veteran Setzer ... In the driver's seat in early August with a 227-point championship lead after his fourth victory of the year at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Setzer came back to the pack with just a pair of top-10 finishes in the remaining 10 races. Setzer won on several speedway configurations and on a short track before figuratively hitting the wall. "There is no way to look back and say 'coulda, woulda, shoulda,'" he said. "We were pretty doggone good in the middle part of the season. The speedways got us in place. Then we won on the short tracks. Somehow we just lost something after that and we just couldn't get our program turned around and back in gear. But I appreciate all these guys and the effort they put out. We ain't giving up. We're going to get one of these (championships)."
Time wasn't on Bodine's side ... Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain Racing Toyota) was in championship form as the season wound down. Musgrave and owner Smith probably breathed a sigh of relief that the 41-year-old New Yorker ran out of time and races. Bodine polished off a record-matching third-consecutive victory in Homestead and finished the season third in the standings -- just 70 behind Musgrave after trailing then-leader Setzer by 488 on Aug. 5. Bodine wound up the season's biggest winner with five, four of them in the final six races. "We just have it going on," said Bodine. "I don't know what it is but if we could bottle it up we could make millions." Bodine has the most wins -- seven -- over the past two seasons.
All three "originals" make the top 10 ... Appropriately, in a season during which the series' first 10 years were celebrated, all three of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "original" champions -- Sprague, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) -- finished among the top 10 in the standings. Hornaday was fourth, Skinner fifth and Sprague eighth. Sprague collected his ninth top-10 championship finish.
ETC. ... Defending champion Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) finished in sixth place. Hamilton dropped out of the Ford 200 after a late-race accident to end a series-record run of 65 races without a DNF. The streak began July 5, 2003 at Kansas Speedway. ... Musgrave's crew chief, Gene Nead, 42, a Philadelphia native, won his first NASCAR championship. Nead has backed winners of nine series races -- eight of them with Musgrave. ... Todd Kluever (No. 50 World Financial Group Ford), claimed Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors to become the fourth Roush Racing competitor to win the freshman award. Kluever moves to the NASCAR Busch Series in 2006. ... Forty different drivers led at least one time during the 2005 season, five more than the previous record of 35 set a year ago. ... Forty-five different drivers posted a top-10 finish, one more than in 2004. ... Bodine is Homestead-Miami Speedway's 10th consecutive different winner to match the series record set at New Hampshire International Speedway in September. ... Chevrolet had the most manufacturer wins in 2005 en route to its sixth manufacturer title. Toyota, in its second season, won nine times. ... The 2005 Champion's Awards Banquet will be held Sunday, Dec. 11 in Orlando, Fla.