NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Press Conference With Championship Contenders Ted Musgrave and Dennis Setzer Musgrave holds a 54-point lead over Setzer heading into Atlanta Motor Speedway. Q: Talk about Atlanta, you're practice today, ...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Press Conference With Championship Contenders Ted Musgrave and Dennis Setzer
Musgrave holds a 54-point lead over Setzer heading into Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Q: Talk about Atlanta, you're practice today, qualifying tomorrow, and your strategy for the race.
Musgrave: "The mockup runs kind of mean something here at Atlanta but then they don't. If you don't have a fast truck, you are kind of in trouble here at Atlanta. I have seen guys who could win the race starting in 20th place but some of the guys who qualify up front don't last.The truck was pretty good. We tried a set-up that didn't work. We spent a lot of the practice changing the truck over and getting it back to where it needed to be. We should be pretty decent. We come to Atlanta with a really mild strategy. Track position. The nice part about coming here to Atlanta is you've got so many grooves to work with. It's a very neat race track where you can run high, middle, low, and you can put on some great racing here. I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow.
Setzer: "We are pretty excited about how our Silverado ran today. Most anyone who has a decent truck can go out there and hold it wide open for a couple of qualifying laps here at Atlanta. It's not too bad; we were not that good in practice as we would like to have been until we put our sticker tires on to make our mock-up run. Eric (Phillips, crew chief) and the guys worked really hard to keep getting us better. We are probably still chasing a little bit in race setup, but it really doesn't matter how good you are, you have to chase up until the last second of practice to keep getting better. But I think we will be ok when the bell rings."
Q: Neither have one championships in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but you are veterans of championship contention. Dennis has finished second for the last two years, and Ted has finished in the top-three since coming to the Series in 2001. Ted, talk about your racing career and comment on your hunt for the championship this year.
Musgrave: Being a short track racer, when you're growing up and going through the ranks, you had plenty of opportunities to go win championships at your local race track out in the boonies somewhere that nobody had even heard of. What we did living in Illinois and Wisconsin, I'd have to race against people like (Dick) Trickle and Matt Kenseth and all these other guys. You'd run, and if you stayed at that certain race track you may have won the championship, but I elected to go around the country a little bit and run against people in Michigan and Ohio and all around. Just to see how good you are. You may be really good in your backyard, but you don't really know how you'd stand up to the guys around the country. That was kind of my philosophy. Maybe if I stayed here and won the championship I'm just the big fish in a little pond, but let's see how we stack up against racers across the United States. I kind of did that. I went out to Phoenix, Ariz., and ran the 'Copper Classic.' We won out there, been to the Snowball Derby and won out there. The only one I didn't actually win, and I regret it a lot is in Nashville (Tenn.) the 400-- the All-American 400. I did not win, and I can't put it on my resume. That was kind of my knack -- just heading out and see how you stand up against the best racers around the whole United States. I think that was a better out outlook. That was better. I could understand what I needed to be better at. So now, here we are. There's nothing else you can do -- we're in NASCAR, you're here racing against the best in the world. If you win here in whatever division you're doing and win the championship, it really means a lot. To Dennis and I both, no matter what, each one of us want that trophy and we're both running as hard as we can. The teams are working as hard as they can. Whatever happens, whatever the racing gods are going to give us, is going to happen. We're both deserving of it. The teams are both deserving of it. If Dennis wins it, I'm going to shake his hand and say, "Congratulations. You had the best team this year." He's just had a lot of bad luck, and we've capitalized on it. It's just a dog fight right now to the end.
Q: After you won at Indianapolis Raceway Park, you had a 227-point lead; now you are 54 points behind, how does a racer persevere through a drought like this?
Setzer: "I have a great team. It is good to be with this Morgan Dollar Silverado team. We had our hot streak through the middle part of the season, and were able to build the lead up in about six or eight races. Ted (Musgrave) was, unfortunately, having bad luck with little things going wrong for them. But then they started getting their team back together, the crew chief was getting the right people in there under him and it paid big dividends for them. They have really come on strong here toward the end of the season.
"Our team has worked hard all the way through, we just stumbled a little. We don't know exactly what has happened since IRP. Things just don't seem to fall the right way for us at times. We aren't doing anything differently that we were win we had the winning streak going, sometimes things just happen that way. It has been a great year for us. We have won four races. It is the first time in my career that I have won four races so that part has been great. Our Silverado has been competitive. We have won on big tracks and small tracks. Our team is still capable, we have all the right equipment, and we have the right people. I just appreciate the opportunity I have from David Dollar and Chevrolet to be a part of it."
Question: They seem to be playing head games in the Cup garage. Are you guys going to start messing with each other?
Musgrave: We ain't got brains in our head to mess with, I guess. (Laughing) No. We just goof around like usual. That's a whole different deal over there in the Cup side, and that's why we like the Craftsman Truck Series so much. I wouldn't mind going out (with Dennis) and buying dinner tonight and just sit around and have fun. Over there (in the Cup garage) it's just a lot more tension. Head games going on over there, but not here that I know of.
Setzer: "No, I don't think so. We (Ted) have races against one another in trucks for the past five years so games aren't going to mean much to us. I know exactly how Ted is going to race me when I get to him. I would just as soon race against Ted as anyone else on the race track right now. If I catch him and I am better than he is, he may way me by or he may race me to death. But that is Ted every time. He is always consistent and never going to crash you because of it. It doesn't matter if we played games, we both know each other so it doesn't matter."@#Q: Both of your teams have come really close the past couple of years. Do you see any one thing that might push you over the top and help you win the championship this year.
Musgrave: I think for Dennis and what we've seen, it's just been bad luck. How many flat tires has he had? Three or something like that. Things of that nature. I had a blown motor at Michigan, following him for first and second. Things like that is what's going to make the championship come right down to the wire. I don't believe that his team is better than mine or I'm a better driver than him or he's a better driver than me or anything like that. I think everything's so equal. Right now, I call it the 'Racing Gods.' Whatever's going to happen on the race track -- you get caught up in a wreck or you run over something and get a flat tire. I think that's the only big thing that's going to make the championship swing one way or another right now.
Setzer: "This close competition is standard NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series racing. The championship seems to go down to the wire every year at Homestead. A couple of years ago, it was down to the last lap and Ted was waiting for 15 minutes after the race was over to find out if he won the championship or not. Just standard Craftsman Truck Series battle. Hopefully we can keep it this tight until the end and both of us be in the championship hunt going to Homestead."
Q: Comment on the effect a wild card like Toyota could be -- these are all big tracks coming up and they have a lot of horsepower -- or someone like a Mike Skinner or Ron Hornaday could be to both of you.
Setzer: "Those guys are tough racers, for sure. It is great that we have a new manufacturer come into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Because they came in to the series, Silverado and the other manufacturers stepped up their programs tremendously and built this series in to one of the most competitive in racing that I have ever seen. With sponsorship in the series from the manufacturers, it has really helped our program tremendously. Those drivers and the new manufacturer are going to be a big part of it. They are trying to win races to solidify their deals for next year so I wouldn't expect it to be anything but competitive. Those guys aren't going to race us any differently just because we are in the hunt for the championship."
Musgrave: You've got to also remember that Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday are past champions in this Series. The wild card, like you say. If Dennis and I first lap tangle and crash and get knocked out of this race, there you go, you start throwing these people in the mix, too. Third, fourth and fifth can in the fray and be right with us. This isn't over by any stretch of the imagination. If you take the personality of Dennis and I versus the rest of them down the line a little ways, you always see that we take care of our equipment and we're always there at the end. The other guys moreorless charge to the front and throw caution to the win. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Perseverance has gotten us here.
Q: Ted, the face of the Series has really been about veterans. Most of the drivers in the top 10 have Nextel Cup or Busch experience. How has this played into what the Series has become over the last four or five years?
Musgrave: It's kind of a neat mix because as you mentioned we've got a lot of veterans from the Cup Series, the Busch Series and also now, mix that in with a lot of fresh, young drivers coming up like Todd Kluever, who ran really good last week. We have Brandon Whitt, who has won races, and he's up there. Young talent like that, you mix them in with us, and they learn from our experience, our moves on the track, what we do; and I think that really helps their acceleration of their education in running these races and gets them ready for Cup like Carl Edwards and everybody else who has moved to Cup -- we see how well they have done.
Setzer: "The crew chiefs and crew people that have come to our series from the Cup and Busch side have helped lift up the programs as well as the drivers. Look at what Mike Bean has done to the Roush truck program. He has brought that program around. Several other guys have come over and then get to like this 25-race schedule and want to stay here. The get used to being at home on Sunday watching the Cup race or spending time with their families."
Musgrave: It's kind of neat. After our races, we get to go home and then turn on the TV and watch the Cup race. I put my feet up on the couch and say "Suckers." We're home, and you're still racing. Don't get me wrong, it's big glory over there, and all money and all kinds of stuff. But I traded that in four years ago, and I'll never go back. This is the place to be right now. We're getting an influx of people from the Cup side --drivers, crew chiefs, a lot of members that are burned out that come over here and they just tell us how much fun this is over here. This side of the garage is growing by leaps and bounds with the talented drivers and crews coming over. Look at the names that we're going to have -- well, we were going to have Mark (Martin) next year, but I guess it will be one more year. Things like that -- you come in and say, "Wow. Look at this. This Series is really getting strong." And it's getting very hard to win now, too. That's something I did notice -- the amount of repeat winners other than Dennis here with four. If you look back when I first came in the Series, I won seven. Then the next year I won four and the following year, I won two. Now, I've only won one this year. The competition level is really getting intense over here.
Q: Mark Martin has said many times he wants to have fun. Is it a lot more fun in trucks than it was in Cup for you?
Musgrave: It's terribly much more fun. Over there the pressure is just so high. Over here it's just so much fun. You have to remember, when I was a teammate with Mark, Mark is so intense in anything. That's just him. It doesn't matter if it's racing or if it's anything he's doing. If he's going to build a model airplane and one drop of glue gets in the wrong spot, he freaks out. With him coming to the Truck Series, I talk to him quite often about it, and I say, "Man, you've got to come over here and have fun." He says, "It looks like you're having fun." And I say, "I am Mark. You're going to love it when you're here." He told me, "You know, if I come over there next year, and I don't look like I'm having fun, you come back over here and remind me about that." That's all he wants to do -- he just wants to come into the Truck Series, race, win races and just kind of like it was back in ASA. The pressure's off. Keep your mind just on racing and have fun.