Darlington: Dodge Motorsports preview

Dodge Rams own Darlington; both NCTS race winners vie to continue Dodge dominance. DARLINGTON, S.C., (March 12, 2003) - When the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams of Dodge Motorsports face 'the Lady in Black' this Friday, they will attempt to...

Dodge Rams own Darlington; both NCTS race winners vie to continue Dodge dominance.

DARLINGTON, S.C., (March 12, 2003) - When the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams of Dodge Motorsports face 'the Lady in Black' this Friday, they will attempt to three-peat as race-winner, and keep Dodge on the list as the only winning Truck Series entry at Darlington Raceway.

Dodge held the upper hand in Darlington Raceway's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event in 2001 as Bobby Hamilton took the win in his No. 4 Dodge Ram, and Ted Musgrave out-dueled Robert Pressley for a thrilling finish in 2002. With both race winners competing out of the Dodge stables in 2003, it's clear that Dodge has what it takes to get to victory lane in Friday's Craftsman 200.

According to Musgrave, driver of the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram, the key to battling the historic 1.366-mile raceway is experience. Whatever talent a driver has behind the wheel, he says, success at Darlington boils down to one thing: "Respect for the racetrack."

"I think the more you run at Darlington the more respect you have for that racetrack, and that's what that place demands is respect," Musgrave said. "You've just got to take what your truck's going to give you. You can't overstretch the ability of the truck or the driver at this racetrack. That's something that some of the younger guys have got to learn here, is you just need to take what you're given. Don't try to overextend yourself at this type of racetrack - it'll come up and bite you."

Musgrave will battle alongside 2001 race-winner Bobby Hamilton in Friday's Craftsman 200. Hamilton is coasting off of a fourth place finish last month at Daytona in his first full-season as a Dodge NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver.

Hamilton, who owns two wins, three poles and 24 Truck Series starts to his name over the course of seven years running part-time on the circuit, will return to the same self-owned No. 4 Square D Dodge Ram that he ran to victory lane at Darlington in 2001. He says winning a race at Darlington is more about beating the racetrack rather than outrunning your competition.

"(Darlington) is a driver's race track hands down. We concentrate on racing the track instead of each other," Hamilton said. "It's one of those places that I'm glad I have some experience under my belt. It takes a certain kind of finesse and patience to win. You have to concentrate, keep your eye on the game to get around that track and be a contender. It challenges machines, shocks, springs, tires and patience. Having raced and won the truck race in 2001 will help give us a morale boost before we go there."

This weekend's Craftsman 200 will be only the second event of the 2003 season. In February's NCTS season-opener at Daytona, three Dodge drivers finished in the top-10, including top-Dodge finisher Robert Pressley and his No. 59 Harris Trucking Dodge Ram. Pressley contributed to a hair-raising three-wide finish with Rick Crawford and Travis Kvapil, finishing third in the race. Pressley will continue to run on a limited schedule with team owner Jim Harris at Darlington - a race where he finished second in 2002.

Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top-10 at Daytona in his No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge Ram, but the Orleans Racing team will come to Darlington with a new look as it sports the colors of new sponsor Waterloo Tool Storage. Currently ranked 10th after the season's first race, Gaughan ran as high as ninth in the standings in 2002 as he wrapped up NCTS Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors with two victories in his first full-season on the circuit.

DODGE NOTES

* In all, Dodge teams have scored two wins, one pole, five top-fives and six top-10s in two races at Darlington Raceway.

* Two Dodge Rams out of the Bobby Hamilton Racing stables have finished in the top-10 in both Darlington races. The No. 4 Dodge Ram raced for the win in 2001 with Bobby Hamilton piloting, while Brian Rose drove it to an eighth place run last year. Robert Pressley battled to finish second in the No. 18 Dodge Ram last year, while Joe Ruttman brought home the same truck in the fifth spot in the 2001 Darlington race.

* Jason Leffler's pole position at Daytona last month was his ninth in 23 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts, tying him with Stacy Compton for seventh on the list of all-time pole position winners. Leffler has tallied his pole positions relatively quickly, however. Jack Sprague (20 poles), Mike Bliss (18), Joe Ruttman (17), Mike Skinner (15), Greg Biffle (12) and Ron Hornaday (11), have made an average of nearly 100 more starts than Leffler.

* Ultra Motorsports continues to exhibit its qualifying prowess in 2003. Last month at Daytona, Jason Leffler and Ted Musgrave both qualified within the top-three for the eighth time since becoming teammates at the beginning of last year.

-dodge-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Robert Pressley , Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Brian Rose , Rick Crawford , Joe Ruttman , Brendan Gaughan , Mike Bliss , Travis Kvapil