Dodge Seeks to Remain Sole NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Winner at Darlington Raceway DARLINGTON, S.C., (March 14, 2002) - The Dodge Motorsports truck teams will return to Darlington Raceway this week after a dominating performance in...
Dodge Seeks to Remain Sole NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Winner at Darlington Raceway
DARLINGTON, S.C., (March 14, 2002) - The Dodge Motorsports truck teams will return to Darlington Raceway this week after a dominating performance in the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 in February. After a month off since sweeping the top four spots at Daytona, the Dodge teams are eager to continue their success on the track deemed 'Too Tough to Tame' as they enter the Craftsman Anniversary 200.
Dodge held the upper hand in Darlington's inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event last May as Bobby Hamilton took the win in his No. 4 Dodge Ram. Three Dodge teams qualified and finished within the top five of the field, Hamilton's win was Dodge's sixth consecutive victory of 2001.
"We were stout coming into Darlington last year," said Ted Musgrave, driver of the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram. "Now with this new Dodge body we're going to have to make some adjustment to how we ran before. The aero is a lot different and the truck definitely races differently, so that's going to be a factor to address.
"Coming into Daytona we hadn't tested at all on short tracks and so we've had a lot of work to do to get prepared for this race. I think we're in pretty decent shape right now, and throughout the year I think we can sand it out some more and make the truck even better."
Ted Musgrave led the way for Dodge in 2001, having won three of the five races (two wins from the pole) leading up to the Darlington 200 last year. Musgrave's pole position and second place finish at Daytona this year indicates that the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts team hasn't slowed down since.
Bill Lester, rookie driver of the No. 8 Dodge Dealers Ram, will make his first start at Darlington on Friday. Lester will be taking plenty of notes from team owner Bobby Hamilton who won last year's Darlington 200 and teammate Robert Pressley who won back-to-back races at the track in the Busch Grand National Series in '92-'93.
"This will be interesting," said Lester. "I've heard a lot of things about this place. The lady in black, the track too tough to tame and a few others I can't say. So to say there is some anxiety about this place, but at least I will have a few guys to watch and learn from between Robert (Pressley) and Bobby (Hamilton)."
In his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona last month, Lester ran as high as second before being caught up in a seven-truck accident with five laps to go. The No. 8 Dodge crew worked on the truck to get Lester back on the track, where he finished the race running 18th.
"Everyone keeps telling me how great the week was and how great we ran, but I can't help but be a little disappointed," said Lester. "I'm a competitor, and if I was happy with just running good then I would have no business being in this truck.
"The one thing I can say is I was happy with just how well the No. 8 Dodge Dealers Ram drove and what I learned about the guys on Bobby Hamilton Racing's team. They are the best team in the series as far as I'm concerned."
No. 1 Mopar Team Takes Flight
On Tuesday, Musgrave, crew chief Gene Nead and engine builder Joey Arrington visited South Carolina's Shaw Air Force Base, where they joined ranks with an Air Force pilot, crew chief and engine specialist to tour the process of putting an F-16 fighter aircraft into flight. The three Shaw AFB squadron members will attend Friday's race as honorary pit crew members of the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts team where they can compare notes on how Musgrave and his team prepare for takeoff in the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram.
* Dodge earned the first and only victory in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington thanks to Bobby Hamilton's top finish in the Darlington 200 last May. Three Dodges started and finished within the top five, placing first, third and fifth. Dodge also holds the race speed record of 105.461 mph (1 hr. 44 min. 55 sec.), set by Hamilton in his No. 4 Dodge Ram.
* The 1-2-3-4 finish of Dodge Rams in February's Florida Dodge Dealers 250 was the first time Dodge had swept the top four spots of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. The win was the second consecutive win for Dodge, dating back to Ted Musgrave's win in last year's season finale at California Speedway. Dodge led 64 laps of the 100-lap season opener.
* After one race, six Dodges rank in the top 10 of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings (Pressley first, Musgrave second, Rose third, Ruttman fourth, Contreras eighth, Leffler 10th). Dodge drivers Brendan Gaughan and Bill Lester rank second and third (respectively) as Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates.
* Robert Pressley earned a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory in his first series race, making him only the second driver ever to do so (Mike Skinner in the inaugural series race, 2/5/95). At Darlington, Pressley will be shooting for a second win in as many career races - a feat that has never been accomplished by any NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver.
* Dodge is leading the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturer's Championship race so far with nine points. Chevy trails with six points, and Ford has earned four.