Double winner Musgrave hopes to reverse slide at California Speedway DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2003) -- If a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship is going to happen for Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge), the next three...
Double winner Musgrave hopes to reverse slide at California Speedway
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 16, 2003) -- If a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship is going to happen for Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge), the next three weeks may tell the tale.
Beginning with Saturday's American Racing Wheels 200 at California Speedway, where Musgrave will be gunning for a third win in a row, the 47-year-old veteran has victories at each of the next three tracks on the schedule.
That said, Musgrave and his team need a boost because too many things that have gone right have just as quickly gone wrong.
Last week's New Hampshire 200, for Musgrave, was the season in microcosm form.
Running in the lead, with Ultra Motorsports teammate Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE Racing/Carquest Dodge) in tow, Musgrave was in the process of moving from third to first in the points standings as both Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge) and Travis Kvapil (No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet) struggled.
A pit road miscue, however, dropped Musgrave to 12th at the finish -- 62 points behind Gaughan, who finished fifth while Kvapil kept pace with a seventh-place performance.
"We're losing the championship by ourselves," said a frustrated Musgrave, a two-time winner this season but winless since June 21 at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Musgrave is 2-for-2 at California Speedway where Ultra Motorsports has won three out of six races at the fast, 2-mile oval. A year ago, his teammate at the time, Jason Leffler, finished second.
"It makes you feel good being the defending champion and after you win twice, everybody expects you to win a third," he said. "If something happens and you run third, people will ask, 'what the heck happened?'
"We always seem to have a good handling truck. We're going to unload with the same setup we had last year and go from there."
Before last week's 18th of 25 events, Musgrave -- 39 points out of the lead -- was pretty clear about his challenge over the remaining races.
"We've got too many DNFs and we have to play catch-up," he said. "I've got to (perform) way above them (Gaughan and Kvapil) to make it up."
The New Hampshire finish, Musgrave's fifth of 12th or worse, didn't help matters. Neither did the cut tire at Bristol Motor Speedway, which turned a first-place run into a three-lap deficit. In three races, misfortune has cost Musgrave a net 41 points to Gaughan in the title chase.
Last year, Musgrave was the third driver in the closest, three-way finish in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history. In 2001, he finished second to Jack Sprague.
In one way, Musgrave feels fortunate to be matching his previous points position.
"The competition's gotten a lot tougher and the rules have made for a more equal playing field," said the NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran.
Musgrave, however, remains optimistic.
"We definitely still have a shot at the championship, even with as much trouble as we've had," he said.