MOORESVILLE, NC- (November 7, 2003) -The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship battle all comes down to one last shootout at the OK Corral. Well maybe not the OK Corral, but the newly revamped Homestead-Miami Speedway. Brendan Gaughan leads...
MOORESVILLE, NC- (November 7, 2003) -The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship battle all comes down to one last shootout at the OK Corral. Well maybe not the OK Corral, but the newly revamped Homestead-Miami Speedway. Brendan Gaughan leads Ted Musgrave by a scant 26 points with Travis Kvapil lurking only 34 points back and Dennis Setzer trailing by only 39 markers. This championship chase is tighter than Aunt Polly's girdle the day after Thanksgiving.
"I said before the Phoenix race that it would be really cool if the four trucks that are in contention came to Homestead in a dead heat," Musgrave said. "Now we are going down there and we are very close to that being a reality. After the race at Phoenix I looked up and saw that Dennis Setzer ran right behind me and that both the 16 and the 62 had problems. That created the scenario that I talked about. Now it boils down to whatever positions you can get on the racetrack at Homestead. It really is a shootout."
Musgrave was able to significantly cut into Gaughan's points lead by 43 points at Phoenix when Guaghan had trouble late in the race. The Mopar Dodge driver recognizes a gift when he sees one but also realizes it wasn't the biggest box under the tree.
"It was a gift but it is not the big present we are all looking for," The Franklin WI native stated. "Then again it gives us a better shot at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship and that is all we ask for. They never told me that he had a problem but when I got by him for second place, I ran a lap or so and looked in my rear view mirror and he suddenly was way back there. I thought to myself, wait a minute, he is probably playing it real smart. He knows that if he just takes it easy he has got third and the points championship. I didn't know that he had trouble and my concern wasn't what was going on behind me. I was trying to catch Kevin Harvick for the win."
Crew Chief Gene Nead knows how important this last rodeo is. Keeping his Mopar Dodge team zeroed in on the prize is not that big of a challenge considering their performance this year.
"Our guys are already focused," Nead said. "They have been focused all year. Now we need to go to Homestead, sit on the pole, lead the most laps and win the race. Then we will see what happens to Brendan, count up all the points and see who won. More so than anything I think our advantage is experience. Those guys are a relatively new team and we aren't. Our driver has a lot of experience so we feel pretty good about Homestead."
Musgrave is a veteran of several NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship duels. He is bittersweet about the realities of his sport. Ultimately, at the end of the day in Homestead, only one team will capture the crown.
"I hate it in one respect because there are four teams going to Homestead with a shot at the championship and three of them are going to be disappointed." Musgrave stated. "I just hope that for if some reason it did turn out that we have some sort of mechanical problem or flat tire or whatever, that my guys don't get down because we have had a really, really good year. We have had some misfortune in the middle part of the year but we bounced back from it. Sometimes champions aren't made overnight and sometimes champions aren't the ones at the head of the table. Champions are the ones who have it in their hearts and know that they are the best on any given day. Homestead will be make it or break it, and hopefully we can make it. It would be great to win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series crown, not only for me but for Jimmy Smith. He has been a truck owner from the inception of this deal and he has had a truck entered in every race in series history. For him to be able to hang a championship banner on his wall would be a feather in my cap. I am fortunate that this is the third year that I have run for Jim Smith and we have been in the championship battle every single year. That really says a lot about the caliber of this team and this organization."
One thing that Nead is counting on is his veteran driver. With a brand new lay out at Homestead-Miami's 1.5-mile facility and a limited testing and practice window, it puts a premium on the driver's ability to adapt.
"I have talked to a couple of people who have tested there," Nead said. "Again I think that is to our advantage. Ted and I have both been around a long time and have been to a lot of different types of racetracks, like the old Atlanta track, that are going to be similar to what Homestead is going to be like. Ted is a great racecar driver and he knows what we are up against and I know he will do the job at Homestead next weekend."
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finale -- The Ford 200 -- is scheduled for Friday November 14th. The Speed Channel and MRN Radio will broadcast the event live nationally at 3:00pm ET.