MILLINGTON, Tenn. * There were doubts aplenty when Dennis Setzer, a five-time winner on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series signed for the 2001 season with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, a team with a single top-five finish in 50-plus races over a ...
MILLINGTON, Tenn. * There were doubts aplenty when Dennis Setzer, a five-time winner on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series signed for the 2001 season with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, a team with a single top-five finish in 50-plus races over a five-year, journeyman stint on tour.
And those doubts deepened when Setzer was unable to finish higher than 17th in the season's first four events.
But Setzer and his team, which switched from Ford to Chevrolet during winter break, were confident that success was just around the corner * especially after signing NCTS winning crew chief Danny Gill after the departure of veteran Bill Ingle.
Saturday, at Memphis Motorsports Park, Setzer and team enjoyed the last laugh in a jubilant victory circle celebration after the North Carolina veteran had captured the Memphis 200. Setzer grabbed the lead from series point leader Scott Riggs on the 166th of 200 laps around the 0.75-mile speedway and outran Riggs' Team ASE Dodge Ram the rest of the way. Setzer's ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet held a 1.608 second lead - about a dozen truck lengths - at the conclusion of the 150-mile contest.
The victory, Setzer's sixth over the past four seasons, was worth $43,610. He averaged 82.279 mph as seven caution periods for 46 laps resulted in the second slowest of four events at the track.
"We've come a long way since changing manufacturers this year," said the winner who drove a Dodge, last winning at Nazareth, Pa., in July of 2000. "I thought we would have had a victory five races into the season.
"We're not where we wanted to be (10th in series points) but it shows the potential of this team."
Setzer led twice for 53 laps and measured his rivals after a dominant Jack Sprague slammed the wall between the track's third and fourth turns while running second on lap 139. The pole starter and winner of the previous event lost control of his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet when an oil line broke, greasing the truck's tires.
"It's unfortunate what happened to Jack," said Setzer. "Fifty laps into the race, these were the two trucks to beat."
Sprague returned to the race after his crew made repairs but finished 23rd, 49 laps off the pace.
Riggs' second-place finish added 10 points to his series championship lead that grew to 53 over Joe Ruttman who finished third in the DANA Corporation Dodge Ram. Chad Chaffin, the nose of his Park City/Full Throttle Race Parts Ford battered after several on-track run ins, took fourth-place. Coy Gibbs was fifth in the MBNA Chevrolet, his second top five finish in the past three races.
Ted Musgrave, Ricky Hendrick, Lance Norick, Greg Biffle and Matt Crafton completed the top 10 finishers. Fourteen of the 32 starters completed all 200 laps.
Six drivers swapped the lead nine times with Sprague - the defending winner of the race - heading a race high 90 serials. Former Memphis 200 winner Greg Biffle also paced the field, as did Riggs, Jimmy Hensley and Lance Norick.
Although the caution flag waved frequently, none of the spins or accidents caused injury. A 44th lap accident in Turn 4, however, involved a trio of trucks and eliminated contender Carlos Contreras and his Richard Petty-owned Hot Wheels Ram that had qualified ninth.
After Bud Pole starter Sprague led the first 31 laps and hit pit road with virtually the entire field under the first caution, Lance Norick inherited the point. His stay at the top was brief * just five laps * as the lapped truck of Howard Bixman slid sideways in front of the field between turns three and four and collected Norick's Aventis Behring Chevrolet.
That moved Hensley to the No. 1 spot but Sprague slipped past to retake the lead when the field restarted on lap 42. That set up a back-and-forth duel between Sprague and Biffle, the 1999 event winner and last-minute sub for Roush rookie Nathan Haseleu. Setzer, never out of the top four, caught and passed Biffle in Turn 3 on the 123rd serial and remained there until lap 141, when all save Scott Riggs and Norick pitted for the final time after Sprague's mishap.
Biffle, forced to lock up his brakes and tires to avoid the sliding Sprague, wound up with two sticker Goodyears and a pair of flat-spotted tires since NASCAR rules prohibit four-tire changes under caution. That ended his bid for victory and, in the closing laps, the 2000 series champion drifted back from a solid, top five placing to an eventual finish of ninth.
Riggs, on worn tires, was able to withstand Setzer's charge only for 25 laps but settled for an excellent point finish * especially in light of a Turn 4 ruckus with Chaffin on the 117th lap that dropped the championship leader all the way back to 13th-place.
Musgrave, on and off pit road every time the caution flew to bleed his balking brake system, was the equal of the leader over the final 50 laps but was too far back in the field to mount a realistic challenge. He did, however, move from 15th to sixth-place after qualifying a disappointing 21st as he fought locking brakes during time trials.
The series next moves on to The Milwaukee Mile for the June 30 GNC Live Well 200 and a combination weekend program with the NASCAR Busch Series.