Mesa Marin: Dodge Motorsports preview

Dodge Rams head to Mesa Marin Raceway; Musgrave to defend 2001 Dodge win from pole. BAKERSFIELD, Calif., (March 18, 2003) - Dodge's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams will return to a landmark racetrack in Bakersfield, Calif., this weekend when...

Dodge Rams head to Mesa Marin Raceway; Musgrave to defend 2001 Dodge win from pole.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif., (March 18, 2003) - Dodge's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams will return to a landmark racetrack in Bakersfield, Calif., this weekend when they compete in Sunday's Lucas Oil 250 at Mesa Marin Raceway. Mesa Marin, the racetrack where the series' first "supertruck" was born, will host its ninth Truck Series event after being left off the 2002 schedule.

For the second straight week Ted Musgrave will defend a race title in his No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram. After defending his 2002 win at Darlington with a thrilling second place finish behind race-winner Bobby Hamilton last weekend, Musgrave will enter Mesa Marin Raceway having won the race from the pole position in 2001.

"It was my first year in the truck series when I went out to Mesa Marin in 2001. I had never even seen the place before," Musgrave said. "Actually, when we went out to practice we got a hole in the radiator, so we never really got a chance to make a qualifying run. It turns out, though, that we must have guessed right because we sat on the pole and were one of the fastest trucks out there. We had to keep going to the back of the pack to change some stuff, so it was an exciting race for us. We weren't really sure if we were going to be able to pull that one off. Going back there this year as the defending champion, and with the race in the hometown of our owner Jim Smith, we know we've really got a job to do."

Bobby Hamilton, who led a 1-2-3 Dodge sweep last weekend at Darlington, will make his first ever visit to Mesa Marin. Hot off his third career victory, Hamilton leads the NCTS points standings by five points over Travis Kvapil. But he says his position in the points race is a precarious one coming into the next two races.

"This is the bad part about leading the points this early," Hamilton said. "You've got that bullring coming up (at Mesa Marin) and you've got Martinsville coming up after it. You can go from a hero to a zero in just a couple of races if the wrong things happen. I always say the little bullrings are as bad as Talladega or Daytona. It doesn't take but one mistake to take a lot of vehicles out. We're taking an approach this year, it's the Year of the Ram, and we're going to grab life by the horns. That's what we're going to try to do. We're going to try to tackle this thing every week, and we're not going to look beyond the next week, and we're not going to look behind us after every event. We're just going to focus on one event."

Brendan Gaughan, driver of the No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge Ram, will make his second start at the ½-mile oval in Bakersfield, Calif. Gaughan finished third in the 2001 Mesa Marin event - his 11th NCTS career start before running full-time in the series with Dodge in 2002. Gaughan also placed third to round out the top-three Dodge sweep at Darlington last weekend. The finish was his sixth top-three finish in 41 races, and moved him to a career-high fourth position in the series standings.


* A Mopar Performance Parts-sponsored Dodge Ram has earned both Dodge victories at Mesa Marin Raceway. Ted Musgrave won from the pole in the No. 1 Dodge of Ultra Motorsports, and Dennis Setzer raced to victory in the No. 29 Mopar-sponsored Dodge owned by Ron Keselowski in 1998.

* Bobby Hamilton's victory at Darlington was his 10th as team owner of Bobby Hamilton Racing - Joe Ruttman (five), Bobby Hamilton (three) and Robert Pressley (two). Joe Ruttman earned the team's first victory in March of 2000 at Phoenix Int'l Speedway, winning the race from the pole position in the No. 18 Dodge Ram. All 10 victories were earned in a Dodge Ram.

* Ted Musgrave moved up the most points in this week's NCTS standings, making up more than 20 spots to move from 30th into the top-10 at ninth place. Jason Leffler made up the second-most positions, jumping from 29th to 14th. Both drivers were collected in a mid-race accident in the series-opener at Daytona Int'l Speedway, but rebounded with top-10 finishes at Darlington.

* Despite last Thursday's rained-out qualifying session at Darlington, Jason Leffler continued his streak of having never started a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race outside of the top-10. Leffler has made 25 NCTS career starts, having never qualified worse than eighth (twice - Texas(b) and California in 2002).

* 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 (24 races).


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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Jason Leffler , Robert Pressley , Ted Musgrave , Dennis Setzer , Joe Ruttman , Brendan Gaughan , Jim Smith , Travis Kvapil