Phoenix: Musgrave, Setzer - NASCAR spotlight

Musgrave, Setzer view Phoenix mile as a fast 'short track' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 28, 2003) -- Officially, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "short-track" season ended Oct. 18 at Martinsville Speedway. Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Performance...

Musgrave, Setzer view Phoenix mile as a fast 'short track'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 28, 2003) -- Officially, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' "short-track" season ended Oct. 18 at Martinsville Speedway.

Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Performance Dodge) and Dennis Setzer (No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet), however, might disagree.

The pair, ranked third and fourth in a torrid championship battle, regard the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway, site of Friday's Chevy Silverado 150, as an oversized short track -- albeit a fast one.

If that be the case, it could aid both in their bids -- along with that of Travis Kvapil (No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet) -- to flag down standings leader Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge) with only two races remaining.

Gaughan is 45 points ahead of Kvapil while 72 points cover the top-four challengers, making this the closest four-way fight in series history. Jon Wood (No. 50 Roush Racing Ford), winner at Martinsville, is the final competitor mathematically a part of the championship battle, 223 points behind.

Gaughan's four rivals accounted for seven of the season's eight short-track victories, while Setzer lead the pack with three wins.

Gaughan was shut out on the short tracks and in two previous series starts at Phoenix International Raceway -- both mechanically plagued - finished 13th. The Las Vegas driver, however, has been solid on flat, mile-type speedways in 2003, winning at Milwaukee and St. Louis.

Nobody is saying this is the challengers' last stand, but it represents a major opportunity to further close the points gap entering next month's Ford 200 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Musgrave, who finished second at Phoenix a year ago to Kevin Harvick (No. 6 Looney Tunes Back In Action Chevrolet), likes his changes. So does Setzer, a veteran of six races in the Valley of the Sun.

"I have had good success there and I like the race track," said Musgrave. "I really don't know if there is a key to getting around Phoenix. It is a short track in one aspect -- but, then, it is pretty fast and you need grip.

"Grip is at such a premium. It gets hot, it gets slick and having a lot patience to work your way into a good rhythm is very important."

Adds Setzer, "The corners make it feel like a short track but you exit so fast and it's so flat coming out of the corners, it gives you a speedway feel."

There is one variable affecting every team in the 36-truck starting field this week . The exit of the track's Turn 2 has been modified; the outside wall was moved to provide a wider racing groove.

Setzer isn't quite sure what to make of the change. "It could have some good or bad ramifications," he said.

Musgrave, however, doesn't think the alterations will affect the trucks as much as the NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars, which carry more speed off the corner.

"I think our line is going to be somewhat similar to what we have run there in the past," he said. "Positioning the truck coming off Turn 2 is very important to get a good run down the backstretch and keeping your speed through there."

Musgrave likely speaks for all four of Gaughan's pursuers as the championship nears resolution.

"We just have to put blinders on and do what we've got to do," Musgrave said. "Whatever happens to the other teams -- misfortunes or good runs -- we can't control their destiny; we can only control ours."

The last word belongs to Gaughan: "Every race is pivotal [now]. You can't afford to mess up."

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Ted Musgrave , Dennis Setzer , Jon Wood , Brendan Gaughan , Travis Kvapil