DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 22, 2003) -- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has a week off, but that doesn't mean the teams in the hunt for the championship are taking a break. With two races remaining, four drivers are within 72 points -- ...
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 22, 2003) -- The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has a week off, but that doesn't mean the teams in the hunt for the championship are taking a break.
With two races remaining, four drivers are within 72 points -- the closest margin at this stage of the season -- of winning their first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship. Last year, the worst finish any of these teams had at the final two tracks -- Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway -- was 13th.
Current points leader Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge) was the only driver among the current top four in points to wind up outside the top 10 at either race last year, finishing 11th and 13th respectively. To prepare, crew chief Shane Wilson is taking the team's two best trucks, which won at Las Vegas and Texas, to the wind tunnel in Detroit to make sure they are comfortable with their aero package in preparation for the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 14. He believes Phoenix will take care of itself since the team's NASCAR Grand National Division, Winston West Series driver Scott Lynch won at Phoenix on Oct. 12.
"Usually, you bring new stuff [to the wind tunnel] to see if you can squeeze a few more miles per hour out of it," Wilson said. "We're going with what's been proven.
For the No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet team, battling for the championship is nothing new. But their driver, Travis Kvapil, is. This team won the 2002 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship with Mike Bliss at the wheel and, according to general manager Dave Fuge, they'll continue to do what they've been doing all year.
"We've usually been pretty good off the truck," said Fuge. "That's one of our strong points. Our trucks are so close, it really doesn't make any difference which one we take [to Phoenix and Homestead]."
The No. 1 Mopar Dodge team with driver Ted Musgrave, may have the most aggressive plan for trying to capture the championship.
"Since we're running with NASCAR Winston Cup, we're going to line up the best people we can [for pit stops]. We'll try to have an all-star group," said general manager Tim Kohuth. "Also, out of the entire fleet, we're going to take our best trucks to each track."
Musgrave finished second in both races last year and was third to Bliss for the championship.
Fourth-place Dennis Setzer's (No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet) team has a wind tunnel date to look at their spoiler options for Homestead-Miami Speedway, where NASCAR will require the teams to run the same spoiler package as Daytona, Texas and Charlotte.
"We think we struggle with the big spoiler ... and we'll see if we can find some better balance," said crew chief Danny Gill. "We watched the NASCAR Elite Division, Featherlite Southwest Series [race at Phoenix] and I'm worried about the shock package we'll need to get over the tunnel (newly built under Turn 4)."
One thing that all the teams will have in common -- none of the drivers have been on the track at either Phoenix or Homestead since they've been renovated.
"We felt [before Texas] we controlled our own destiny but now we need some help [from Gaughan, Kvapil and Musgrave]," said Gill.