Musgrave, Team Mopar Rock Their Way To Runner-Up In NCTS Final Standings MIAMI, FL (November 6, 2001) - In just their first assault on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Ted Musgrave and his No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram rocketed their...
Musgrave, Team Mopar Rock Their Way To Runner-Up In NCTS Final Standings
MIAMI, FL (November 6, 2001) - In just their first assault on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Ted Musgrave and his No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts Dodge Ram rocketed their way to a second-place finish in the 2001 championship points race. Along the way, the Ultra Motorsports team collected a division-leading seven wins.
Musgrave's run at the 2001 NCTS title got off to a rocky start after overheating problems plagued the veteran driver in the season opener at Daytona forcing a 22nd-place finish. Two weeks later, Musgrave scored his first career Truck Series win in convincing fashion with a 10.58-second victory in the Florida Dodge Dealers 400 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"That was a great win," commented Musgrave. "We led a bunch of laps out there and the Mopar Dodge was just on a rail. It was great to redeem ourselves after we struggled at Daytona. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come."
No doubt, good things were on the horizon for Musgrave and his Ultra Motorsports teammates. At the series' next stop in Bakersfield, CA, Musgrave scored his first of two Bud Pole Awards and secured the second of back-to-back wins, finding Victory Lane again, this time in the OSH 250.
"I'm having the time of my life," said Musgrave. "When (Ultra Motorsports owner) Jim Smith hired me to drive the Mopar Dodge, he told me not to tell anyone about the Truck Series because this was the best kept secret in NASCAR. Well Jimmy, your secret is out. We're going to Martinsville next and I'm looking to turn the hat trick."
The trick, however, turned out to be on Musgrave and Team Mopar when a rear end failure forced Musgrave behind the wall early. While the three-for-three didn't happen, three for five did when Musgrave scored his second pole and third win in five races after the series hit Gateway International Raceway at St. Louis.
"This just keeps getting better and better," said Musgrave. "We won another $10,000 pole award bonus from Craftsman and grabbed our third win in five races. I really like the direction this team is headed. We're firing on all eight cylinders. If we can keep winning races, we'll be in good shape for the championship when the season is over."
A week later at the famed Darlington Raceway, Lady Luck turned her back on Musgrave when a multitude of problems relegated the Winston Cup veteran to a 31st-place finish. Musgrave and Team Mopar bounced back in the next two events, finishing fourth at both Pikes Peak and Dover Downs.
When the Truck Series visited the ultra-fast Texas Motor Speedway for the first of two stops at the Ft. Worth track, fuel mileage proved to be a thorn in Musgrave's attempt for his fourth win of the year. The Mopar Performance Parts bunch then headed back in the right direction two weeks later at Memphis Motorsports Park as Musgrave recorded his sixth Top-10 of the season.
Next up was a trip to the legendary Milwaukee Mile for the Truck Series annual stop at the historic Wisconsin State Fair Park oval. There, Musgrave wowed the hometown crowd and in showman-like fashion, secured his fourth win of the year after passing Jack Sprague for the lead late in the GNC Live Well 200.
"This was unbelievable," Musgrave said. "I came to Milwaukee looking to win and we were able to do just that. This place is the closest thing to a home track for me and to win here means more than words can express. My mom was here, my brother was here and from the looks of the grandstand at the end of the race, every one of my fans were here. This was cool."
Musgrave followed up the Milwaukee victory with a runner-up effort under the blazing sun at the brand-new Kansas Speedway. Musgrave's points climbing efforts were sidelined a week later at Kentucky Speedway after late-race contact with a lapped truck sent Musgrave hard into the backstretch wall. The hard wreck forced the four-time winner to park his Mopar Dodge after 116 of the 150 laps contested.
At New Hampshire, Musgrave again headed back in the right direction with a fifth-place effort, but the solid run was flanked by a 23rd-place run in the Power Stroke 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Slowly, but surely, Musgrave and his Ultra Motorsports teammates righted the wrong recording another runner-up finish at the all-new Nashville Superspeedway. Team Mopar turned in two more Top-10s - at Chicago and Nazareth - followed up by a fourth at Richmond. That effort proved to be Musgrave's 10th Top-5 of the year and the turning point for the No. 1 crew.
"It was a great race," commented Musgrave of the Richmond affair. "It was a great finish and I'm just glad to have been part of it. The Mopar Dodge was off a little bit, but the guys did a great job in the pits. We made a bad call on the first round of pit stops and over adjusted. The next time we came in, we went back to where we started and made up some ground and actually got up there and fought for the win at the end. It's was unfortunate from the aspect that we came here to win and wound up fourth, but it was a good points day for us and we need points."
Musgrave backed-up the solid Richmond effort with his fifth win of the year as the series made its maiden voyage at the .4-mile South Boston (VA) Speedway. From there, Musgrave never looked back in his quest to move up the ladder in the NCTS championship chase. A 10th-place finish in round two at Texas was followed by Team Mopar's sixth win of the year at Las Vegas. No doubt, Musgrave was on the move.
"We made a post-qualifying motor change and NASCAR made us start from the rear of the field at Las Vegas," explained Musgrave. "Obviously, it didn't hurt us too bad. We had a choice to make, start at the rear or chance losing a motor. It wasn't too difficult to make that decision. We had a great handling package under the Mopar Dodge and I was pretty confident I could work my way back to the front. We've made our way back up to fourth in the points and although it would take an act of God for us to pass Jack (Sprague) in the points, we've got a legitimate shot at cracking the Top-3."
Musgrave and Team Mopar then headed for Phoenix cool and confident. With 11 Winston Cup starts at the flat desert oval, Musgrave started and finished sixth in the second to last stop on the tour. A week later at California Speedway, Musgrave capped off the 2001 season with his division-leading seventh win of the year, propelling the crafty driver from fourth to second in the final points tally.
"That was a great win at California," said Musgrave. I really enjoyed myself out there today. It got pretty racy there for a while. We ran high and low, but the Mopar Performance Parts Dodge was really good. The truck handled almost flawlessly. This was our seventh win of the season and Ultra Motorsports' 12th of the year. We didn't win the championship, but we don't have anything to hang our heads about. I've had the time of my life this year. We wound up second in the points and I think we can put a pretty serious assault on the championship next year. I can't wait for Daytona in February."
In all, Musgrave rolls out of the throttle for 2001, with a stellar 8.37 finishing average and $547,880 in earnings.
"This has just been an awesome year for Ultra Motorsports," said Musgrave. "Between myself and my teammate, Scott Riggs, we won 12 races. I really feel like I made the right decision when I decided to race in the Truck Series. We made some huge strides this year and if we can stay consistent next season, maybe we can end up one spot higher in the points."
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Awards Banquet will officially ring down the curtain on the 2001 season Thursday, November 8. The event, which will be held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, FL will begin with a reception at 6 p.m. with dinner and the awards ceremony to follow at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
About Mopar Performance Parts:
For more than a quarter of a century, Mopar Performance Parts have supported racers and performance enthusiasts with one the most comprehensive performance parts programs in the automotive industry. Whether it's a classic muscle car-era Dodge Challenger or a late model Dodge Ram pickup, Mopar Performance Parts provide factory designed, race-proven parts to meet the needs of even the most discriminating performance enthusiast. For more information about Mopar Performance Parts or to locate a dealer near you, please log on to www.mopar.com.