July Race Preview
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
at the Kentucky Speedway
Winston Cup veteran
enjoys being team to beat
By Don Ward,
(July 2002) - Most NASCAR drivers want to move up the ladder of racing circuits and make it to the big-time Winston Cup. Ted Musgrave was among them, and achieved his goal.
But after 11 years and no wins in 298 Winston Cup starts, the Franklin, Wisc., native took a step back last year, leaving Winston Cup to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
The move proved to be a good one. He completed his first season with the No. 1 Mopar Performance Parts-sponsored Dodge as runner-up in the series points race after notching seven victories as part of 18 top 10 finishes.
Musgraves winning ways have continued in 2002 for owner Jim Smiths Ultra Motorsports team. In seven starts through June 22, he has won twice at Darlington on March 15 and Dover Downs on May 31 and earned five top-10 finishes for $210,680. He also was runner-up twice this year. Musgrave was in second place in the current standings heading into July, just one point behind leader David Starr.
Musgrave is considered a top contender for this months Kroger 225, scheduled for July 13 at the Kentucky Speedway. The weekend will also feature the ARCA RE/MAX Series Blue Grass Quality Meats 200 on Friday, July 12. It will be ARCAs second appearance of the summer at the track.
Musgrave said the repaving of the track will have an effect.
"I really liked the track the way it was, and the bumps in the track gave it some nice personality, said Musgrave, 46. That really made the place unique where you had to have the handling of the truck working very well. Now that it has been repaved, there's going to be a lot of grip. The nice part about it is that there should be two and maybe even three grooves out there, which can make for some really neat passing."
Last year at Kentucky, Mus-grave and Jack Sprague (now driving full time in the Busch Series) dominated much of the 150-lap race until Sprague lost a cylinder with nine laps remaining and Musgrave crashed into the backstretch wall while leading with 33 laps to go. Musgrave had led 79 of the first 117 laps and had just regained the lead when he and rookie driver Matt Crafton made contact. Crafton lost control on the inside and his rear end slid into Musgrave, knocking him into the wall. Musgrave finished 24th.
The Kroger 225
Distance: 225 miles, 150 laps (1.5-mile tri-oval)
Qualifying: Friday, July 12, beginning at 5:30 p.m. (EDT-fast time)
Race: 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, July 13
Television: ESPN (live)
Admission: $30 Friday; $35-$65 Saturday. Gates open 4 p.m. Friday; 3 p.m. Saturday.
Also at the Speedway: ARCA RE/MAX Series Blue Grass Quality Meats 200, 9 p.m. (EDT) Friday; Lee Greenwood performs at 6 p.m. Saturday; Legends Race at 4 p.m. Saturday. U.S. Cowboy Tours Racing Rodeo show at 6 p.m. July 12 and 2 p.m. on July 13 near the speedway water tower.
Drivers to Watch
David Starr, Houston, Texas. (Points leader after eight races; 8 top-10s.)
Terry Cook, Sylvania, Ohio (9th in points after 8 races with one win and six top-10s.)
Rick Crawford, Mobile, Ala. (2nd in points after 8 races with seven top-10s.)
Mike Bliss, Milwaukie, Ore. (4th in points after 8 races) with one win, 5 top-10s)
We had a very good handling truck and we were definitely the class of the field, Musgrave recalled. I was half a lap ahead of the field three-quarters of the way through the race when it happened. Obviously, that was a heartbreaker for us, but then again, there was nothing I could have done differently to have avoided it.
Despite a victory drought in Winston Cup, #Musgrave had 55 top-10 performances, including four second-place finishes. He captured five career Winston Cup poles, winning a career $8.4 million. While driving for Roush Racing, he finished 1995 second in points. But after 4 1/2 solid years with Roush Racing, he bounced around from team to team and filled in for drivers for two different teams in 2000.
He is happy with his move to trucks. Winning races in the Truck Series is 10 times better than running 20th in Winston Cup consistently, he said.
There just werent any good Winston Cup rides open at the time (when he decided to leave Winston Cup), Musgrave said. Jim Smith was offering me the chance to race with a strong team, with a proven crew chief and the support of Dodge. I could be trying to make the field each week (on Winston Cup) or I could be fighting for a championship (in Trucks). It was a pretty easy decision to make.
Perhaps making Musgraves decision easier was his wife, Debis, battle with leukemia. He says the fight is going well, and the family decided that his racing career must continue, despite her illness.
Driving trucks gives him a little more time at home than when he drove Winston Cup cars, he says. The couple, married 20-plus years, have three children. His two sons also race cars; his daughter shows horses.
This season, Musgrave is teamed with Jason Leffler, who replaced Scott Riggs when Riggs moved up to the Busch Series. Leffler was ranked fifth in points heading into July. Musgraves team owner, Smith, also is splitting his time with Winston Cup driver Casey Atwood.
The best thing is that when we get to the track and unload the car, we are the team to beat. It is a great feeling, Musgrave said.
Prior to moving up to Winston Cup, Musgrave competed on several regional late model circuits, including the old ARTGO (now RE/MAX Challenge) Series and the Slim Jim All-Pro Series of NASCAR Touring.
Musgraves father, the late Elmer Musgrave, was a top Wisconsin driver in the 1950s-1970s. Musgrave credits his father for inspiring to become a driver. Elmer would take his son to the track and advised him to get in the garage and learn how the car works if he wants to compete in this business.
To me, winning is what its all about. Well add up the points at the end of the season and see where it all comes out.
Back to 2002 Kentucky Speedway Articles.