Musgrave Makes it Two in a Row for Mopar in the Truck Series

In 1994, NASCAR held meetings to discuss a new concept, racing trucks. They experimented over the off season with “the Winter Heat series” and then in 1995 ran their first season of what was called the Super Trucks with 20 races. That first season Mopar was represented by a couple of teams mainly that of K Automotive or Keselowski Racing headed by long-time racer Bob Keselowski which made 16 appearances in the inaugural year. Off Road Racer Walker Evans also fielded a team for a couple of events.

© Michael Kim, USA LAT Photography

In 1996, Mopar increased its presence with Keselowski Racing coming back strong and Walker Evans competing in many of the series events. The legendary Petty Enterprises got involved with a Mopar truck field for Rick Bickle and Granddaddy Motorsports fielded a Ram for veteran Jimmy Hensley.

Keselowski and Petty continued to carry the Mopar banner through the next several years with owners Ron Norick and David Hobson also fielding Mopar teams. In 2000 a new team was added as Bobby Hamilton Motorsports joined the list of Mopar owners.

In 2001, Jim Smith’s Ultra Motorsports also jumped onboard with Mopar led by former Cup driver Ted Musgrave, who finished second in season points. The following year, Musgrave and Ultra Motorsports finished third in points. Musgrave finished third in points again in 2003 with Bobby Hamilton now the lead driver in his team finishing seventh in points.

After knocking on the door for several years, 2004 turned out to be the year that Mopar finally kicked in the door and claimed the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Season Championship. Bobby Hamilton posted four wins as he won Mopar’s first truck championship with 3,624 points. The question was having kicked in the door, could Mopar do it again in 2005?

When the final flag fell on the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season Mopar had indeed repeated as series champions. Despite posting but one win and one pole Ted Musgrave gave Jim Smith and Ultra Motorsports its first series championship with 3,535 points, 55 better than runner-up Dennis Setzer. Defending series champion Bobby Hamilton came home in sixth position for Mopar with two wins and 3,164 points. Steve Park also posted a win for Mopar.

The season started out with a bang for Mopar as Bobby Hamilton led the 100th and final lap taking the checker under caution to claim the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 on February 18 at the Daytona International Speedway. Jimmy Spencer brought his #2 Mopar home second for Ultra Motorsports and teammate Ted Musgrave finished fifth.

“The game was to hang back,” said Hamilton. “I told the crew to let me know when there was 15 laps to go. I had a very strong truck, and I knew the two trucks it was going to come down to, and that’s who I ended up racing there at the end.”

Good times continued for Mopar the following week as Steve Park drove his #62 Mopar to victory for Michael Gaughan Racing at California Speedway on February 25 in the American Racing Wheels 200. Bobby Hamilton brought his Bobby Hamilton Racing Mopar home in second place. Ted Musgrave posted another fifth for Ultra Motorsports and teammate Jimmy Spencer was seventh. The victory was a memorable one for Park as he became the tenth driver to win in all three major NASCAR touring series. “That’s pretty exciting,” said Park. “That’s a short list.”

The next races saw Hamilton post a third and Musgrave a fourth at Atlanta, while on April 9 at Martinsville the only two in the top ten were the Ultra Motorsports drivers with Musgrave finishing seventh and Spencer eighth.

Things got a lot better on April 30 at the Gateway International Raceway when Ted Musgrave led 158 of 200 laps to dominate the Missouri Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 and post his only win of the season. Jimmy Spencer finished third, Bobby Hamilton seventh and Robert Pressley ninth in the Jim Harris Trucking #59 Mopar.

“I’ve never had a truck so dominant before.” said Musgrave after posting his 16th career win in the series. There are not many times this can happen. “I was hungry,” continued Musgrave. “I hadn’t led a lap all year. When I got out front, I put my head down and said I’m not letting anybody get by me.”  Musgrave’s victory vaulted him into the series point lead, 13 ahead of Hamilton.

In the very next race Bobby Hamilton retook the points lead by winning the Ohio 250 at Mansfield on May 15. Unfortunately, he was the only Mopar in the top ten. “The bottom line is, if you perform like we perform week in and week out, the points will work out.” commented Hamilton. Unfortunately, Hamilton’s performance the rest of the year did not live up to the first six races of the season.

At Charlotte Kyle Busch won the race with Musgrave third, Park fifth and Brendan Gaughan eighth with Hamilton finishing 28th and giving points lead back to Musgrave by 41. Dover and the MBNA Racepoints 200 was a disaster for the two- front running Mopars. Only Timothy Peters driving the Bailey’s Dodge with a sixth finished in the top ten. Musgrave still maintained the points lead.

Texas was no better on June 10 with only Clay Rogers in the #65 Glynn Motorsports Dodge cracking the top ten with an 8th place finish. Michigan saw Hamilton retake the points lead with a third-place finish. At Milwaukee Musgrave finished third and Park seventh but Dennis Setzer now led the points.

The disappointments continued at Kansas Speedway with Jimmy Spencer posting a sixth and Brendan Gaughan an eighth. Kentucky saw Setzer win and widen his points lead to 83 over Musgrave with Musgrave placing fifth and Park eighth. Ater Memphis Motorsports Park on July 23 the point chase saw Setzer in firm control with a 158-point lead after finishing fourth. Brendan Gaughan finished third and Bobby Hamilton sixth for Mopar.

It got worse after Indianapolis Raceway Park with Setser winning again (and leading by 227) and Musgrave finishing 14th. Top Mopar trucks were Spencer sixth, Pressley eighth and Gaughan ninth. Finally in Nashville a glimmer of hope shined on Mopar as Musgrave finished second, Gaughan sixth and Hamilton ninth. Setser finished 14th and the points were at 178.

At Bristol Musgrave grabbed a sixth finish and continued to tighten the points race. At Richmond on September 8th, the points race got exciting again after Musgrave finished fourth and Setser 34th. Pressley had an eighth and Spencer a ninth and the points were at just 49!  New Hampshire saw Setzer rebound with a second and Musgrave finished third.

Clay Rogers was fourth, Jimmy Spencer was sixth and Brendan Gaughan tenth. At the Las Vegas 350 things got very interesting after Musgrave finished second and Setser 14th and the points were just five. Bobby Hamilton finally had some good luck with a fifth and Tim Fedewa finished tenth for Glynn Motorsports.

On October 22 at Martinsville, a type of track that favored Setser things didn’t go to script and Musgrave drove to a fourth-place finish, Tim Peters to eighth with Setser’s troubles continuing with a 19th. Suddenly Ted Musgrave and Mopar were up by 54.

At Atlanta neither of the contenders fared well with Setser 13th and Musgrave 14th and Bobby Hamilton seventh. Texas the third to last race was another I don’t want it, I don’t either race with Musgrave 14th and Setser 18th and Bobby Hamilton the only Mopar in the top ten with a ninth. Musgrave leads by 63.

At Phoenix on November 11 the two contenders fought toe-to-toe with Setser finishing fifth and Musgrave sixth and Musgrave leaving with a 58-point lead.

It all came down to Homestead on November 19 and despite the hype the only exciting thing was that Todd Bodine won his third straight race for Germain Motorsports.

Unfortunately for Mopar none of their drivers finished in the top ten. As for the points battle Setser finished 18th, Musgrave 19th and that left the final points 55 in favor of Ted Musgrave. Mopar had repeated as champions of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

“I just wanted to stay around Dennis (Setser), so I’d know I had a cushion and let those other guys do whatever they wanted.” said Musgrave after the race. “They were racing for position, and I was racing for a championship. I had to put a bubble around me and stay back there and pick my way through them. We did what we had to do.”

Jim (Smith) has been trying for ten years, and a lot of things happened through those years that caused us to miss it.” added Musgrave, “That’s why this championship is for Jim Smith. That is what makes me the proudest.”

Smith said. “It (the title) is something I’m going to cherish. I wanted it desperately. I think whatever you’re racing, you always want to be No. 1 in your sport. We achieved that today. I couldn’t be prouder of Ted and Gene (Nead, crew chief) and the entire Ultra Motorsports team.”

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Lee Ackerman

Lee has been Mopar Connection Magazine's resident "Mopar historian" bringing us some of the best, most insightful glimpses back in the world of competitive history. Whether it's dirt track, oval track or the high banks of NASCAR, if MCM has published it, Lee likely brought it to us.

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