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Track: Homestead-Miami Speedway, Oval, 1_ miles
Perhaps the Florida Dodge Dealers should sponsor all the NASCAR Craftsman Truck races. At least, if you are a Dodge fan they should, following the second consecutive race won by Dodge, and sponsored by the Florida Dodge Dealers.
Ted Musgrave, who had the fastest truck at Daytona, but fell by the wayside due to a water pump problem, once again dominated, and won his first ever Craftsman Truck race. For Musgrave, it was sweet revenge after being so close two weeks earlier at Daytona.
This race marked the first race under NASCAR's new engine rules. Gone were the old 9-1 compression engines, replace by a 12-1 engine. Gone also was Dodge's old "wedge" engine. Instead, Dodge was basically running its new Winston Cup engine, albeit it with a roller camshaft. With this win, Dodge virtually ensure itself that its W/C engine can compete with the GMs and Fords, who were also running the basic W/C package.
As they did at Daytona, Dodge's qualified well, once again taking the pole. This time it was Scott Riggs, who took the honor, turning in a lap of 146.017 MPH. Teammate, Ted Musgrave, qualified his MoPar Performance Dodge in third when he turned a lap of 145.643. Yet another Dodge was in the top five, with Daytona winner Joe Ruttman taking the fifth slot with a 145.005 lap. Yet, even with the Dodge's sitting up front, memories of previous Homestead-Miami races tainted the air. Dodge placed two trucks on the front row last year, yet failed miserably in the race itself. Ford had won all but one race at this high-speed oval, with Chevrolet claiming the other. Questions regarding the new engine rules were ever present. Happy hour practice saw the Chevrolet of former series champion Jack Sprague the quickest. So it was with great anticipation, and trepidation, that the Dodge fans felt as the green flag dropped.
Early on, Riggs lead the field, but soon it was Musgrave who took control. And control he did, leading for total of 86 laps. The only serious threat to Musgrave all race long was Sprague, who dogged the MoPar truck and took the lead a couple of times. But a decision not to stop for fuel on the final caution of the day would prove to be Sprague's undoing. And it was Musgrave, who did stop for fuel, who won the race, charging back from 11th after his pit stop, and conserving enough fuel to coast on fumes into victory lane. Teammate Scott Riggs took home fourth, and with that finish, the points lead in the Craftsman Truck series. Carlos Contreas, who has labored on the large tracks, came home in seventh, and Daytona winner Ruttman, took home ninth. This gave Dodge 4 trucks in the top ten at the finish.
Other Dodge runners were not as fortunate. Willy T. Ribbs finished a disappointing 19th, and showed the lack of skill that a track like Homestead requires. Local driver Tom Powers brought home his Dodge in 29th. Mark Petty, for the second week in a row, was involved in an accident, and placed 32nd.
Ford for the second week in a row was totally out of the picture, prompting many people to wonder why. After Ford drivers took 1st and 2nd in the Craftsman point series last year, the Fords have struggled this year. Watch for something to be done quickly by NASCAR to "correct" this problem, even if the real problem is that there are not a whole lot of good drivers in Fords this year. Jack Roush has two rookies in his truck this year, and neither of them are living up to what rookie Kurt Busch did last year. And what do you expect, when the search for drivers for the two trucks was called the "Gong-Show"? Yet another puzzlement, perhaps the biggest of all, is Roush's trucks having no major sponsor.
And, after a second week in a row of Dodge dominance, watch NASCAR do something to slow the Dodge brigade down. But NASCAR has to be careful in how they do it, as the last thing they need or want to do is to upset the same people who will be sponsoring at least 3 races this season. Perhaps NASCAR has to do nothing to slow the Dodge's down, as the next track they race at (Mesa Marin) will certainly be a track that does not require a lot of horsepower or aerodynamics. Only a lot of luck of staying out of trouble and saving your tires, and Dodge might have two of the best drivers out there for doing that, Ted Musgrave and Joe Ruttman.
Dodge showed the racing world that its win at Daytona was not a fluke, and won for the second week in a row. The new engine rule change didn't slow the Dodge charge down, and proved that its new engine has the power to run with anyone.
1st- #1 Ted Musgrave, MoPar Performance Dodge, started 3rd, running
4th- #2 Scott Riggs, Team ASE Dodge, started 1st, running
7th- #43 Carlos Contreas, Hot Wheels Dodge, started 11th, running
19th- #8 Willy T. Ribbs, Dodge Motorsports Dodge, started 23rd, running
29th- #55 Tom Powers, truckseries.com/Potamkin Dodge, started 33rd, running
32nd- #10, Mark Petty, Richmond Gear Dodge, started 10th, accident
Track: Daytona International Speedway, Tri-Oval, 2 _ miles
While all the attention at Daytona was focused on the return of Dodge to Winston Cup Racing, the 2001 Craftsman Truck Series was getting ready to kick off its new season.
Dodge, who had announced during the 2000 season that they were making an all out assault on the truck championship for 2001, had brought in a new team and new drivers. But it was to be the "old" team that would be Dodge's shining star.
For the 2001 season, Ultra Motorsports, who had previously campaigned Ford trucks, was brought on board by Dodge to lead its charge (see Dodge Aims for the NASCAR Truck Championship). Scott Riggs, who had shown great promise in his 2000 season as a fill in driver was tabbed to drive for Ultra Motorsports. Ted Musgrave, a former Winston Cup driver, was chosen as the driver of the second team truck.
Returning for Dodge was the Bobby Hamilton trucks, driven by the ageless one, Joe Ruttman, and newcomer, Willy T. Ribbs. Petty Enterprises returned as well, with lead driver Carlos Contreas. Rounding out the top Dodge team, was TKO Motorsports, with driver David Starr. TKO, who ran the entire 2000 season without a major sponsor, was a top running team all year. Yet TKO's driver selection, release pattern was one of puzzlement at the very least during the 2000 season.
The cries of "Slow the Dodges" were once again quickly heard, when the qualifying round was over. Joe Ruttman, breaking his own record as the oldest driver to win a pole, qualified first at a speed of 186.123 MPH. This speed would prove to be faster then the pole winning speed of Bill Elliott in the Winston Cup division. Outside of Ruttman was Scott Riggs, and third was Willy T. Ribbs. Fourth starting spot went again to Dodge, with driver Ted Musgrave. To add to the fuel, Carlos Contreas was starting 7th in his Dodge Ram, and Mark Petty, nephew of Richard, was starting in 10th in his Dodge. That made it 6 Dodges in the top ten, and a front and second row sweep for Dodge, their first ever in Craftsman Truck. But Dodge had shown qualifying strength all during the 2000 season, yet when race time came, they didn't live up to the expectations. Would this be a repeat of the 2000 season? Only the race would tell.
At the start of the race, Ribbs immediately fell off the pace, due to a spark plug wire coming off. Ruttman and Riggs set out to try and break away from the field. But that was never to happen, as the entire race saw various lead changes among all the manufactures. Musgrave would prove to be the fastest of all the Dodges, even returning from deep in the field after a punctured tire made him green flag pit, to take back over the top spots. Musgrave's great drive was to come to an end though, when late in the race, his water pump failed, overheating the engine, and sending the Dodge hopes to Ruttman, who was constantly flirting with the lead. Rookie Chevrolet driver Ricky Hendrick was giving Chevrolet its best shot at a win, and Riggs was settling in at third.
With laps winding down, Ruttman was doing everything he could to make the young rookie Hendrick, to make a mistake. At one point, he waved off as if he needed to slow down for an accident, trying to get Hendrick to back off the gas. Hendrick, to his credit, read it for the feint it was, and didn't lift. A late race caution set the scene for a two lap shootout between Ruttman, Hendrick, and Riggs. Craftsman trucks do not finish under yellow like the Busch and W/C series can. Ruttman showed his trucks strength, pulling away from Hendrick, who was now fighting to hold onto second place with Riggs. As the checkers fell, it was Ruttman bring home the win for Dodge, and Hendrick holding of Riggs for second. This gave Dodge, 1st and 3rd in the race, and a strong start to the 2001 season.
For Ruttman, it was the oldest driver in the truck series that took the youngest in Hendrick to school, and collected the bonus money for winning the race from the pole.
Riggs, with his 3rd place finish, showed that he will be someone to watch this year. Ted Musgrave though, by far was the class of the field, but his engine problems were to sweep away any chance of a win for him.
Riggs had an eventful day in his debut. Not only did the plug wires come off of his truck, his transmission was to later stick in gear as he tried to get a lap back after a caution, getting himself darn near run over by the rest of the field. Petty was collected up in an early race accident, and was out of the race for the day, and the same wreck claimed the Dodge of David Starr. Contreas, still showing the learning pains of the large tracks, was never in contention, finishing 20th.
From the start of the race, Dodge showed strength from several trucks, leading the most laps of any manufacture by over a 2-1 margin. For a Dodge fan, it was almost a race from heaven, as you always felt that someone in a Dodge was going to win at almost every point in the race. The downside of the weekend was that the screams to slow down Dodge will be even louder.
Once...as Jerry Olesen wrote..."The cars were production line models, which were reinforced at key points...These days, they race 'cars that never were,' so to speak, and much of the relevance to actual automobiles has been lost. "
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