FONTANA — Makes no difference to Ted Musgrave, if he is going to race a truck at California Speedway, he is going to win. The former Winston Cup driver aced the field Saturday, winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' American Racing Wheels 200 for the second year in a row.
Musgrave, who qualified 11th but was moved toward the back of the field because he changed engines before Friday qualifying, led the final 29 laps. He started 30th among 36 drivers and took the lead on Lap 26 of the 100-lap race around the two-mile California Speedway. He led a race-high 51 laps.
Musgrave's teammate, Jason Leffler of Long Beach, finished second, giving Ultra Motorsports team owner Jim Smith a 1-2 finish with his Dodge Rams. Smith owns Ultra Wheels, the business rival of the race's presenting sponsor. "He's got to be gloating," said Leffler, who is fifth in the truck series.
It was Musgrave's third victory of the season, but his first in 14 races. He won two of the first six events, but had been on the podium only twice since winning at Dover, Del., on May 31. "I had a very good truck when we unloaded," Musgrave said. "We worked on a race setup while everyone else was working on qualifying. That's why we didn't qualify very well. We knew right away, when Happy Hour started, we were right at the top of the board and stayed there.
"The goal is to win the race. To win the pole is fine and dandy but to win the race pays the most points." With his victory, Musgrave remained in third place in the series, but closed from 149 points to 107 behind leader Mike Bliss, who finished ninth in his Chevrolet.
Leffler has finished second six times this season; he has yet to win. The race average was 140.296 mph, the fifth-fastest in series history. Musgrave beat Leffler by 1.603 seconds. It could have been more.
"At the end with six, seven laps to go, I eased up and didn't pressure the truck," Musgrave said. "You got that big of a lead, the worst thing in the world is [to] screw up and lose the race." He got the big lead because he was in front when the caution came out for oil on the track. There was so much Quick-Dry laid down across three grooves during the 12-lap caution, it made the racing tenuous.
"We wasted five or six laps [on the caution], then it took three more laps to get the tires clean," said Brendan Gaughan, the series' leading rookie who finished third to give Dodge a sweep.
Gaughan finished ahead of Travis Kvapil, Rick Crawford, Coy Gibbs and Robert Pressley, who led 17 laps. Crawford is second in the championship, 68 points behind.
"As I looked in the mirror, I couldn't see what was going on back there, but I know it was a pretty good race, and when they run side by side they slow down a bit," Musgrave said. "I was just saying, 'You guys just keep doing that. I'm running away now.' "