It's unusual for a race-car driver to swing for the fences the way Ted Musgrave and his Ultra Motorsports crew did Saturday, but the Wisconsin native hit one out of the park.
Musgrave, who started from the 17th of 18 rows because he changed engines before the race, drove through the pack and won the American Racing Wheels 200 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
With Brendan Gaughan finishing second, it gave Dodge a 1-2 finish.
Musgrave, 47, had his team change his suspension in the middle of the 100-lap race around the two-mile California Speedway oval, and set a track record at 145.926 mph in the process. It is the second-fastest speed in series history.
"It's very uncommon to see anything like that in a race," Musgrave said after winning his third race in a row at Fontana. "You never see it on a short track. It's a gutsy move."
The crew for team owner Jim Smith changed Musgrave's rear-end alignment on Lap 65 during the second of two yellow flags. Although it's a lengthy procedure, he dropped only a few positions, from seventh place to 10th, because of the number of drivers on the lead lap. It was worth the gamble because Musgrave had no problem passing.
"Sometimes, you have to make bold moves," Musgrave said, crediting crew chief Gene Nead with making everything work. "My team's not timid about changing something."
Musgrave came in on the next yellow lap to change four tires.
After the restart on Lap 69, Musgrave moved quickly through the field. When he took second place on Lap 85, he was 1.6 seconds behind Gaughan. He finally passed the series points leader on Lap 92 while coming out of Turn 4, and stretched his winning margin to 2.158 seconds.
Musgrave did the same thing on another big track to win at Charlotte earlier this season. His other victory this season was at Memphis, one of only three other tracks this particular Dodge had raced on this season; none was longer than one mile.
It was a satisfying victory for Smith, who is from Orange and owns a rival company, Ultra Wheel Co., to the title sponsor. It was his team's fourth win at the speedway.
Although Gaughan finished second, he led a race-high 66 laps, and scored as many points as Musgrave toward the championship. He maintained his 62-point lead over Musgrave, who finished third in the championship last season and is third this season. Gaughan, a former Georgetown basketball player from Las Vegas and last year's rookie of the year, stretched his lead over eighth-place finisher Travis Kvapil from nine to 42 points.
Gaughan, who won three consecutive races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2002-03, and Jack Sprague, who won at Phoenix in 1997 and '98, are the only other series drivers to win three in a row.
Mark Taylor gave Panther Racing a victory in the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series, taking the 50-lap California 100 with a 2.514-second victory over Ed Carpenter.
Taylor, who averaged 145.536 mph despite eight caution laps, won for the seventh time in 11 races and clinched the series championship.
-- Martin Henderson
T.K. Karvasek earned his fifth victory of the year as he won the 40-lap Vista Paint Super Stock Series non-points feature at Irwindale Speedway.
In the shortened 40-lap Ultra Wheels Super Truck series feature, Ron Peterson held on for a win in the second segment of the Super Truck's three-race mini series despite a crash that knocked out three trucks 19 laps into the race.
-- Tony Solorzano
Winston Cup-bound teenager Brian Vickers took the lead in the Busch series standings with a victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.
It was the third win of the season for the 19-year-old Vickers.
Whit Bazemore earned the 23rd No. 1 qualifying position of his career in Funny Car at the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park in Millington, Tenn.
David Baca, Jeg Coughlin and Angelle Savoie also will lead their respective categories into today's eliminations at the $1.6-million race, the 19th of 23 events in the $50-million NHRA Drag Racing Series.