Musgrave back in the saddle with new partner HT Motorsports

Updated: January 30, 2008

AP Photo/Larry Papke

Ted Musgrave wins the Chevy Silverado 350 under caution Nov. 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Musgrave Joins HT Motorsports

At Daytona testing Jan. 11-13, Ted Musgrave was simply offering a helping hand to HT Motorsports. The team needed someone to drive its No. 59 Toyota and provide feedback, and Musgrave didn't have a seat yet for the upcoming Craftsman Truck Series season after leaving Germain Racing last season.

Ten days later at the second testing session at Atlanta, the driver and team worked together again. Then, in a way, it turned out somewhat like the last unattached guy and gal standing on the dance floor.

"Weird things happen," Musgrave said. "Things weren't going well with them with sponsorship and drivers, and I couldn't find enough sponsorship for mine, so we said, 'Maybe we ought to get together and make this one work.' It worked out pretty good."

Musgrave and his Team ASE sponsorship made it a marriage with HT Motorsports, putting together the last cog of sorts in the truck series lineup for 2008. The 2005 champion was the last top driver to not have a ride, but now 13 of the top 14 in last season's points are ready to race Feb. 15 in the season opener at Daytona (only Travis Kvapil is gone, running in a Yates Racing Sprint Cup car). And five others along with Musgrave are in different trucks than what they drove a year ago at Daytona:

• Jack Sprague: Ninth in points last year in a Toyota for Wyler Racing, he signed with Kevin Harvick Inc. late last season in the series' biggest driver move.

• David Starr: Finished 10th as Rick Crawford's teammate at Circle Bar Racing, now returning to Toyota and Red Horse Racing, his employer in 2006.

• Brendan Gaughan: Thought his 11th-place run might have been his last in the series until stepping into Starr's vacated Circle Bar Ford in December.

• Dennis Setzer: Began 2007 with Spears Motorsports, only to be released at midseason. His 13th-place season ended with Bobby Hamilton Racing and the team signed him full-time for '08.

• Terry Cook: Signed with Wyler Racing to drive the No. 60 Toyota, gaining one digit from the No. 59 at HT Motorsports that Musgrave now claims. Finished 14th in 2007.

For the first time in his truck career, Musgrave won't have a teammate, but he says driving as a one-truck operation doesn't exactly leave him on an island considering how Toyota teams share information with each other. So in a way, he'll still have Germain Racing's Todd Bodine as a mate, like last year, plus the likes of Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson and the other Toyotas that dotted the top 15 in 2007 and are all but certain to do so again.

"You always see that the same group of guys near the front, in the top five, top 10. You name off the veteran drivers that have been in there a while, they're always at the top of the list at the end of the day," Musgrave said. "I can see the same situation this year with the same group of people."

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.

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Strange Bedfellows

Kyle Busch

Busch

When you're one of NASCAR's smaller teams, you do whatever it takes to keep racing. Take on partial sponsorships, run limited schedules, make creative decisions in staffing at the shop and the track.

Nothing is too far-fetched, even having two different manufacturers under one roof. That's the situation with newly merged SS Racing-Green Light Racing, operating Dodge and Chevrolet trucks in one of the more unique marriages in the truck series.

Green Light Racing owner Bobby Dotter, a fixture in the series since 2001 when he was a full-time driver, was close to shutting the team down in December before SS Racing and owner Ken Smith bought into the team. That saved the day for the No. 07 Chevy, to be shared this year by drivers Shane Sieg, Ryan Lawler and Sean Murphy.

At the same time, that opened an opportunity for Pennington Motorsports, which operated out of shop space adjacent to Green Light Racing. It fielded Dodges last year for Jason White and had an eager primary sponsor all set to run with White again this year in the No. 08, but wanted to align with an established team.

"They had a number of Dodge trucks and bought 10 engines from [primary Dodge engine builder Joey] Arrington," Dotter said. "It's certainly not a direction that would have been our first choice, to split things like this, but they had already put so much investment into the Dodge side of it. The only way to really make it work was to run some Chevys. We could have switched everything to Dodges, but the cost would have been so much for us."

So the team forged through preseason testing with its two brands, even learning along the way. On a recent dyno test, its Chevys proved to be underpowered compared to the Dodges, a revelation that was nice to discover before the season opener.

"This gives us two totally different directions, though it's definitely a learning curve as far as each one," Dotter said. "Even just as simple as oil, the Chevy engine builder wants one brand of oil and the Dodge builder wants a totally different kind."

SS Racing-Green Light Racing won't be the only operation in the truck series with a dual-manufacturer arrangement. Billy Ballew Motorsports, winner of six races since 2005 in Chevrolets with part-time driver Kyle Busch, will field No. 51 Toyota Tundras, mirroring Busch's move from Hendrick Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing in Sprint Cup. But Ballew's Chevy stable will still be used with rookie Marc Mitchell in the No. 15.

Whatever it takes.

Schedule Change

The series' summer stop at Sparta, Ky., has been moved back one week, from July 12 to July 19. The move allows the trucks to not be in conflict with Sprint Cup, which will race at Chicagoland Speedway on July 12 (a Saturday night) under new lights. Last year both events were on the same weekend, but the Cup cars ran on Sunday while the trucks raced Saturday night.