Sunday, July 13, 2003

Truck win could mean sponsorship

Roush driver Edwards races for victory, and possibly ride

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Pole-sitter Jon Wood in #50 leads the field across the starting line at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Built Ford Tough 225.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
| ZOOM |
SPARTA, Ky. - Two drivers, teammates without sponsors, chased down the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Built Ford Tough 225 title Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, and the Roush drivers' performance might have been enough to secure a CTS sponsor.

Carl Edwards and Jon Wood came away with first- and fourth-place finishes in a race they entered expecting to lose their truck rides Tuesday because of financial problems.

Edwards prevailed in front of 46,194 fans, the second-largest crowd to watch a truck race at the Speedway. Wood had been in second place until Dennis Setzer passed him on a restart with 12 laps to go and Ted Musgrave passed him in the final laps. Musgrave passed Setzer at the end to finish second, while Setzer came in third, his third top-five finish at Kentucky Speedway.

"I cannot describe it," Edwards said. "This is the greatest feeling in the world . . . It's unbelievable. I cried the whole last lap."

Edwards, a two-time second-place finisher, won his first truck race in his rookie season. After the race, he did a back flip off the top of his truck in victory lane.

"Of all the times to do a back flip, that's the best time," Edwards said.

Last week at Kansas Speedway, Wood won his first truck race while Edwards finished second.

Edwards completed a last-place-to-first-place journey Saturday because of a qualifying penalty Friday that forced him to forfeit his fifth-place starting position and begin the race in 30th because he had to use a backup motor.

"The motor we won with has been sitting in the hauler all year, bouncing around," Edwards said.

He finally moved into first place on the 111th lap when race leader Brendan Gaughan blew an engine.

"We couldn't catch Carl Edwards, but Dennis (Setzer) and I were having a heck of a race for second," Musgrave said.

Tuesday, Roush Racing is expected to pull Edwards and Wood out of the truck circuit and possibly place them in the NASCAR Busch Series, a move spurred by a lack of sponsorship opportunities at the truck level. Saturday's outcome might be enough to change that.

"It's based on economics," Edwards said. "(Roush) wants to develop our talent the best way that they can."

Ten teams put out trucks without primary sponsors on them Saturday as the CTS continues to feel the effects of a down economy. That means team owners are footing the bill more and more, a practice that can continue for only so long given the series' relatively low purses. At $722,150, Kentucky Speedway's purse is second in the series to Daytona's $747,120. Edwards took home $77,500 at Kentucky, tops in the CTS. But after bills are paid, that's not a lot of money left over if there's no sponsor, teams say.

"The owners are the ones that suffer," said Owensboro, Ky., native and former NASCAR driver Darrell Waltrip. "They're the ones who have to decide to not race. It's not the drivers."

Meanwhile, Winston Cup teams are living off the riches of NASCAR's national television deal and lucrative sponsorships for its top racing series. But the money has yet to flow down to CTS, Waltrip said.

"There's a disparity between Winston Cup and Busch (and truck) purses," Waltrip said. "And that's where the problem is. NASCAR has got to put more money into the (truck and Busch) series."

Even the top truck teams have it bad.

"People think I'm sponsored by the Orleans Hotel," said Gaughan, second in truck points. "I'm not. That's just the name of my owners. We put their name on the truck because we're not going to run blank."

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