Dennis Setzer Set to Defend Truck Race Victory
"Winning this race last year was truly a dream come true," Setzer said. "This has been a great track for me and my team. We were fortunate to run well here last year and we want that success to carry over into this year's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. This team I'm with has really stepped up its program at tracks like Charlotte, Atlanta and Texas. I'm thinking we're going to be in good shape.
"This race means a lot to me because I was born and raised just up the road from the track in Hickory. It's a huge race for me because all my family and friends get the chance to see me race since it's not too far from home."
Setzer built a reputation early in his career as a short-track ace with championships at Hickory Motor Speedway, Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., and many other local venues.
"We had some good times racing at Hickory, Caraway and even North Wilkesboro," said Setzer. "That was some fun racing and I'll never forget those days on the local tracks around here. While I was doing my late model racing, they came up with the NASCAR Sportsman division which was basically old Cup and Busch cars. I put my late model engine in my Sportsman car and got the chance to go racing at places like Charlotte, New Hampshire and Pocono.
"We ran really well in that division and I was fortunate to win at New Hampshire in the initial race there and at Richmond a few times. I should have won Charlotte a few times but never did. I led a lot of laps but was never able to lead the one that counted," Setzer continued. "I think that background really helped me get noticed in racing as being a good and competitive driver. Once I started running on some of the bigger tracks, it really helped to show people that I was interested in racing for a career."
Since joining the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tour in 1995, Setzer has built on his short-track reputation, but most noticeably has also become a legitimate contender to win at the fast superspeedways. Setzer, driver of the No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado out of the Morgan Dollar Motorsports stable, scored victories last year on the high-speed ovals at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, but went winless on the short tracks.
"Our team has really advanced to the next level," Setzer said. "I'm proud that I'm known as a short-track ace because I feel like that's where my heritage is. A lot of guys nowadays don't have the heritage like that as far as being fortunate enough to win a lot of championships at local tracks before getting to this level. I'm really proud of that because I know there are a lot of drivers I race against that deserve the same opportunity I've had. I realize how fortunate I am."
So how has Setzer made the transition from being a short-track ace to a threat to win at superspeedways?
"I don't know if it's a matter of me getting better as a driver as much as it is our program coming a long way with (Chevrolet technical consultant) Randy Goss being involved with this Morgan Dollar Motorsports team," Setzer explained. "There are so many different aspects of our team that has gotten better and brought it to the next level.
"We get our engines from Richard Childress Racing and that has helped us so much at tracks like Charlotte, Texas and Atlanta. I don't think a driver can take all the credit because this entire team has stepped it up a ton to get to this level."
Setzer, who entered the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season with 12 victories under his belt and sitting second in all-time series winnings with over $3.5 million, admits he's having the time of his life. He also knows the money he can win today is a far cry from what he was taking home during his late model days.
"I'm having a blast and the Craftsman Truck Series is just unbelievable," said Setzer. "It's a dream to be able to make a living at something I really love to do. The truck series works really well with my lifestyle because I can spend time with my 11-year-old son. I don't know that another series could work any better for me than the Craftsman Truck Series. I get to go home in the evenings and help coach his baseball team or go watch him play golf. We go go-kart racing on the off weekends and really get to do a lot of different things together. It's a nice opportunity for me to be able to spend time with my son."
Setzer finished second in the battle for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship race the last two seasons, losing out to Bobby Hamilton last year by a mere 46 markers. This year, though, he wants to step it up a notch and win his first career Craftsman Truck Series title.
"I certainly hope we can give those other guys a run for their money this year and be in contention for the championship when it gets later in the season," Setzer said. "We were really good at Martinsville until a couple of tire problems hurt our finish. I was fourth at Atlanta and actually led that race up until the very end. We started off the season at Daytona by getting caught up in a crash, so we're a little behind where we'd like to be in the point standings right now. But it's still early in the season and I know we can recover. The competition level is so high in the truck series this year that it might actually be easier to make up ground now than it was in the past."
But for now, Setzer has his sights set on making a return trip to the famed piece of property known as victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"To be able to step back into victory lane would be unbelievable," said Setzer. "That win last year was one of the biggest of my career. I know how good it feels to win here so we're looking forward to trying to do it again. It's going to be tough, but we're sure going to give it a try."
Tickets for the Quaker Steak & Lube 200 presented by Click It or Ticket start at just $20 and can be obtained online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-455-FANS.