Parker Opens Two-Day NASCAR Busch Series Test At Kentucky Speedway
Billy "Catfish" Parker prepared for his 2004 NASCAR Busch Series debut with Rusty Wallace, Inc., by opening a two-day test at Kentucky Speedway today.
Parker shared the track with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title contender Ted Musgrave and veteran Mark Green. Musgrave helped Ultra Motorsports with research-and-development work while Green shook down a race machine for MBV Motorsports.
Parker Ready To Run Up Front In 2004
The 26-year-old Parker owns four late model series wins in five starts this season at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. He has made three previous NASCAR Busch Series starts and is scheduled to race his No. 66 duraflame Dodge in a minimum of 17 series events next season. That schedule includes "The Meijer 300" at Kentucky Speedway on June 19.
"It's exciting, (Rusty's) excited, and there's so much to tell that it's hard to be brief," Parker said. "We have a great sponsor in duraflame, Dodge is backing us, Penske is backing us and we have a lot of good things going. Rusty made this trip once before in the early 90s with Kenny (Wallace) and he's starting another team. We're building a brand new shop and brand new racecars so we're excited about it."
Parker earned his seat with the new team after competing against Wallace's sons in late model events.
"I raced against Rusty's oldest son, Greg, and his younger son, Stephen. I won a fair amount of races and was always up front. For some reason, when Rusty mentioned something about starting a Busch team his sons told him 'you gotta hire 'Catfish.' You gotta win to get attention and we did a lot of that in late models. I think it paid off."
The former mechanic and fabricator on the ppc Racing team that won the 2000 Busch Series championship with crew chief Harold Holly and driver Jeff Green will pursue the most aggressive driving schedule of his career in 2004.
"It's a lot of pressure because it's something I haven't dealt a lot with media wise and attention wise. It's not as bad as you think because I've been working my way into this over the past five to six years," Parker said.
He looks forward to applying his Busch Series and late model knowledge to contend for wins next season.
"Rusty said we don't have to win them all, just the ones we show up for," Parker joked. "He understands how this racing world works and he's successful on both the business and competition sides. He knows it's going to take some time to get things worked out. He put a lot of confidence in us. We ought to be right up front, right off the bat. That's what I assume and I think all the rest of the guys do to."
Musgrave Ready For Truck Series Finale
Musgrave enters the final NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event trailing points leader Brendan Gaughan by a mere 26 points. He joins Travis Kvapil (-34) and Dennis Setzer (-39) in rounding out a quartet of drivers vying for the series championship at Homestead-Miami on Nov. 14.
"For us to win, those other three guys are going to have to have a little bit of trouble. At least we have a shot. We're going down to the Homestead race loaded for bear just like everybody else. The guy that has the best day is the guy that's probably going to win the championship," Musgrave said.
Musgrave is concluding his third full NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. He earned his career-best second-place championship finish in 2001 and followed that up with a third-place finish in the 2002 standings.
He said that his team will rely on a simple, yet tried-and-true race strategy in Miami - run up front and lead laps.
"We're going to try to lead as many laps as we can to get the bonus points and finish four or five spots ahead of Brendan. But, then again, Travis Kvapil and Dennis Setzer can pop up to do the same to us. It's a dog fight and I really enjoy it," Musgrave added.
Musgrave added that unknown component in the championship equation is the newly-configured 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami track.
"The neat part about it is that we're going to a racetrack that's completely reconfigured and each and every one of these teams has to start from scratch with no notes," Musgrave said. "The drivers that will be on top will be the ones with the best luck and the best teams that can adapt to a new and changing racetrack. That's the neat part about it. Nobody has an advantage and everybody has an even shot."
Regardless of the championship outcome, Musgrave said each of the contending teams should be proud when the checkered flag waves for the final time this season.
"We have four teams eligible to do this. One will go home the victor and the others will go home hanging their heads about it. Even if we're one of those teams, which I hope we aren't, those guys can't do that (hang their heads). They have to realize they were championship contenders throughout the year and they should be proud of what they accomplished."