HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Crew members piled onto the back of Ted Musgrave’s truck as he started to drive around Homestead-Miami Speedway. They all wanted to be part of this celebration – one that eluded them for several years.

Musgrave finished 20th in the rain-postponed Ford 200 on Saturday and edged Dennis Setzer for his first NASCAR Truck Series championship.

The 49-year-old Musgrave became NASCAR’s oldest champion, claiming the title after finishing second in 2001 and third the last three years.

“I thought I was a carbon copy of Mark Martin,” Musgrave cracked, referring to Martin’s 19 seasons in the Cup series with four runner-ups and no titles.

Todd Bodine won his third consecutive race and finished third in the points standings, 73 points behind the champion.

Setzer finished second for the third consecutive year.

“You know we’re going to be back next year,” said Setzer, who was 55 points back. “We ain’t giving up. We’re going to get us one of these.”

Musgrave had to wait an extra day to get his championship – the race was postponed a day because of intermittent showers Friday night.

He nearly won a title two years ago – the same season it was revealed he had cancer – but a black-flag penalty prevented him from getting the series’ ultimate title.

On a restart with two laps to go in the 2003 finale at Homestead, Travis Kvapil, Setzer and Musgrave were bunched together and separated by only eight points.

Musgrave steered his truck below Setzer’s on the restart, but NASCAR black-flagged him for illegally passing on the inside. After the penalty was upheld in a postrace review, Musgrave was dropped to 13th place, giving Kvapil the title.

“You’ve been in that position where you think the brass ring slips away from you,” Musgrave said. “That’s tough to take.”

Musgrave entered this year’s finale 58 points ahead of Setzer and kept the other title contender in his sights throughout the race.

“I don’t care if he came in and went to the bathroom, I was going to stay with him,” said Musgrave, whose title also was the first for truck owner Jim Smith, one of the three founders of the truck series.

Musgrave and Setzer avoided several crashes, including two in the closing laps. Deborah Renshaw spun in front of Musgrave, but he turned his No. 1 Dodge toward the wall and slipped past Renshaw’s spinning truck. Musgrave and Setzer avoided a multitruck accident on the final lap.

“They were racing for positions and I was racing for a championship,” said Musgrave, who won’t talk much about his health other than to say it’s stable. “I had to put a bubble around me and stay back there and pick my way through them.”

Bodine, meanwhile, had the best truck in the race. He led 74 of the 134 laps and retook the lead with 16 laps to go when Brendan Gaughan had to pit for fuel.

Bodine also won at Phoenix and Texas the last two weekends. He finished second the week before in Atlanta, and won four of the final six races.

“Right now, we’ve just got it going on,” Bodine said. “If we could bottle it, we could make millions.”

Making his first start in the truck series since 1996 and third overall, Martin finished eighth. He is planning to run part-time in the truck series in 2006 and then full-time in 2007.

“I learned a lot,” Martin said. “I knew I had a lot to learn because it’s been so long, but that sure did show up there today.”

AP-ES-11-19-05 1404EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.