Setzer's calm demeanor is an asset inside his Chevy truck on race day.
But after a disappointing end to the '93 season, Setzer decided it was time to make a change and nearly walked away from a full-time racing career for good. "In 1993 we almost won the national championship for the Winston Racing Series, and my wife and I had been married 10 years at that time," Setzer explains. "I decided that it was going to be my last year of hard-core, full-time racing because I had never raced full time to make a living.
"My wife had never said anything, and she put off having kids this long, so we decided about that time that it was maybe time for us to start a family, and so I decided I was going to cut back my racing drastically." The Setzers now have a son, Brandon, age 11.
Ironically, around the same time Setzer was thinking of scaling back his involvement in racing, he got the break-or the call-he was looking for. "About that time," recalls Setzer, "Alliance Tractor Trailer Training Centers with the No. 59 car called, and Robert Pressley had decided to go Winston Cup racing and they needed a Busch driver. Terry Shook and Marlin Wrights and some other people in racing suggested my name, and [from then on] it was just a dream come true."
Setzer went on to make his Busch Series debut in impressive fashion during his first full season in 1994. He finished Ninth in the final point standings and came away with two wins, one at South Boston Speedway in Virginia and the other in an emotional win at his home track, Hickory Motor Speedway. "Oh man, that was unbelievable right there," says Setzer.
"We'd just come off a win at South Boston a couple of weeks before that-and in my rookie year in the Busch Series. I think at that time nobody had won two races in their rookie year and that was a pretty big deal."
A victory at Charlotte helped propel Setzer to the top of the series points standings in m
Setzer persevered through sponsorship and financial woes over the next couple of seasons in the Busch Series but managed to keep racing. He made his first start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 1995 while still running in the Busch Series on a limited basis, and continued to race in both series over the next three years while also competing in seven Winston Cup races in 1998.
During the '98 season, Setzer received another break in his career after he was asked to fill in for owner/ driver Bob Keselowski of the No. 29 K-Automotive Truck Series team. Keselowski was injured at the time, and Setzer replaced him behind the wheel for 13 races.
Setzer took advantage of the opportunity and raced his way to six Top 10 finishes and one Top 5-a win in the Dodge California Truck Stop 300 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, California.
Those results earned him a full-time ride with Keselowski the following season, and Setzer quickly went about proving that season wasn't a fluke, finishing Third in the final points standings in 1999 with 19 Top 10s, 11 Top 5s, and three wins.
Despite a Seventh Place finish in the point standings in 2000, it wasn't enough to keep the K-Automotive team afloat, and a lack of sponsorship forced Setzer to look for other opportunities.
As fate would have it, David Dollar and Charles and Rob Morgan, the owners of the Oklahoma-based Morgan-Dollar Motorsports team, were looking for a driver to take over the seat of their fledgling Craftsman Truck Series ride after Rob Morgan, who drove the No. 46 for the first three seasons, decided to step aside.
"We were sitting in a minivan in Dover, Delaware, literally discussing drivers we should approach for the next season when we got a tap on the windshield," explains Dollar. "I rolled the window down and it was Dennis Setzer. He said, 'Hey, I heard you guys may be looking for a driver.' I said we were and he said, 'Well, I think I might be interested,' because, unfortunately, the Keselowski's were losing their Mopar sponsorship.
"Dennis was high on our list, but with us being an unproven race team from Oklahoma and things like this, we thought that maybe we needed to set our goals a little lower. But Dennis wanted to see what the opportunities were, so we spent quite a bit of time together, and I'm just so thankful that a man of his caliber and skills took a chance on a young ownership group and a team based in Oklahoma. It's just unbelievable."