Crewchief Danny Gill and Setzer are opposites, says team co-owner David Dollar.
Though the team experienced growing pains, the success of Setzer and Morgan-Dollar proved unmistakable in their first season together. Despite a switch from Ford to Chevrolet, the team managed a Top 10 finish in the points its first year while also recording the team's first win.
"We were very excited but we felt like we had the potential to do better," says Setzer, and better is exactly what they did. Setzer finished Ninth in points during his first season with Morgan-Dollar Motorsports in 2001, and moved up three spots to Sixth in 2002. He then posted his best career finish in the Truck Series with a runner-up finish to Truck Series Champion Travis Kvapil in 2003. Setzer, who says his team has its best equipment and facilities ever, has spent several weeks this season atop the points standings.
A large part of Setzer's success on the track can be attributed to his calm and cool demeanor behind the wheel, but the communication and chemistry between him and crewchief Danny Gill has also proven to be a vital part of Morgan-Dollar's success.
"Well, its definitely a unique one," says Dollar of the relationship between Setzer and Gill. "Dennis is calm, cool, and collected on the track, and off the track through all the testing and everything, he never gets frustrated. Danny, on the other hand, is just so fiercely competitive, which most crewchiefs are. They get really wound up. It's like the old adage that opposites attract. You take Danny's spirit and enthusiasm and high-strung lineage, and you match that with the old 'Cool Hand Luke' in Dennis, and they make a perfect couple."
Gill, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee, native, started working with Setzer in 2001 about four or five races into the season before leaving at the end of the year for personal reasons. Gill rejoined six or seven races into the '02 season and has served as crewchief for Setzer since.
Together the two have proven to be one of the best driver/crewchief combinations in the Truck Series with the results to back it up, including a series-high 23 Top 10 finishes in 2003 and a series record of 20 consecutive Top 10 finishes. Their success, like with most championship-caliber teams, is a direct result of their communication and willingness to work together.
"I think every day we challenge one another to be better," says Gill. "It just seems to work between us and I don't know why, but we definitely do have a good chemistry. He's worked with other crewchiefs and I've worked with other drivers, and we didn't find that same chemistry. We've worked for other owners and didn't find that chemistry, so we've had a good thing going over the past few years."
An equal part of Morgan-Dollar's success over the past three seasons, according to Gill, stems from Setzer's leadership off the track. "I think it's just his personality and the fact that he's genuine," Gill explains. "He walks around the shop (in Statesville, North Carolina, 20 minutes from Setzer's home) and talks to each individual as an individual. He talks to them about their families, and that motivates them to want to try harder for him. But the thing is, he doesn't do it for that reason. He just does it because he actually does care how your family is or how you're doing that day. He's a really genuine person, and that's a huge asset. Then you bolt him behind the wheel and he's probably one of the best there is out there.
"Now when he gets behind the wheel-I wouldn't want to have to run against him-he's a very aggressive race car driver, and he doesn't miss anything whatsoever on that racetrack. He's out to get every position no matter what it takes, and he doesn't mind rubbing. When he climbs out, he's your best friend in the world. On the radio, he doesn't ever come across that he's upset or get caught up in the emotion, and that keeps him level-headed and able to take advantage of situations. He's really a unique person."
A journeyman of sorts for most of his career, Setzer has found a home in the Craftsman Truck Series after years of earning his stripes and paying his dues. He's finished in the Top 10 in the final Truck Series points standings five consecutive times since his first full season in 1999 and plans to continue racing in the series as long as he's competitive.
Although he's enjoyed a considerable amount of success in the series, Setzer says the possibility of another stint in the Busch Series or even Nextel Cup has crossed his mind-and he wouldn't rule out the right opportunity-but he's perfectly content racing trucks.
"I don't have ambitions to go anywhere else," says Setzer. "I would like to keep excelling in this series, and I think that's just worked better every year."