Sprague, NetZero Chevy ready for final season showdown and last run for Hendrick Motorsports.
HOMESTEAD, FL (November 11, 2002) - As Jack Sprague prepares for Saturday's Ford 300 NASCAR Busch Series event at Homestead Miami Speedway he has a few things on his mind. Not only will the three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion pilot his No. 24 NetZero Chevy for the last time, but it marks his final run as a Hendrick Motorsports driver. When the checkered flag waves on Saturday, Sprague's impressive eight year career driving for Rick Hendrick will come to an end as he prepares for his new roll as the driver for Gene Haas and Haas CNC Racing in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series.
"It really doesn't feel like it's been eight years," said Sprague. "Rick (Hendrick) took a chance on me a long time ago when it seemed like no one else would. I'm a lucky guy to have had the amount of success I've earned and I owe a great of that success to Rick and everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. I'm moving on, but the decision to leave and drive for Gene Haas was definitely a tough one. Rick never pressured me to leave or stay. It was something we talked about for a long time and in the end, it seemed the thing to do at this stage of my career. Gene Haas and Rick Hendrick have been friends for a long time. Haas Automation has been an associate sponsor on all the Hendrick cars for years, so the relationship was already there and that made things much easier on all of us."
Everything going on isn't going to cloud their judgment as the team gets ready for this weekend. Sprague and the NetZero team only have notes from their Truck Series days to act on, but considering the success achieved at the 1.5-mile oval, things should go smooth. In his six NCTS starts at Homestead, Sprague has never won, but grabbed the runner-up spot on two occasions. He holds an average finish of sixth and has started and finished outside the top 10 only once. In addition, Sprague won the Bud Pole Award in the 1998 Florida Dodge Dealers 400 NCTS event. Things are much different for the Spring Lake, MI driver as he prepares to strap into the No.24 Chevy on Saturday, but everyone involved is confident they'll get a handle on it and give Hendrick Motorsports a run for the win.
"Homestead isn't my best track, but it's been pretty good to me over the years. I've never raced anything other than a truck there, so both races this weekend will be a first for my team and me. We brought a brand new car down a few weeks ago to test and it wasn't that great of a car handling wise, so we're bringing back one of my favorites - 'Chassis 245'. It's performed well everywhere it has been, so since we weren't sure how the new car would be in the race, we decided to just go with one we know we can rely on. We should be okay. We don't have any notes to go on other than what we got from the test, but Hendrick Motorsports has great engineers that work with us and help out with what we need to get a good race car. I would like nothing more than to give Rick (Hendrick) and the team a win to finish out our time together."
In addition to Saturday's NBS event, Sprague will attempt to qualify for the Ford 400 Winston Cup event. Sprague will pilot the No. 60 NetZero Chevy. NetZero has stepped up and will be the primary sponsor on the Haas CNC Racing Chevrolet for the 2003 season.
"I'm really happy that NetZero decided to make the jump to Winston Cup with Gene Haas," said Sprague. "It took a lot of the weight off our shoulders when the decision was made and we were able to announce it last weekend at Phoenix. Brian Woods and everyone at NetZero are great to work with and I'm proud to have such great people stand behind me the last two years. Next year is going to be a learning experience for all of us, but I think we'll give them something to be proud of."
"Homestead is pretty nice and it's been good to me over the years," said Sprague who is also attempting to make his third Winston Cup race of the season in. "It's flat and fairly smooth with flat, sweeping corners. It's fast and you can run in the second and third groove, so it's easy to pass, so qualifying really isn't that much of an issue. If you start at the back you can get to the front easy enough."
The Ford 300 will take the green flag Saturday, November 16, 2002 at 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The event will be the 33rd of 34 NASCAR Busch Series races this season and will be telecast live on NBC. MRN Radio will also broadcast the race live on more than 300 affiliated stations worldwide.
ABOUT NETZERO: Originally launched in 1998, NetZero is a United Online company. United Online is a leading value-priced Internet service provider that offers both free and value-priced Internet access services through its subsidiaries NetZero and Juno in more than 5,000 cities in the United States and Canada. The company is headquartered in Westlake Village, Calif., with offices in New York City and Hyderabad, India. United Online's common stock is traded on the Nasdaq National Market under the ticker symbol "UNTD."