Sprague and Hendrick, NetZero and GMAC to join NASCAR Busch Series ranks in 2002
CONCORD, NC (December 14, 2001) - After storming their way through the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2001, Jack Sprague and Ricky Hendrick will advance to the NASCAR Busch Series ranks in 2002. As with the 2001 effort, Sprague will receive primary sponsorship from NetZero, a leading provider of both free and value-priced Internet Services, while Hendrick will again fly the GMAC Financial Services Colors. Both drivers will pilot 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlos in what will be a first-ever, full-time NASCAR Busch Series effort for the famed Hendrick Motorsports operation, winners of five NASCAR Winston Cup Series and three Craftsman Truck Series championships.
"This will mark a new direction for us," stated team owner Rick Hendrick. "It's a new challenge for everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. We've been fortunate enough to have a lot of success in the NASCAR Winston Cup and Craftsman Truck Series. We'd like to think we can do the same with Jack and Ricky in the Busch Series."
After winning four races and a record third NCTS title in 2001, the jump to the Busch Series will be a homecoming of sorts or Sprague, a veteran of 75 career NBS starts. Sprague's Busch Series career-best marks include a pole position at Charlotte (Champion 300, 5/25/91) and a second-place finish at New River Valley Speedway (Grainger 200, 5/5/92).
"This is definitely the best situation I could as for going to the Busch Series because basically all we are doing is changing vehicles," said Sprague, who made his Busch Series debut in the 1989 All Pro 300 at Lowes (then Charlotte) Motor Speedway. "Greg Biffle (2000 NCTS champion) did the transition to the Busch Series with his same truck team with flying colors last season, so I don't see any reason why we can't do the same. The fact that we can bring the same sponsor with us - NetZero - is also a huge plus for the program."
Sprague closed out his full-time NCTS career with a bevy of records. The only driver to compete in all 170 NCTS races and win three championships since the inception of the series in 1995, Sprague also owns the NCTS career records for most Top-5s (98); most Top-10s (133); and pole positions (20). Sprague is also the NCTS all-time leader in money won (more than $4.3 million); laps led; laps completed; miles led; and miles completed. Included in Sprague's NCTS 2001 championship record run were leading the most laps (1380); most miles led (1431.02); most Top-5 finishes (15) and most poles (7).
"We certainly entered into our association with Jack and Hendrick Motorsports with high hopes for a successful season, but our expectations were totally exceeded when Jack won the 2001 Truck Series championship," stated Brian Woods, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of NetZero. "We feel our NASCAR media and marketing initiatives over the past year have been very beneficial to NetZero, so it just seemed natural to continue our support of Jack and the Hendrick organization as they make the jump to the Busch Series. It will be very exciting for everyone involved."
Meanwhile, Hendrick will try to build on a stellar 2001 NCTS season that saw the 21-year-old driver set a pair of NCTS records - one as the youngest driver to win a race when he captured the inaugural O'Reilly 200 at Kansas Speedway, and the other for scoring the most Top-10 finishes by a rookie (19) in a single season. Hendrick finished sixth in the final NCTS season standings and second in the division's Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award chase.
"Winning in Kansas City was phenomenal," said Hendrick. "We were in the Truck Series to learn and that is exactly what we did. I'll never forget my rookie year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The experience we gained was invaluable and certain to be a big help to me as my career moves forward into the NASCAR Busch Series."
Hendrick will carry 16 career Busch Series starts into the 2002 NBS season-opening event at Daytona Beach, FL in February. The young driver, who finished second in the Daytona NCTS event a year ago, owns an NBS career-best third-place qualifying effort at Charlotte (2000 All Pro Bumper To Bumper 300) and a fifth-place finish at Nashville (TN) Speedway (2000 Bell South Mobility 320). Most importantly, Hendrick will benefit this season by retaining the experience and guidance of veteran NASCAR crew chiefs Dennis Connor and Lance McGrew.
"The one-team, two-vehicle concept worked great in the Truck Series and should really benefit both Jack and I again in the Busch Series," said Hendrick. "Lance will continue as my crew chief, but we'll have the ability to work with Dennis and Jack as one team during the week and then share information with them at the racetrack on the weekends. There's no doubt that with the support of everyone on the team, as well as the continued great support we receive from GMAC Financial Services, that we can and will be successful in the Busch Series this season."
"We've had a long and highly successful association with Hendrick Motorsports," said James Farmer, vice president for GMAC Financial Services. "We've supported their Winston Cup effort for a long time and won a Truck Series championship with Jack. Ricky had a great year in the Truck Series and now he's going to be taking our message to the Busch Series in the No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet Monte Carlo. It's been a great ride up to this point and we are looking forward to bigger and better things with Ricky in the future."
CARQUEST Auto Parts Stores joins the Hendrick Motorsports family of sponsors this year with a major associate sponsorship on Hendrick's car for 2002 and Haas Automation, one of the country's leading producers of CNC machining equipment, is stepping up its long relationship with Hendrick Motorsports with sponsorships on both vehicles. GMAC will also continue its associate sponsorship of Sprague.
Sprague, Hendrick and the Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Busch Series team will debut Saturday, February 16 in the Daytona 300 at Daytona International Speedway. The event will take the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and will be telecast live by TNT and broadcast by MRN Radio.
NetZero, Inc. is a leading provider of free and pay Internet access services, offering a broad range of interactive marketing, research and measurement solutions. NetZero offers consumers high-quality Internet access, a choice of popular e-mail programs and convenient navigation tools that provide "speed dial" to key sites on the Internet. Through proprietary technologies, NetZero offers advertisers unique targeting capabilities through numerous online advertising and sponsorship channels. The company's CyberTarget division offers marketers and advertisers mass-scale, online market research and measurement services. NetZero is a Cisco Powered Network, offering its access services to approximately 8.4 million registered users in more than 5,000 cities across the United States and in Canada. For more information, please visit www.NetZero.net. To obtain a CD, please call 1-800-DEFENDER.
GMAC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors since 1919, is the financial arm of the corporation. Through an original mission to provide wholesale and retail financing to GM dealers and customers and then to offer a variety of automotive insurance services, GMAC had provided $1 trillion to finance 150 million cars and trucks worldwide. Over the last 15 years, GMAC has greatly diversified into today's entity of GMAC Financial Services, with some 29,000 employees facilities in 40 countries. Its offerings include residential and commercial mortgages; real estate and relocation services; special programs for members of the GM Family and GM Supplier community; and commercial financing. For more information on GMAC Financial Services products, go to www.gmacfs.com.