*More Sprague, Crawford: Both Drivers Share Career Similarities
*Morgan-Dollar Motorsports Enjoys Different "Training" Stint
*Bracket Time: Brendan Gaughn Rooting For His Hoyas
News & Notes:
More On Sprague And Crawford ... Statistical similarities abound between Jack Sprague and Rick Crawford, who will make their 250th NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts Friday at Atlanta:
* Both drivers have held the consecutive starts record -- Sprague at 170 (from 1995-2001) and Crawford at 210 (from 1997 until 2005).
* Both drivers also have won the season-opener at Daytona in three-wide, side-by-side finishes; Sprague did it this February.
* Both drivers also have won at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, considered the series' most difficult short track. Crawford has spent his entire series career with owner Tom Mitchell, a Texas truck-stop operator who's never seen him race in person.
In contrast, Sprague has competed for Bruce "Pee Wee" Griffin (starts 1-13), Rick Hendrick (starts 14-170), Steve Coulter/Dave Fuge (starts 171-217) and Jeff Wyler (starts 218 to 249).
Lastly, Sprague can claim the most unusual sponsor. St. John's Catholic Church in Princeton, Wis., sponsored his truck for two 1995 races to raise money for a new boiler. Industry connections led the church to Sprague's team, which prompted over $2,500 in contributions, according to the pastor, Father Dale Grubba.
Unique Training For Morgan-Dollar ... The crew for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports' No. 47 Ginn Resorts Chevrolet didn't sit idle last week. Several, including driver Kraig Kinser, visited the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Brunswick, Ga., bringing along a show truck and pit-stop practice truck.
Team members toured the facility, which includes an indoor firing range, simulators, a driving course and a physical training facility. They also did a pit-stop demonstration, and even coached FLETC employees through a pit stop.
Double Duty At Atlanta ... Two NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers will participate in Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Atlanta. They are Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet) and Ken Schrader (No. 18 Fastenal Dodge).
No Atlanta Winning Streak ... Of the five events held at Atlanta Motor Speedway, none has spawned a repeat winner. Former winners who try to erase that fact this week are Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet), who won the spring 2005 event; reigning series champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain Racing Toyota), who won the spring 2006 event and Mike Bliss (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet), who won the fall 2006 event. Kyle Busch, who won the fall 2005 event, won't compete this weekend. The late Bobby Hamilton, the 2004 series champion, won the spring 2004 event.
Driver Change ... Brad Keselowski will drive the No. 7 Hooters Energy Driver Chevrolet this weekend for Pennington Racing. He replaces Casey Kingsland, who remains with the team in a testing mode. Keselowski's top Atlanta finish was a 23rd in the 2005 spring event.
Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings
A year ago, Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) finished eighth at Atlanta Motor Speedway and went on to claim Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.
March Madness -- otherwise known as the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament -- invites all sorts of bracket wizards.
But none may be as excited about this week's opening-round games as Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet), who views the tournament in a different light. A Georgetown University graduate, Gaughan played as a reserve on the 1994-97 men's squad, a teammate to luminaries such as Allen Iverson, Othello Harrington and Jerome Williams.
The fact he's actually participated in March Madness only heightens its appeal.
"I was there," Gaughan said. "I got to play it, I got to live it -- so for me, for the rest of my life, it will be a big part of every March."
His Final Four picks include his beloved Hoyas, Ohio State, Kansas and Wisconsin.
"I'm not a driver that has to be out there throwing springs and shocks at it," Gaughan said of how he'll manage his television time this weekend. "When practice ends, I'll debrief with my crew chief, take care of my responsibilities, and then our television in the lounge, which is normally set to SPEED, will actually be changed to CBS, and I'll watch the games."
Their House: Series Stalwarts Excel At Atlanta
In the Loop
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to the track this weekend for the first of two trips to Atlanta Motor Speedway. And let's just say the series is making it count.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck regulars will mingle with a few NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regulars on what many describe as the fastest track on the circuit.
Joining the likes of Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner and Todd Bodine will be NEXTEL Cup familiar faces Ken Schrader and Clint Bowyer. But figuring out who will come out on top in the American Commercial Lines 200 isn't as easy as one might guess.
In the past at Atlanta, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck regulars have battled for pride and have succeeded. In the past two years (four races), a regular has won the Atlanta event three times despite NASCAR NEXTEL Cup regulars often crashing the party.
The lone NASCAR NEXTEL Cup winner at Atlanta is Kyle Busch, who won in 2005. In that race, Busch scored an impressive Driver Rating of 136.2 and had an Average Running Position of 2.885.
Beyond that, it's the NASCAR Craftsman Truck regulars' show. In two Atlanta races, Erik Darnell has the second best Average Running Position with a 6.554 and the second best average Driver Rating of 109.3. Behind him in the average Driver Rating stats are Johnny Benson (108.4) and Todd Bodine (108.0).
Last year, Todd Bodine and Mike Bliss won the two races at Atlanta.
"Atlanta and I have a love-hate relationship. I love racing here, but sometimes I don't think she likes me too much. Two of the biggest wrecks of my career have been here, but I also set the track record and I've led a lot of laps here." -- Rick Crawford.
"That is pretty darn cool and who would have thought it would have come to this when I competed in my first truck race back in 1995." -- Jack Sprague, who, along with Crawford, will make his 250th series start at Atlanta. "I'm looking forward to Atlanta -- we know where the winner's circle is. We did a burnout there before, and I'd like to put another one in there." -- Ron Hornaday Jr.
Three Brands Have Won Races In Atlanta
With Manufacturers' Championship runnerup Ford winless at Atlanta Motor Speedway, odds favor Toyota retaining or increasing its current lead in the standings.
Ford got close a year ago when Todd Bodine edged Mark Martin's F-150 truck to halt the latter's two-race winning streak.
Actually, Chevrolet is the favorite at AMS, having won three of the past four races. Bobby Hamilton's Dodge was the race's first winner in 2004.
Next Race: American Commercial Lines 200
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: March 16, 2007
The Time: 9 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval
Race Purse: $536,410
2006 Winner: Todd Bodine
2006 Pole: Todd Bodine
Schedule: Thursday, March 15 -- Practice 9:30 a.m. -- 10:30 a.m.; 11:50:1.m. -- 12:20 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. -- 1:30 p.m. Qualifying 5:15 p.m. (live on SPEED)