Daytona Beach, FL - February 13, 2004 - Jack Sprague had hoped that his ...
Daytona Beach, FL - February 13, 2004 - Jack Sprague had hoped that his #16 IWX racing Chevy trucks Silverado team would leave Daytona with a solid finish and a strong head of steam entering Atlanta. However, an accident just past the half way point of the 100-lap race collected the three-time champion and 14 other competitors and forced Sprague in the garage for 28 laps to repair crash damage. Sprague finished 25th in the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season opening event at Daytona International Speedway.
Sprague started the race in 19th, inside of row ten and had worked his way to the sixth position when the yellow flew on the 37th lap. Despite having pitted for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment on lap 28, team manager Dave Fuge and Crew Chief Chris Showalter, decided to bring Sprague in again under caution for four new tires with a slight air pressure adjustment and fuel. The veteran pair made a strategic move to maximize fuel mileage by again bringing Sprague down pit road to top off fuel on lap 41 when the field got the one-to-go signal at the line. Fellow Chevrolet Silverado driver Mike Wallace made the quick stop-and-go with Sprague to ensure a drafting partner when the race went back to green.
"We took off there after that yellow and the truck was really good -- probably the best it had been," said Sprague. "There was still a lot of racing left so I was following Mike (Wallace) and the next thing I knew I was (turned) around.
"There had been a lot of bumping and close calls all night and I can't tell you how many times I had to lift to give someone a chance to get their truck settled down and back in line. It is part of the give and take and patience you have to have in super speedway restrictor plate racing. It is a game of inches out there and the spotters just don't always have a perfect view of what is going on. Daytona is a big racetrack and things are happening as fast for them as they are for us on the track.
"There were a lot of drivers out there in great trucks with not much experience in the nose to tailgate racing we do at Daytona. At the driver's meeting, NASCAR stressed give and take, stay alert and give each other room when you need to. The experienced guys know that is exactly what you have to do to finish out there. The newer guys are going to have to learn if they want to get the few inches they may need now and then, they are going to have to give those same concessions to everyone else. It is a shame to wreck that many trucks, especially with so much of the race left to run. With five to go, it is every man for himself. But you can't be in position to make those right moves for a possible win if you aren't smart during the first 95 laps of the race.
"My IWX Chevy Trucks crew is just awesome. They thrashed to get the truck repaired so we could go back out and get as many points as we could. We improved a few positions by running it to the end."
Sprague slowly and methodically started to move forward following the drop of the green flag racing up to inside the top-ten by the one-quarter mark in the race.
"We weren't as quick as we had hoped of the truck and qualified farther back than we would have liked," Sprague continued. "But by the time happy hour was over, the Chevy Trucks Silverado was good. We were a little tight to begin with but Chris (Showalter) and Dave (Fuge) kept tweaking it and we really were getting better and better after each stop. I think we could have been a strong contender to be one of the trucks in the front running pack when it was time to go for the win.
"There was a lot of race left for us to keep moving to the front but just wasn't meant to be I guess. These Chevy Truck Silverado guys worked hard to get me a truck that was racing really good. Just before the wreck, I told them on the radio it was awesome.
"We will just come back strong at Atlanta, " Sprague concluded. "There are a lot of races left in this season, we will stay focused on our game plan and take this IWX Chevy Trucks Silverado to the front."
The next NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event is the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 on March 13, 2004 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Live TV coverage will begin on SPEED at 1:00 PM ET.