LAS VEGAS, NV (Dec. 19, 2000) On virtually opposite sides of the continent, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams from manufacturers Chevrolet and Dodge Tuesday got ready for the holiday season by preparing for their 2001 racing campaign.
At the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, Dodge drivers Mike Wallace, Scott Riggs, Carlos Contreras and Joe Ruttman were scheduled to test Tuesday and Wednesday. The NCTS does not race at Atlanta, the track is used as a test site for races such as the season opening Daytona 250 at Daytona International Speedway and events at Texas Motor Speedway, California Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Meanwhile, at Las Vegas, Atlanta's sister 1.5-mile track, two-time NCTS champion Jack Sprague was one of 14 Chevrolet drivers who opened a three-day test at LVMS on Monday preparing for the series' return to the Speedway Motorsports facility on Oct. 14, 2001, after a one-year absence.
Sprague loves everything about Las Vegas. But his favorite part of this "diamond-in-the-desert" is Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With two wins and two runner-up finishes in four starts, Sprague is the most successful NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver ever at LVMS. News that the series will return in 2001 after a one-year absence was music to his ears.
"This is my track," said Sprague during a break on Monday. "I don't know what it is, but this track has been great to us. I love the town, and I love coming here. It pays a lot to win here, the sponsors love it and the trophies are really nice."
Joining Sprague for the three-day test at LVMS are veteran NCTS competitors Dennis Setzer, Randy Tolsma, Bryan Reffner, Lance Norick, Coy Gibbs, Rick Ware, Jim Inglebright and Rob Morgan. Several newcomers also tested, including Featherlite Southwest Series, NASCAR Touring champion Matt Crafton, former Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring standout Travis Kvapil, Slim Jim All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring champion Billy Bigley Jr., Ricky Hendrick and David Donohue, son of the late Mark Donohue.
Setzer, who will drive a Chevrolet for Morgan-Dollar Racing this season after more than two seasons as a Dodge factory driver at K Automotive, was the only driver to make contact with the concrete on Monday. He lost control in Turn 1 and smacked the outside wall.
"I think we got some liquid on our tires," Setzer said. "It was a brand new truck and we tore it up pretty good."
Kvapil, who has been impressive ever since he stepped into the No. 60 CAT Rental Store Chevrolets formerly driven by Andy Houston, unofficially was the fastest driver Monday, equaling a performance he posted at Darlington Raceway in a test last month.
"I can't tell you how much everyone missed being here this year," Tolsma said on behalf of the group. "This is a great race track for the drivers, and is there a better city in the world for the fans to visit than Las Vegas? Everything here is first class. It's a phenomenal facility and the world's greatest destination city."
For his part, even Setzer's disappointment at crashing didn't dampen his enthusiasm for returning to LVMS in his Axciom Chevrolet Silverado.
"There will be a lot of lead changes and a lot of good racing," Setzer said. "I know every driver was disappointed not to have come here last year. Seeing Las Vegas back on the schedule for 2001 is certainly a highlight for all of us."
2000 NCTS champion Greg Biffle defeated Sprague in the series' last appearance here, in 1999 when Sprague nipped Biffle for the championship by eight points when Biffle's engine was found to have an unapproved part after the Las Vegas win and he was penalized. -nascar.com-