SPRAGUE'S MISFORTUNES CONTINUE IN VEGAS
"Top Five Run Trumped Late In Vegas"
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (September 26, 2006) - Jack Sprague had always been a perennial favorite at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In eight NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts at the track, the three-time Series champion had scored two wins and seven top-10 finishes. 'Lady Luck' had always smiled on Sprague at the Las Vegas track.
But as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entered Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the 19th race of the 2006 season, Sprague and other drivers weren't sure what to expect. The track had been reconfigured to add progressive banking -- it had distinctive bumps and was much faster than in the past.
With a full day of testing to get use to the new track, Sprague and the No. 60 Con-way Freight team were looking forward to playing a strong hand when it came to the Smith's Las Vegas 350 on Saturday night.
Sprague qualified his No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota in ninth place. With Sprague's history at the race track, the team was confident they would score a solid finish.
Sprague quickly went to work on the race track, picking up three spots in just two laps, but a loose handling condition made it difficult for Sprague to maintain his spot on the race track. By Lap 12, Sprague had fallen back to 10th place, and he was complaining of being "loose everywhere."
A caution flag at Lap 24, was perfect timing for Sprague and the No. 60 team, who were sitting in 10th place. Sprague brought the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota to the attention of his pit crew for four tires, fuel, air pressure adjustment and a track bar adjustment.
However, the pit crew had problems on the pit stop. The lug nuts were not tight on the left front tire, so Sprague had to back up into his pit box to have them tightened before he could return to the race track. After coming into the pits in 10th spot, Sprague returned to the track in 27th place for the restart at Lap 29 -- and he had his work cut out for him.
Just three laps later, Sprague had moved into the 25th spot. Sprague told his crew that the changes they made on the pit stop helped his truck, and he was just trying to be patient and work his way through traffic.
By Lap 42, Sprague had moved his No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota into 20th place. Although he was steadily clicking off positions, Sprague told his crew that his race truck needed some side bite coming off of the corners.
When the caution flag waved for the third time at lap 51, Sprague was in 16th place. The team elected to pit for fuel and a right rear shock adjustment. The pit crew did not change tires to help the No. 60 gain track position. Sprague returned to the track in 10th place for the green flag at Lap 56.
Now in the top 10, Sprague got into his rhythm and began moving through the field. By Lap 71, Sprague had his No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota in the top five. Sprague told the pit crew that his truck was now tight from the center off.
The fourth caution of the night waved at Lap 76, and Sprague brought the No. 60 Toyota back down pit road. The crew changed four tires, added fuel and took a rubber out of the left rear. Sprague returned to the track for the green flag in 14th place.
In just 10 laps, Sprague had moved back into the top 10. The caution waved again at Lap 87 -- putting Sprague in his fuel window for the remainder of the race. Sprague came back down pit road for fuel only. He returned to the track for the green flag at Lap 92 in 11th position.
Again, Sprague wasted no time moving into the 10th spot on the track. By Lap 119, Sprague had moved into the eighth spot on the track and was working to gain another position. Sprague was racing under the No. 85 truck for the seventh position when he was pushed below the white line down the front stretch. The Con-way Freight machine hit the transition in the track surface and went spinning as the trucks entered turn one. Amazingly, there was no contact made but the rear bedcover came loose.
With a caution coming out for the spin, Sprague pitted for four tires and so the crew could go to work on securing the bedcover back into place. So not to go a lap down, Sprague left pit road and then pitted a second time under the caution period so the team could work on the damage.
When the green flag waved at lap 125, Sprague restarted in 27th place. With just over 20 laps remaining in the race, Sprague wasted no time trying to make up ground on the race track. Lap after lap, Sprague was gaining spots on the track. By Lap 133, Sprague had moved into the top 20. When the checkered flag dropped, Sprague had secured 13th place.
Sprague and the No. 60 Con-way Freight team fell to ninth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point's standings -- 432 points behind leader Todd Bodine and 111 points out of the top five.
"Obviously I'm disappointed with the way things turned out tonight," Sprague said. "This No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota was easily a top 10 or even a top-five race truck tonight. We just keep having bad luck at the wrong times on the race track -- not that there is ever a right time -- but our luck has been rotten. We had hoped to change that this weekend.
"I am proud of these guys for not giving up though. When we had that trouble late in the race, they got the truck back in shape for me -- and that allowed me to pick up as many positions as I did at the end of the race. We lost some points this weekend, but I still think that this is a top five team -- and that is our goal as we close in on the home stretch of the season."
Following a weekend off, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will return to action at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2:15 p.m. CT. The inaugural truck race at Talladega can be seen on SPEED and heard on XM Satellite Radio and MRN.
-credit: wyler racing