SPARTA, KY (July 7, 2001) - Last year, Jack Sprague didn't lead a single lap of the Kroger 225 and still managed to finish second behind winner Greg Biffle. This time around, the driver of the No. 24 NetZero Platinum Chevrolet Silverado hopes to...
SPARTA, KY (July 7, 2001) - Last year, Jack Sprague didn't lead a single lap of the Kroger 225 and still managed to finish second behind winner Greg Biffle. This time around, the driver of the No. 24 NetZero Platinum Chevrolet Silverado hopes to improve on both of those marks.
"We had a great run at Kentucky last year," said Sprague, who finished 2.182 seconds behind Biffle. "We never led, but we were there battling in the Top-5 all day. It was one of the more fun events we had last season because you can really race on the Kentucky track."
Like most drivers, Sprague gave race reviews to the new Kentucky facility. Big and fast, the 1.5-mile racetrack provided one of the best NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events of the 2000 season. In all, five drivers swapped the lead eight times, all at or above the 160 mile an hour mark.
"Kentucky Speedway is one of the most beautiful tracks I have ever raced at," said Sprague. "I really didn't know what to expect when we went there for the first time last year, but I can truthfully say it was awesome. The track is smooth and wide, there's plenty of room for passing. Everything about the place is first-class."
Over the past four NCTS races, Sprague has also been the class of the field. The 36-year-old Spring Lake, MI driver dominated the action in scoring his first win of the season at Texas Motor Speedway. Sprague then steered his Hendrick Motorsports prepared Chevy to back-to-back pole position runs at Memphis (TN) Motorsports Park and The Milwaukee (WI) Mile. Sprague appeared to be in line to win both races leading the most laps in each only to come up short at the finish, crashing out at Memphis and finishing second at Milwaukee.
In the most recent event on the tour, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at the new Kansas Speedway, Sprague qualified third, again led the most laps, and had the same bad luck as an engine failure relegated him to a 23rd-place finish.
"We are fast every week but we seem to have trouble getting to the finish," said Sprague. "We've been running great all season and my NetZero Platinum trucks are the best I have ever had in the series. We seem to be up front all the time, we're just not finishing there all the time and that's disappointing."
Sprague has had more than his share of success since taking the green flag in the first-ever NCTS event at Phoenix (AZ) International Raceway in 1995. The only driver to compete in all 158 series events, Sprague had notched more pole positions, Top-5 and Top-10 finishes, miles led and completed than any other driver. If Sprague, who was the first to break $2 and $3 million in NCTS career prize money, earns $22,654 in this year's Kroger 225, he will also be the first to eclipse $4 million in series earnings.
"I wish I had all that money," joked Sprague. "It seems like every week, we're breaking some sort of series record. In some ways, we're going to have that just because we've been here since the start of the series. On the other hand, you don't set the kind of marks that we have without a great team effort by everyone involved. I have been very fortunate to have Dennis Conner (Sprague's longtime crew chief) and a great Hendrick Motorsports team behind me all these years."
Sprague enters the Kentucky event just 95 markers out of first place in the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship chase. The 1997 and 1998 NCTS titlest, Sprague knows a solid run in the Kroger 225 will go a long way in earning a third division crown.
"We seem to win the championship every other year," said Sprague. "We won it in 1997 and 1999 and we feel like it's our year to win it again. We have a great team and a great new sponsor this year in NetZero Platinum. We have everything in place, all I have to do now is go out and do the job on the racetrack."
The Kroger 225 at Kentucky Speedway will take the green flag at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and will be telecast live on ESPN. MRN Radio will also broadcast the 13th of 24 NCTS events this season.