Sprague, NetZero Chevy Ready For California NCTS Championship Celebration
FONTANA, CA (Oct. 29, 2001) - Jack Sprague's 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season may not have started off on the right track, but California Speedway is the perfect track for Sprague to end his storybook third NCTS championship campaign.
Sprague's consistency throughout the season, especially down the stretch, has paid off. Leading the championship battle by 141 points has the driver of the No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet Silverado in a position where all he has to do is start the Auto Club 200 at California Speedway to clinch the title. Once that's out of the way, Sprague will set a course for Victory Lane in search of his fifth NCTS win of the season.
"California is another one of those tracks that I really like racing at," said Sprague, a two-time NCTS winner at the two-mile Fontana oval. "It's a fast track and you need to stay on your toes in order to be around at the end. I've won races there, but they weren't easy wins. I haven't been able to win a pole at California and we have seven of those this year, so maybe we can change that this weekend."
Sprague enters Saturday's Auto Club 200 virtually stress-free after a second-place finish in the most recent event on the tour at Phoenix all but locked up the division championship. The title will be his third, a record for the division. Sprague, the 1997 and 1999 titlest, previously shared the mark of two championships with Ron Hornaday, Jr. (1996, 1998).
"California should be a good race for us," Sprague stated. "All the pressure has disappeared since last week. So much of what was on my mind is gone. The point's race was all I had my mind set on, but that's basically a done deal and now I can really race hard come Saturday and not worry. Once the green flags falls and I cross that start/finish line, everyone better watch out because I'm going to run hard for the win. I hated running second the last two races, especially knowing I could win, but I did what had to be done in order to stay ahead of Joe Ruttman and Scott Riggs. Sacrificing was what kept me at the top, but now I'm going to make up for it."
Sprague's stretch run to the title has been a strong one finishing no worse than fourth (South Boston, VA) over the last six races. Included in that string was his last win at Richmond, VA. For the season (23 events), Sprague owns a 7.0 finishing average.
Sprague will ride the championship wave into California, a track where he has won twice before - the 1998 No Fear Challenge and the 1999 NAPA Auto Parts 200. Last year, Sprague started 11th and finished fourth in the Motorola 200.
"We've had a great year," said Sprague. "There have been some ups and downs, but we've overcome them. I can't say enough good things about Dennis Connor (Sprague's crew chief) and everyone on this NetZero Chevy team. Hendrick Motorsports is all about winning races and championships. Now we've got another championship, it's time to put an exclamation point on it with a win at California."
Sprague and his No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet Silverado will take the green flag in the Auto Club 200 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The final event of the 2001 24-race NCTS season will be telecast live on ESPN. MRN Radio will also broadcast the event worldwide as it happens.
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