Sprague, NetZero Platinum Chevrolet Ready For Change Of Fortune At NHIS LOUDON, NH (July 16, 2001) - Jack Sprague would just as soon forget last year's thatlook.com 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway. "It wasn't exactly a race I'd...
Sprague, NetZero Platinum Chevrolet Ready For Change Of Fortune At NHIS
LOUDON, NH (July 16, 2001) - Jack Sprague would just as soon forget last year's thatlook.com 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
"It wasn't exactly a race I'd like to remember," said Sprague, who finished last in the 34-truck field after crashing out on just the second lap. "We may have had a couple of times where that's happened to us, but I sure can't remember if I ever finished last in a Truck Series race before. It was just a racing deal. Dennis Setzer's throttle hung up and there was a scramble in front of us. We got caught in the mess."
To a degree, Sprague has had many of the same problems this season. From a flat time on pit road under red flag conditions at Darlington (SC) Raceway to a hard crash at Memphis (TN) Motorsports Park because of an oil line failure, Sprague's NetZero Platinum Chevrolet has been plagued with uneven luck. In the most recent event on the NCTS tour, the Kroger 225 at Kentucky Speedway, Sprague was leading with less than 10 laps to go when his engine dropped a cylinder. Sprague still managed to finish third.
When his luck and truck has stuck with him, Sprague has been awesome winning at Texas Motor Speedway in early June. A trio of pole positions and four-straight races where he has led the most laps has kept Sprague third in the championship chase, 136 markers out of the top spot.
"Our luck this year hasn't been much better than it was the last half of last year," said Sprague, the 1997 and 1999 NCTS champion. "I guess its evening up a bit because we went so long without having many problems. It's just frustrating to run as well as we have all year and not have the results to show for it. With a little luck, we could have easily won five or six races already this season. Instead, we have just one."
While Sprague has come up short of Victory Lane on several occasions this season, he has dominated qualifying winning the pole position for three of the last five races including the top spot at Kentucky. During the five-race span, Sprague has qualified no worse than third giving him a qualifying average of 1.8 for those events. In 13 NCTS races this season, Sprague has not qualified out of the Top-10 and has a 4.15 qualifying average for the year. The top Kentucky qualifying effort marked Sprague's 17-career pole position, an NCTS record.
Sprague also set another NCTS career mark at Kentucky when he collected $37,415 for the third-place run. That effort made Sprague, the first driver to win $2 and $3 million in NCTS career earnings, the first to also surpass the $4 million in NCTS career earnings.
With the Kentucky event in his rearview mirror, Sprague is focused on what he has to do to get around the tight, one-mile New Hampshire track this weekend.
"Basically, you have to stay on the bottom and get a lot of forward bite off the corners without the front of your truck pushing out toward the wall," said Sprague. "That seems to be the big problem you have to overcome there - if you have a lot of forward bite, you usually push. There is a second groove at times at New Hampshire. I've led races at New Hampshire running the second groove, but I have to tell you, it seems like there's less and less of a second groove every year we go there. The track is also relatively slippery which can cause some havoc. It's tough racetrack to get around, there's no doubt about that.
"It's also a big motor track, like most one-mile raceways are," Sprague continued. "It takes a lot of horsepower to run well and win at places like New Hampshire, Milwaukee and Homestead. Again, you have to handle in the corners too, but if you don't have the ponies down the straight-aways, you're in for a long day."
Assuming his Hendrick Motorsports team will fulfill the performance criteria, Sprague is confident he can do the rest and score his first-ever win at New Hampshire in the New England 200.
"We've run well at New Hampshire, led a lot of laps over the years," said Sprague, who finished second at the one-mile NHIS oval in 1996 and 1997. "The last couple of years, we haven't done too well there. We had a great race at Homestead (FL) earlier this year leading most of the event only to have a late gas stop rob us of the win and give us a third-place finish. Homestead is a lot like New Hampshire. I think we learned some things there that are really going to help us out at New Hampshire this time around. I'm pretty sure some of those ideas are going to translate well for us there."
The New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway is set for 12:30 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time and will be televised live on ESPN. The race will also be broadcast live by MRN Radio.