Sprague Phoenix race report

AVONDALE, AZ (October 27, 2001) - Jack Sprague all but clinched a record third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship with a second-place finish in the Chevy Silverado 150 at Phoenix International Raceway. To win the title, Sprague...

AVONDALE, AZ (October 27, 2001) - Jack Sprague all but clinched a record third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship with a second-place finish in the Chevy Silverado 150 at Phoenix International Raceway. To win the title, Sprague just has to start his NetZero Chevrolet Silverado in the final race at California Speedway Saturday, November 3, to capture the crown. "The goal all along has been to win the championship - that's the goal of every team every year at Hendrick Motorsports," said Sprague. "Dennis (crew chief Dennis Connor) and I have been together for seven years and won two championships. Now we're on the verge of three The guys dug down deep and overcame a lot of adversity this season to win this thing. This is very satisfying." Sprague started the next to last event of the season from the second position after turning in a lap of 28.203 seconds (127.646 miles per hour) in qualifying Thursday. The Spring Lake, MI driver quickly jumped into the lead pacing the first 12 circuits before giving up the top spot to Rick Crawford. Crawford's lead was short-lived, however, as Sprague powered his NetZero mount back into the lead three laps later leading the next 45 circuits before heading for pit road for a routine change of tires and fuel. The all-time lap leader in the history of the Truck Series again motored to the front, this time holding the lead from lap 77-80. That's when 2000 NCTS champion, Greg Biffle got by. Try as he might, Sprague couldn't get back in front over the final 70 circuits settling for second place at the checkered flag. "It was a solid day for us," said Sprague. "I had a great truck, this NetZero Chevrolet was of the best I have ever had here. I knew Greg would be good, he's always run good here. The bottom line was he was better than us on new tires. He was all over me and it made my truck real loose when he got behind me. Rather than take a chance, I let him go by. As the tires wore, I think my truck was better than his, but I didn't press it. He got a present today, he got a present. I knew what I had to do. If I had gone up there and fought with him, I might have got in the fence. If I would have done that, we wouldn't be sitting here in this good of shape." In this case, second-place proved to be the winning ticket as title contenders Scott Riggs (eighth) and Joe Ruttman (12th) fell to 141 and 145 points behind, respectively. That means to clinch the title, Sprague just needs to collect the 55 points guaranteed the last-place finisher at California next week. "There won't be any partying this week," said Sprague. "We still have a job to do. It's going to be great to clinch at California because that's where we introduced this deal with NetZero. We told them then that we win the championship every other year and we wanted to do that for them in 2001. It's great that it looks like we're going to deliver just that in their hometown. That's when there will be a party." The Auto Club 200 at California Speedway will take the green flag Saturday, November 3 at 4:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The 24th and final race of the 2001 NCTS tour will be telecast live on ESPN and broadcast on MRN Radio worldwide.

-HM-

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Series NASCAR-TRUCK