GRAPEVINE, TX (October 1, 2001) - Earlier this season, Jack Sprague headed into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway riding a winless streak of 22 races, a span of more than a calendar year. Sprague managed to turn...
GRAPEVINE, TX (October 1, 2001) - Earlier this season, Jack Sprague headed into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway riding a winless streak of 22 races, a span of more than a calendar year.
Sprague managed to turn that around in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 400 scoring a dominating win. Since that first Texas event, Sprague has been red-hot rolling to three more victories. A distant 166 points out of first place in the championship chase heading into the first TMS clash, Sprague now finds himself 37 points in the lead as the Truck Series returns to Texas for the Chevy Silverado 350 this Friday.
"Looking back, Texas is probably the place where our season turned around," said Sprague, driver of the No. 24 NetZero Platinum Chevrolet Silverado "We had a couple of good finishes at Pikes Peak (CO) or Dover (DE) leading into Texas and we finally broke through and got a win there. It seemed like an eternity between wins but since then, we've been able to put some great efforts together and that's carried us to the top of the point standings."
Sprague has blistered the competition in his four wins this season. At Texas, his winning time of 1 hour, 53 minutes, 27 seconds and 133.620 miles per hour average speed were both race records. At Indianapolis, the 37-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver led all but 17 of 200 laps. Sprague did that one better leading 195 of 200 circuits in his most recent win at Richmond (Sept. 6). In dominating at Richmond, Sprague also broke Mike Skinner's record for miles led in a single season, an astonishing accomplishment considering there are five events still left to run this season.
"We have had some awesome runs this year," said Sprague. "My NetZero Platinum Chevy trucks have been the best I have had in my career, and that's kind of funny given they are the same trucks we have always had. Dennis (crew chief Dennis Connor) and the guys at Hendrick Motorsports have done an outstanding job preparing our trucks. I'm just the guy lucky enough to ride the rocket."
In the 11 events since Texas, Sprague qualifying efforts must seem like they are rocket powered to the competition. Sprague has orbited his way to six pole positions (including one in the most recent event at South Boston (VA) Speedway) and has qualified no lower than third posting a 1.81 qualifying average over those 11 events.
"Our qualifying program has really contributed a lot to our success this season," Sprague stated. "There's no substitute to starting up front and we have been able to do that this season. We haven't qualified outside the Top-10 all year (a 3.4 qualifying average through 20 events) and again, that's a real testament to the team and how prepared we are coming to the track each week."
In addition to being the most recent NCTS winner at Texas, Sprague recently had the good fortune to be one of three drivers to do a Goodyear Tire test at the newly resurfaced 1.5-mile TMS track. According to Sprague, the ultra-fast oval will be even quicker this time around.
"The groove hasn't changed at all, but the track has so much grip that you can pretty much hold it to the mat all the way around the track now," said Sprague. "They did a great job resurfacing the track. It's as smooth as silk. If your truck is handling right, you will be able to just mash the pedal and hold on in qualifying. You won't be able to do that throughout the race, but it will still be plenty fast."
On top of the points chase heading into this weekend's Chevy Silverado 350, the 1997 and 1999 NCTS champion knows there's still a lot of racing to be done before the title is awarded in Miami, FL November 8.
"It's still anyone's race," said Sprague. "We've got six guys just 168 points apart. It's the closest race in any of the top NASCAR divisions and should make a great show for the fans down the stretch. We've won before at Texas, Las Vegas, Phoenix and California - all the tracks left on the schedule.
"I like our chances," Sprague continued. "Our goal all along has been to be the first team to win three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championships and to win a first title for our sponsor, NetZero. To get another win at Texas and to sweep both events there this season would be a big factor in doing that."
The Chevy Silverado 350 at Texas Motor Speedway will take the green flag Friday, October 5 at 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The event will be telecast live on ESPN and will be broadcast live on MRN Radio.