BUSCH: Jack Sprague, Derrick Gilchrist to share Busch ride

EAST FLAT ROCK, N.C. (Jan. 28, 2000) Defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague had only one message for Ron Hornaday, who left the circuit following the 1999 season to move to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division for...

EAST FLAT ROCK, N.C. (Jan. 28, 2000) Defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague had only one message for Ron Hornaday, who left the circuit following the 1999 season to move to the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division for the NASCAR 2000 season.

"He hasn't got away from me yet," Sprague said while Hornaday chuckled in the back seat, commenting on the pair's always brutal, but equally genial rivalry. "I'm not done hitting him."

Sprague instantly turned serious, however, Friday when he discussed Andy Petree Racing's program, which currently has Sprague slated to drive 10 races and Slim Jim All Pro Series, NASCAR Touring veteran Derrick Gilchrist of Raleigh, N.C., competing in no less than 10 additional races.

"I am definitely excited," Sprague said as he traveled to 'NASCAR Night with the Solar Bears,' a Friday night minor league hockey event in Orlando, Fla. "I definitely wanted to race more than the 24 races that we're doing in the truck series, and to get in a situation as good as Andy Petree has, with a shot at winning a race or two also, makes it two bonuses for the price of one."

APR team manager Steve Barkdoll said Friday the team would announce its sponsorship program during Speedweeks 2000 at Daytona International Speedway.

Sprague is scheduled to debut in Petree's No. 15 Chevrolet Monte Carlo in the Feb. 19 NAPA Auto Parts 300. It is the first of four NASCAR Busch Series events that will run in conjunction with his primary NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series program. Sprague He will also run NBS races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, California Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, The Milwaukee Mile, Nazareth Speedway, Dover Downs International Speedway, Lowe's Motor Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway.

Gilchrist, who capped three top-10 seasons in the Slim Jim All Pro Series by finishing second to champion Freddie Query in 1998, will open his NASCAR 2000 series effort at Atlanta Motor Speedway and continue with races at California, New Hampshire International Speedway, Nazareth Speedway, Pikes Peak International Raceway, Indianapolis Raceway Park, Michigan Speedway, Richmond International Raceway, North Carolina Speedway and Phoenix.

"We have two different sponsors, one for each driver, and it's really worked out as a good situation for us," Barkdoll said. "Because of where the sponsors want to race, it works out to us running two cars at some places, but we're working on getting that solved right now."

Barkdoll had Petree's two NASCAR Winston Cup Series operations, which field the No. 33 Oakwood Homes Chevrolets for Joe Nemechek and the No. 55 Square D Chevrolets for Kenny Wallace have been quick to step up to lend a hand when needed and would continue to do so.

So far, the operation, led by NBS crew chief Chris Carrier, has worked well with Sprague, who posted a speed in the top-5 of more than 30 teams that tested at Daytona earlier this week. Driven by Ken Schrader as a 1999 Chevrolet, the car won the Bud Pole for the 1999 NAPA Auto Parts 300.

"I think the car will be extremely good and potentially has a shot at the pole," said Sprague, who added that after racing in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for five years he was simply looking to diversify his resume with the blessing of crew chief Dennis Connor and owner Rick Hendrick. "Chris Carrier, the crew chief and I communicated well at the test. Andy was there the first day, our Fischer motors worked real well and I am pumped-up about it."

Barkdoll said the team has the best of both worlds with its two pilots and is looking forward to the additional challenges running the varied program will bring.

"We are real excited about having both of them in our cars," Barkdoll said. "With Jack we've got a veteran and a champion who we can go out with and potentially win multiple races with. Derrick is our young and upcoming talent.

"We put Derrick in an ARCA car for the race (last fall) at Atlanta, he had never seen the place but he broke the track record and ran second to (winner) Hornaday so we feel real good about bringing him along in the Busch Series."

Barkdoll said the team potentially would run Gilchrist in some ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series races this season as well, and was still seeking sponsorship to possibly run additional NBS races, which he said they might do anyway.

He said with the late emergence of the NASCAR Busch Series sponsors the seven full time members of the APR NASCAR Busch Series program have been hard at work. He said the team's Daytona Monte Carlo was ready for the paint booth and "we're in the middle of putting two more cars together, for Las Vegas and Atlanta, and then there are two more chassis getting bodies hung on them as we speak."

Barkdoll, who in past years had left the APR shop with several co-workers to help his father, part-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Phil Barkdoll prepare an effort for Speedweeks at Daytona, said more than likely his father wouldn't have a car together for Speedweeks, in part due to APR's heavy workload, but that Andy Hillenburg and the elder Barkdoll might hook up for an effort late in the year.

"Unfortunately things didn't come together with our sponsorships until January, but we were able to keep the guys together and working through the winter and going forward -- but now we've got more work than we know what to do with," Steve Barkdoll said. "Because it came together so late we're a little behind on the cars, but one thing that's helped us is we're one of the few organizations that does everything in-house ourselves, from building chassis to hanging bodies."

-nascar.com-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Ken Schrader , Joe Nemechek , Kenny Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Andy Hillenburg , Chris Carr