By David Reininger â€“ motorsport.com RICHMOND, Va. (September 6, 2001) â€“ Jack Sprague burned up the track at Richmond International Raceway winning the Kroger 200 over Kevin Harvick by .062 of a second. It was the third closest finish in...
By David Reininger – motorsport.com
RICHMOND, Va. (September 6, 2001) – Jack Sprague burned up the track at Richmond International Raceway winning the Kroger 200 over Kevin Harvick by .062 of a second. It was the third closest finish in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history.
After leading 196 of 200 laps, Sprague treated the crowd to a display of doughnuts and tire smoke that caused his rear tires to burst into flames. Sprague drove to victory lane with the rear of his truck in flames where his crew was anxiously waiting to greet him.
Sprague’s 23rd career victory, his fourth this season, moves the Spring Lake, Mich. driver to the top of the championship standings. He now leads Joe Ruttman by 27 points.
Dennis Setzer held onto the lead from his pole position for the first lap but Sprague, who started on the outside of the front row lunged ahead as the pair dove into turn one to start the second lap. Sprague immediately pulled out a handsome lead with Setzer attempting to keep him within sight.
Kevin Harvick, who started third, slipped back early in the race after making contact with another truck. With 15 laps in the book, Harvick had been relegated to sixth place.
Lance Norick and J.D. Gibbs made contact entering turn three to bring out the caution flag on lap 20. The leaders stayed on the track, negating Spague’s huge lead. Sprague lined up to take the green with second place Rick Crawford right behind him. Behind Crawford, third though sixth, Setzer, Scott Riggs, Terry Cook and Kevin Harvick, lined up nose to tail.
Sprague began to pull away from the field once more, but Crawford was able to keep him honest, letting the No 24 enjoy a four truck length lead. Scott Riggs soon joined Crawford in a battle for the runner-up position while Sprague pulled further away.
With 50 laps in the book, Sprague led easily, but the truck to keep an eye on was the No. 60 of Travis Kvapil, who nudged his way into the top-ten after starting 22nd.
A lap 70 caution period sent the field to the pits for their first scheduled pit stop. Sprauge was easily away with the lead, with Riggs and Setzer close behind. Kvapil, whose crew did an amazing job servicing the CAT Rental Stores Chevrolet, picked up six spots in the pits.
When the race returned to green, Sprague showed his strength once more, this time with Riggs trailing by less than a second. Sprague and Riggs easily pulled away from the battle for third between Setzer, Kvapil and Crawford.
At the mid point of the race, Riggs, who had been doing a great job of keeping Sprague honest, edged towards the wall in turn two. Although he did not lose second place, Riggs fell three seconds behind the leader.
A lap 141 caution period stopped the on track action eliminating another huge Sprague lead. Once again the field reported to the pits for service. Crawford and Riggs followed Sprague, who stopped without losing the lead, out of the pits. Kvapil, Harvick and Setzer lined up nose to tail behind the top three.
On lap 168, Riggs, who had been flirting with the turn two wall all night, finally made contact, forcing the Team ASE Dodge to the pits for repairs. A violation during his pit stop sent Riggs an additional lap behind the leaders.
With 25 laps to go, it was continued smooth sailing for Sprague who enjoyed a one-second lead. Crawford was unchallenged for second.
Five laps later, Crawford and Harvick showed their hand, pushing their way to the front, just two-tenths of a second behind the leader. The trio raced nose to tail with Harvick looking under Crawford on lap 186. Harvick made a successful bid for second and immediately pressured Sprague for the lead.
With five laps to go, Harvick moved alongside Sprague but soon found his path blocked by lapped traffic. With no place to go, Harvick shoved Sprague aside, taking the lead.
“That was the most fun I’ve had in race car in a long time,” said Harvick. “Jack (Sprague) was doing everything he had to do to win the race. I was doing I could, but wreck him.
“With those last ten laps, I’ll have to go back and watch it again to see just how much fun we had.”
Sprague returned the favor with a nudge from behind, allowing Ted Musgrave to take the lead. Shoving Musgrave aside, Sprague and Harvick moved back into the top spots. The pair raced side by side to the checkered flag with Sprague taking the victory by .062 of a second, the third closest NASCAR Craftsman Truck race in history.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to pull it off,” said Sprague. “We were beating and banging and I know Kevin wanted to win this thing extremely bad. But I knew he wasn’t going to take me out because I’m running for a championship. I thank him for that.
“He roughed me up pretty good going down the straghtaway but I guess he figured I could hold onto it. I roughed him up pretty good in (turns) one and two. I tell you, I’m glad it’s over.”