CONCORD, NC (May 27, 2003) - An ill-timed caution flag, a flat tire and rain showers hampered the efforts of Jack Sprague and the NetZero Racing team during the running of the Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's (Concord, N.C.) Motor Speedway Sunday night.
CONCORD, NC (May 27, 2003) - An ill-timed caution flag, a flat tire and rain showers hampered the efforts of Jack Sprague and the NetZero Racing team during the running of the Coca Cola 600 at Lowe's (Concord, N.C.) Motor Speedway Sunday night. However, the misfortunes were unable to dampen the spirits of the driver and team after their 22nd-place finish.
"We had a Top-10 car tonight," lamented Sprague. "I don't know what we have to do to get some good luck on our side, but the NetZero HiSpeed Pontiac was awesome all night. We got caught a couple laps down after a caution flag and then had a flat tire, but things are really looking up for this team."
Sprague posted his career-best qualifying effort for the event running a speed of 183.530 miles per hour around the 1.5-mile oval, which placed him in fifth-place on the starting grid. His impressive qualifying run was backed up by quick times in both practice sessions that followed. The Coca-Cola 600 started on a soggy note as the green and yellow flags were thrown in unison to signify the start of the race. Following several laps of track drying after rain showers soaked the Charlotte, N.C. area earlier that day, the event was off and running.
Despite minor handling problems, Sprague remained in the Top-10 for the first 125 laps, which included a brief red flag for rain and a pit stop that allowed the team to make adjustments to the NetZero HiSpeed Pontiac. Sprague lost a couple positions after a great save in turns one and two, but remained patient working his way back through traffic before making a green-flag pit stop on Lap 196 for four fresh tires and fuel.
Unfortunately, a caution flag was thrown four laps later before the entire field had made pit stops. Upon the restart, only three cars remained on the lead lap, and the NetZero Pontiac was two laps down.
Sprague was able to make up one of those laps, but encountered more difficulties on lap 238 when he radioed to his crew he had a flat left front tire. After making a pit stop for left side tires, Sprague once again found himself two laps down running in the Top-30. Sprague continued to hunt down his competitors. When the skies opened up and rain began to fall again on the speedway on Lap 276, he held down 22nd place. NASCAR officials elected to end the race immediately, handing Sprague and the team their second-best finish of the season.
"We rolled of the truck good, backed up our practice times in qualifying and had a really good car for the race," said Sprague. "I'm disappointed with 22nd tonight because the NetZero Pontiac was so much better than that. On the other hand, as rough as our year has been, it feels pretty good to be disappointed with a Top-25 run."
For their efforts Sunday, the NetZero Racing team earned $73,350. Sprague is now 39th in the NASCAR Winston Cup owner point standings, while he stands just one point shy of third place in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle.
Following a two-day test at Pocono (Penn.) Raceway this week, the NetZero Racing team will travel to Dover (Del.) for the running of the MBNA Armed Forces Family 400 at Dover International Speedway. Qualifying for the event will take place Friday, May 30, with the drop of the green flag scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The event will be telecast live on FX and will be broadcast worldwide by MRN Radio.