Rockingham: Jack Sprague race report

ROCKINGHAM, NC (February 24, 2003) - Jack Sprague and the NetZero Pontiac racing team made the most of a rough day at the tricky 1.017-mile North Carolina Speedway slugging their way to a 34th-place finish in the Subway 400 NASCAR Winston Cup...

ROCKINGHAM, NC (February 24, 2003) - Jack Sprague and the NetZero Pontiac racing team made the most of a rough day at the tricky 1.017-mile North Carolina Speedway slugging their way to a 34th-place finish in the Subway 400 NASCAR Winston Cup event Sunday.

"At least we could race with them," said Sprague in reference to the competition following the event. "The NetZero Pontiac wasn't perfect, but it was decent. I made some mistakes and we had some mistakes on pit road, but we learned a lot and we'll head to the next race at Las Vegas to see what we can do there."

Sprague qualified 34th in Friday's time trial session after spending the first practice session concentrating on race set-up. Led by veteran crew chief Dennis Connor, the team made the decision to work on the NetZero Pontiac's raceday package when it became evident rain would wash out Saturday's practice sessions. The decision paid off as gusting winds and heavy rain cancelled all on track activities Saturday.

Cold temperatures and gusty winds were what Mother Nature had in store at the drop of the green flag in the Subway 400 Sunday. Like many of the 43 competitors in the field, Sprague's NetZero Pontiac experienced handling problems in the early going making the car extremely difficult to drive.

North Carolina Speedway, known for its tire-eating abrasive surface, gave Sprague and the Haas CNC Racing team plenty of opportunities to make adjustments as they pitted nine times throughout the 393-lap affair. The changes allowed Sprague to stay on the lead lap until just past the 260th circuit. Later, Sprague lost two additional laps when NASCAR made the decision to throw the black flag for passing to the left before the start/finish line on a restart. That dropped Sprague a total of 10 spots in the running order and relegated the team to the 34th-place finish in the final rundown.

"We were better than the finish indicated," said Sprague, a 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender. "We were running with the lead pack at the end of the race, so I know we made a lot of progress today. I think that will help us a lot when we come back here to race again at the end of the season."

After a two-day test session at Atlanta Motor Speedway this week, Sprague and the NetZero team will head west for the running of the UAW-DiamlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 2 at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The third NASCAR Winston Cup event of the season will be telecast live on Fox and will be broadcast worldwide by PRN Radio.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jack Sprague