FONTANA, Calif. (Nov. 3, 2001): Chevy Silverado drivers Jack Sprague and Travis Kvapil needed only to take the green flag at the Auto Club 200 at California Speedway in the final race of the 2001 24-event NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to collect...
FONTANA, Calif. (Nov. 3, 2001): Chevy Silverado drivers Jack Sprague and Travis Kvapil needed only to take the green flag at the Auto Club 200 at California Speedway in the final race of the 2001 24-event NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to collect the driver's championship and Rookie-of-the-Year honors, respectively. And they did it in style.
As the green flag flew, a championship banner was unfurled in the No. 24 NetZero Chevy Silverado pits as Sprague's Hendrick Motorsports team celebrated Sprague's record third driver's championship and the record sixth for a Chevy driver in the series' seven-year history. Chevrolet championship hats were distributed as the crew members cheered their driver into the history books.
Several pits away, the No. 60 Cat Rental Stores Silverado team members of Addington Racing didn't produce any banners and/or championship hats, but you could almost hear that silent sigh of relief as Travis Kvapil crossed the start/finish line as the starter dropped the green flag to claim the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year award, the first for a Chevrolet driver since the award's inception in 1996. In fact, the top four spots in this year's rookie challenge went to Chevy Silverado drivers: Kvapil, Ricky Hendrick, Matt Crafton and Billy Bigley.
Neither championship was an easy one, as both Sprague and Kvapil endured a tough season and strong competition from a crop of veterans and newcomers to capture their respective titles.
Sprague, 37, of Spring Lake, Mich., won four times in 2001, posting 15 top-five, 17 to-10 finishes and seven pole positions, more poles than any other driver. He came close, but didn't match Ron Hornaday's 25 series' all-time victories (in Chevy Trucks) with his career total of 23, all in Chevrolet Trucks. He does stand atop the all-time career rankings for most pole positions, 20.
Sprague's team owner, Rick Hendrick, will receive a check for $10,000 from Chevrolet as the top Chevrolet team owner at the year-end banquet to be held this Thursday in Miami.
Kvapil, 25, of Janesville, Wis., edged out Ricky Hendrick, driver of the No. 17 GMAC Silverado, for Rookie-of-the-Year honors by 18 points in a championship chase that saw a see-saw battle for the lead between the two for the entire season. Kvapil scored one win, 11 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes, taking fourth in overall standings to Hendrick's sixth. Kvapil also helped earn Addington Racing its third straight Chevy Trucks "Like a Rock" award of $50,000 for completing the most laps in a season.
Hendrick compiled 19 top-10 finishes, including one victory, for a series rookie record. This is the first time in the series' history that two official rookie candidates finished in the top 10.
Five Silverado drivers ended up in the top 10 in championship points, including Sprague in first, Kvapil in fourth, Hendrick sixth, Dennis Setzer, in the No. 46 Acxiom/Computer Associates Silverado, in ninth, and Coy Gibbs, driving the No. 20 MBNA Silverado, in 10th.
Chevy Silverados won seven races in 2001: four for Sprague, and one each for Kvapil, Hendrick and Setzer. Nine pole positions were grabbed by Chevy Silverado drivers, with seven in Sprague's column, and two in Setzer's.
Sprague led the most laps this year, 1380, as Chevy Silverados in total led 1703 laps of a possible 4281, more than any other manufacturer.
After seven years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Chevrolet holds
the following records:
* Most race wins: 87 of 170 (51 percent)
* Most manufacturer's championships: 4 (1995-1998)
* Most poles: 70
* Most consecutive poles in series: 12 in 1995
* Most poles in a season: 17 in 1995
* Most driver career wins: Ron Hornaday 25; Jack Sprague 23
* Most driver's championships: 6 (1995-1999, 2001):
1995 Mike Skinner
1996 Ron Hornaday
1997 Ron Hornaday
1998 Ron Hornaday
1999 Jack Sprague
2001 Jack Sprague