MONROE, Wash. - Jack Sprague, aided by a caution in which he played a role, came from a lap behind to win Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Sears 200 race at Evergreen Speedway. A lap down in 16th-place after pitting to ...
MONROE, Wash. - Jack Sprague, aided by a caution in which he played a role, came from a lap behind to win Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Sears 200 race at Evergreen Speedway. A lap down in 16th-place after pitting to replace a cut right rear tire on the 128th of 200 scheduled circuits, Sprague methodically worked his way back into contention as the race ran without caution. Third-place, however, appeared as far as the defending series champion would get until contact with Brendan Gaughan's lapped truck, as the pair raced off Turn 4, sent Gaughan crashing into a concrete barrier at the head of pit road to bring out the caution. The race's fifth yellow extended the scheduled distance and sent leaders Randy Tolsma, Joe Ruttman and Dennis Setzer to pit road to replace right side tires more than 100 laps old. That gave Sprague the lead when competition resumed for two, deciding laps on the 206th circuit. Tolsma, who'd led from the 96th lap, drove his CITGO SUPERGARD Dodge from fourth to second in the space of 100 yards but couldn't overhaul Sprague's GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet. Sprague carried a 0.221-second advantage to the checkered flag - the closest margin in six series stops at Evergreen Speedway.. The victory, worth $37,610, was Sprague's third in the past four races and extended his championship lead to 97 points over Greg Biffle. He averaged 70.415 mph, well off the track record. "When we got to third (and the caution came out) we discussed whether to pit or not and I said, I can't win if we pit," said Sprague. "I wasn't graveyard dead but I was out of (right side) tires. I got a good restart and didn't spin the tires too much. I saw Tolsma get into second on the white flag lap. "I thought I had enough distance to hold them. It was just fortunate everything worked out." The finish, Sprague's ninth top-five in succession, set a series record. Tolsma failed to break a 64-race losing streak but posted his best finish of the season. Ruttman, who started from the Bud Pole, led twice in finishing third in his DANA Corporation Dodge. Biffle took fourth in his Grainger Ford, ahead of Roush Racing teammate Kurt Busch's Exide Batteries F-150. Setzer and Rick Carelli finished sixth and seventh, the final drivers to complete all 207 laps of the 0.646-mile track. Andy Houston, Scott Riggs and Bryan Reffner filled out the top-10. Three drivers - Randy Renfrow, Rick Crawford and Terry Cook - were penalized a lap by NASCAR officials for failing to hold their positions on the final, single-file restart. Renfrow suffered the most, dropping from a provisional eighth to 11th. Sprague, Tolsma and Ruttman exchanged the lead three times. The race's five caution flags consumed 35 laps. Gaughan, the current NASCAR Winston West Series point leader, escaped injury in one of two spectacular accidents. Earlier, Ryan McGlynn walked away from his demolished Chevrolet, which spun on the backstretch, hit a tire barrier and flipped over, landing on its wheels. The race began on a sour note as the rear quarter of the field - eight drivers - tangled in the first turn at the beginning of the second lap. Among those involved, Steve Grissom, gave up a top-five point position after parking on pit road for 20 laps to replace his Dodge's smashed radiator. Sprague showed his muscle early, taking the lead from Ruttman out of No. 2 starting spot, then running easily ahead of the pole winner and Andy Houston until the field pitted under caution for Jim Inglebright's spin on the 76th lap. Ruttman and Tolsma won the race off pit road, dropping Sprague to third, while Houston's CAT Rental Store Chevrolet - smoking heavily for several laps - made a half- dozen trips in for service and lost a lap as the green flag waved on the 84th circuit. Mike Wallace, who moved from fifth to third in the early going, already was laps down and out of contention with a damaged rear end gear. Houston, attempting to regain lost ground, tangled with McGlynn on the 93rd serial to produce what nearly became the final caution. This time, Tolsma prevailed in the pits and built a big lead - especially after Sprague's lurking presence evaporated when he pitted under green to drop a lap and one half off the pace. Sprague, however, wasn't finished. He caught and passed Tolsma in Turn 2 on lap 170 and, 26 serials later, swept past Setzer's Mopar Performance Dodge for third-place. A split second later, Sprague and Gaughan - the latter driver in 10th - got together in what Gaughan later termed "two trucks on old tires going for the same hole." The yellow put the three Dodges between the proverbial rock and the hard place - on tires some 30 laps older than those on Sprague's Chevy. Their fate was sealed when they drove down pit road. "I was praying there that they wouldn't get that green-white-checkered finish but we did and I knew that somebody would stay out," said Tolsma. "I drove what I thought I needed to drive and I just came up one position short. "We were running strong all day and I know that we are going to win one of these things soon." Ruttman, meanwhile, gave Sprague his due for making a tall, cold glass of lemonade out of what -at one point - was nothing more than a handful of lemon skins. "My hat's off to Sprague for that shrewd move he pulled off at the end," he said. The series moves from one of its slowest venues to the second fastest for Friday's Pronto Auto Parts 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The results: Bud Pole -- Joe Ruttman, Dodge, 23.305 seconds, 99.790 mph Failed to qualify (4) - Jason Roche, Chevrolet; Bobby Hillis, Chevrolet; Bobby Norfleet, Chevrolet; Charlie Solomon, Chevrolet Sears 200 (207 laps) -- 1. (2)Jack Sprague, Chevrolet, 207, 70.524 mph, $37,610; 2. (12)Randy Tolsma, Dodge, 207, $29,375; 3. (1)Joe Ruttman, Dodge, 207, $18,905; 4. (8)Greg Biffle, Ford, 207, $10,975; 5. (3)Kurt Busch, Ford, 207, $11,005; 6. (16)Dennis Setzer, Dodge, 207, $8,975; 7.(5)Rick Carelli, Ford, 207, $7,275; 8. (4)Andy Houston, Chevrolet, 206, $8,075; 9. (7)Scott Riggs, Dodge, 206, $7,050; 10. (13)Bryan Reffner, Chevrolet, 205, $9,400; 11. (10)Randy Renfrow, Dodge, 205, $7,950; 12. (18)Jimmy Hensley, Chevrolet, 205, $7,900; 13. (11)Terry Cook, Chevrolet, 204, $7,825; 14. (9)Rick Crawford, Ford, 204, $7,775; 15. (20)Jim Inglebright, Chevrolet, 204, $7,025; 16. (6)Mike Wallace, Ford, 204, $7,675; 17. (29)Rick Ware, Chevrolet, 204, $6,475; 18. (31)Andy Genzman, Ford, 204, $6,425; 19. (24)Carlos Contreras, Dodge, 203, $7,375; 20. (19)Lance Norick, Chevrolet, 203, $7,575; 21. (25)B.A. Wilson, Chevrolet, 202, $7,275; 22. (23)Steve Prescott, Chevrolet, 202, $6,225; 23. (21)Randy MacDonald, Chevrolet, 201, $7,175; 24. (14)Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 197, accident, $6,125; 25. (15)Marty Houston, Chevrolet, 197, $7,025; 26. (22)Steve Grissom, Dodge, 186, $7,000; 27. (17)Rob Morgan, Ford, 138, accident, $6,975; 28. (28)Ryan McGlynn, Chevrolet, 89, accident, $5,950; 29. (27)John Young, Ford, 45, engine, $5,925; 30. (30)Brian Winters, Ford, 30, handling, $5,900; 31. (32)Phil Bonifield, Chevrolet, 20, transmission, $5,875; 32. (26)Donny Morelock, Dodge, 2, accident, $5,850 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Points - 1. Jack Sprague 1,614; 2. Greg Biffle 1,517; 3. Andy Houston 1,495; 4. Mike Wallace 1,493; 5. Kurt Busch 1,431; 6. Dennis Setzer 1,431; 7. Steve Grissom 1,367; 8. Joe Ruttman 1,361; 9. Jimmy Hensley 1,292; 10. Randy Tolsma 1,281
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES SEARS 200 NOTES AND QUOTES
MONROE, Wash. - Not one soul in the Hendrick Motorsports camp expressed concern about Jack Sprague's hopes for a third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship after the defending champ was kayoed by accident and finished 33rd in the season opening Daytona 250. Saturday's come-from-behind victory in the Sears 200 at Evergreen Speedway, along with a 97- point championship lead, proves that Sprague won't easily relinquish the crown. In fact the fight, as the 2000 season nears its mid-point, may be uphill for his competition.
Since Daytona, Sprague has reeled off nine consecutive top-four finishes to erase Ron Hornaday's 1997 record. During the string, the Spring Lake, Mich. veteran has averaged 2.333. The Sears 200 victory was his third in the tour's last four races.
Saturday's comeback was vintage Sprague. Even his old fender-rubbing buddy Hornaday would have been impressed.
"When you get right down to it," observed crew chief Dennis Connor, "Jack drove his butt off." An estimated 400 fans sampled delicacies grilled by a number of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team hauler drivers prior to the Sears 200. The event raised $1,300 for charity. Rick Carelli performed double duty at Evergreen Speedway, driving the Carlin Burners & Controls Ford to a season-matching best performance of seventh-place and - prior to the race - calling the shots as the Phelon Motorsports crew chief. Carelli, who qualified fifth, ran as high as third. "We've overcome a lot of adversity here at Monroe this week and the guys really worked hard," said Carelli, 20th in points after seven finishes of 20th or worse. "We'll just go on from here and use the rest of the season as a judge on how we are doing and how we end up." Crew chief Doug George got time in the driver's seat of Impact Motorsports' Hot Wheels Dodge, qualifying the truck and taking over for injured regular Carlos Contreras during the race's first caution. He finished 19th, a spot ahead of Hermie Sadler in a continuing relief role for Lance Norick. Contreras bruised ligaments in his left knee in a Pikes Peak International Raceway accident May 23 and isn't expected to be 100 percent until later this month. Two more competitors have filed for series rookie-of-the-year consideration. Scott Riggs, made permanent in the Royal Crown Cola Dodge prior to the Sears 200, collected his first 11 freshman points with his second consecutive top-10 finish. Donny Morelock, who'll wheel Bobby Hamilton's R&D Ram in a majority of the remaining races on the schedule, was among eight drivers involved in a second lap fracas and finished 32nd in his NCTS debut. Hamilton hired Fred Wanke as a one-race consultant and the former Petty Enterprises crew chief's presence certainly had a salutary effect. Joe Ruttman captured his fourth Bud Pole of the year, led 19 laps and finished third. Regular crew chief Danny Gill, on NASCAR suspension since the team's fuel violation in St. Louis, returns for the Pronto Auto Parts 400 this week at Texas Motor Speedway.
Fans and Evergreen Speedway management, used to seeing short fields in past seasons for arguably the most remote stop on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule, beamed at the record, 36-truck entry that battled for 32 starting spots. Long tow honors were a toss-up between Morelock of Largo, Fla. and Gardiner, Maine's Steve Prescott.
For just the second time in six NCTS stops at Evergreen Speedway, sunny weather prevailed. An overflow crowd turned out for a Sears 200 run under clear skies with temperatures in the mid-70s.
The final caution addition of seven laps to the Sears 200 was the first "overtime" race for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since Aug. 5, 1999 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. The 1997 edition of the race, won by Rich Bickle, went three laps past the scheduled 200.