Power Stroke Diesel 200 Sprague Too Tough For Indianapolis Challengers Wins For Second Time On Tight, IRP Short Track INDIANAPOLIS -- Jack Sprague is streaking, to say the least. The two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, leading a...
Power Stroke Diesel 200
Sprague Too Tough For Indianapolis Challengers
Wins For Second Time On Tight, IRP Short Track
INDIANAPOLIS -- Jack Sprague is streaking, to say the least.
The two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, leading a record 11th consecutive race, vaulted to the top of the championship standings with a superlative performance in capturing Friday night's Power Stroke Diesel 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Sprague, who started from the No. 2 position in the 36-truck field and grabbed the lead on the opening lap, eventually headed 149 of 200 serials including the final 99. A persistent Terry Cook, racing his Ford F-150 for the race sponsor, got to within a couple of lengths of Sprague's NetZero Platinum Chevrolet at lap 143 but fell 1.234 seconds short at the checkered flag.
The victory was Sprague's third of the 2001 campaign, second in succession and 22nd of a perfect, 161-race NCTS career. He won $42,410 at an average speed of 80.745 mph as seven cautions consumed 39 laps. Sprague also won at IRP in 1998 and joins Mike Skinner as a two-time race winner.
More important, the soon-to-be 37-year-old veteran slipped past third-place Joe Ruttman and a fading Scott Riggs to pick up the championship lead for a record, sixth consecutive season. Sprague, with titles in 1997 and 1999, heads Ruttman by 17 points and Riggs by 74.
Riggs, who could do no wrong over the season's first eight races, finished 21st -- and out of the top-20 for the fourth time in his most recent seven starts. Riggs' troubles began on the 19th lap when a rear suspension piece failed and continued 40 circuits later when, attempting to regain one of three lost laps, spun in the .686-mile track's second turn.
"It's not going to be the end of the world if I don't win (the championship), where to some other guys it will be," said Sprague who has pocketed the Gatorade Front Runner Award for most laps led in seven of his last nine starts. "We've won two of them. Not that I'm not trying, don't get me wrong. I don't think anybody can doubt that. It won't crush my world if I don't win another one, but we'd like one more."
Ruttman-- like Cook -- couldn't parlay a final restart with 15 laps remaining into a serious challenge to Sprague. The Bud Pole starter for the second consecutive year barely held off his DANA Corporation Dodge team's owner, Bobby Hamilton. Raybestos Rookie contender Travis Kvapil, who started a distant 19th, did a masterful job of working his way to the front to claim fifth-place.
A late charge brought Rick Crawford back to sixth, where he started, ahead of Matt Crafton, who led 22 laps after Sprague pitted for service under caution on the 51st serial. Dennis Setzer, the 20th-place starter, 16-year-old Kyle Busch and Bobby Dotter completed the top 10 of 15 lead lap finishers. Busch, forced into a backup Eldon Ford after walling the primary Roush Racing mount on his second qualifying lap, started shotgun on the field, went a lap down at mid-race but rebounded to become the series' youngest to debut with a finish of 10th or better.
Sprague set the tempo for the evening's competition at the drop of the green flag, easily out- racing Ruttman into the first turn. Ruttman and Cook gamely gave chase but that battle, which raged virtually to the finish, turned out to be for second-place.
Riggs' spin brought all but Crafton, Rodney Sawyers, Ricky Hendrick and Morgan Shepherd down pit road on lap 50 where Ruttman's crew got their driver out ahead of Sprague and into fifth-place. Crafton's XeSighting Systems Chevrolet paced the field until lap 72, when Hendrick brought his GMAC Financial Services Silverado to the helm.
A four-truck accident in Turn 2 involving Jon Wood, Larry Gunselman, Lance Norick and Ronnie Hornaday triggered the fourth caution on lap 101, putting the entire field on the same pit sequence. Sprague, Ruttman, Hamilton, Hendrick and Cook comprised the top-five on the restart eight circuits later.
Hendrick's bid for a high finish evaporated on the 128th lap when, racing hard with Coy Gibbs, he spun in the first turn. The accident also put Ted Musgrave's Dodge, which was in sixth-place, behind the wall for repairs. Musgrave ultimately finished 23rd, six laps off the pace.
The leaders -- excepting Crawford, who stopped for tires on lap 123 -- went the final 98 laps without pit service. Cook caught Hamilton for third on lap 127 and Ruttman on lap 139. He was a half- second behind Sprague, a disadvantage he pared to two truck lengths at lap 143. Sprague, however, pressed the gas and drew away. "I was a little worried about Terry. He was pretty quick," said Sprague. "But my truck would stay. It had stay-power and then he got a little slower -- I don't know if he got tight or loose. I saw him start to fade a little bit, so I felt like I was in pretty decent shape. When that last caution came out I had no idea how good he was going to be off the caution. My truck was real good off the caution so we were all right." Cook, meanwhile, was a bit surprised that he wasn't able to capitalize on the final restart. Sprague steamed away while his pursuer got hung up racing the lapped truck of Jim Inglebright. "I think he saved a little bit for the end," said Cook who posted his best finish in nearly three years and Ford's first second-place effort of the 2001 season. "I thought we had something for Jack -- but he's a crafty, old veteran." The busy month of August continues Friday with the tour's initial trip to the 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway and the Music City's Federated Auto Parts 250.