TOPEKA, Ks. - ...
TOPEKA, Ks. - #24 Team GMAC driver Jack Sprague feels good about his chances for success - and about the possibility of securing a first-ever road course victory - as he makes his way to Topeka for Saturday's running of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 275 at Heartland Park (ESPN: 2:30 p.m. EDT). That's because Sprague has never finished outside of the top 10 at Topeka. In the last three years, in fact, his proficiency at the 2.1-mile, 12-turn road course has produced three consecutive top-5 finishes. Items of note include:
* Sprague is coming off a dominant effort at Gateway International Raceway last Friday. The driver of the #24 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet Silverado led the most laps (67) of any driver in the 32-truck field. Sprague's apparent victory went by the wayside when the 35-year-old Spring Lake, Mich. native was boxed in during his final stop along pit road. The result was a solid, yet disappointing third-place finish.
* The O'Reilly Auto Parts 275 is the final road course event of the 1999 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season. Sprague has had an up-and-down experience on the serpentine tracks in '99, offsetting a 28th-place finish in Portland (June 18) with a strong third-place effort the following weekend at Watkins Glen (June 26).
* Sprague boasts an average finish of 6.21 in four years of NCTS road course competition. In 13 prior events, Sprague has amassed more points than any other driver (1,948) on the circuit.
* Sprague is one of just four drivers to start all 13 road course races in NCTS history.
* Six races remain on the '99 schedule and Sprague sits second in the championship standings, 53 points behind leader Greg Biffle.
* Sprague still holds the series record for most superspeedway victories in a season with five. The #24 Team GMAC driver established the record back in 1996 with wins at Phoenix (2), Nazareth, Milwaukee and Las Vegas. Stops remain this year at Las Vegas, Texas and California as half of the season's final six events will be hosted by superspeedways.
Sprague's thoughts heading into Saturday's event at Heartland Park Topeka:
"This is a left-handed road course for the most part," Sprague said. "Because of that, we tend to run more left side weight than right. Compared to other road courses, it's a pretty simple deal to prepare for at Topeka. The track requires just a basic set-up with equal suspension in the front, leaning toward the soft side, and equal suspension in the rear."
Sprague added, "Heat has been a big consideration at Topeka in years past. I just hope the weather cooperates this weekend. We've done just about everything you can do at Topeka (two consecutive runner-up finishes in 1996-97) except win. I'd really like to change that on Saturday and make a move up the ladder in terms of points."
"Once you've had that top spot for awhile, like we have for a good part of the season, chasing someone else isn't exactly fun," Sprague continued. "But, I like our chances in the long run -- I really do. This series has gotten a whole bunch more competitive this year, but we're still in position to possibly bring home a championship. That's all you can ask for: a chance. And I know Team GMAC will make the most of that opportunity."
Jack Sprague's Career Record At Heartland Park Topeka
Year Event Start Finish Laps Money Won Status 1998 Lund Look 275K 12 4 81/81 $16,870 Running 1997 Lund Look 275K 5 2 81/81 26,450 Running 1996 Lund Look 225K 12 2 77/77 23,295 Running 1995 Heartland Tailgate 175K 14 7 60/60 4,850 Running