GLADEVILLE, Tenn. - First place on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is sort of like picking up a hot horseshoe. You don't hold it for long. Jack Sprague's stay atop the championship was a short one - one week - as electrical problems kept...
GLADEVILLE, Tenn. - First place on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is sort of like picking up a hot horseshoe. You don't hold it for long.
Jack Sprague's stay atop the championship was a short one - one week - as electrical problems kept his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet from taking the green flag for Friday night's Federated Auto Parts 200. After his crew repaired a coil wire, an 11-lap ordeal, Sprague soldiered to a 21st place finish. The two-time series champion dropped all the way to third-place in the standings with his 17-point advantage reversing to a deficit of 43.
"What can you say, we broke again," said a dejected Sprague. "We had a coil wire break where it went through the firewall - totally a freak thing. Instead of arcing to the distributor, it was arcing to the firewall. Without any spark, the truck just wouldn't run."
Sprague, however, was just the latest leader to run afoul of what's become a top of the standings jinx in 2001. Scott Riggs, who'd led by 118 points just two races earlier, dropped from the lead June 30 after a 24th-place finish at The Milwaukee Mile. That elevated Joe Ruttman to the top spot but only for one week when he finished 24th at Kansas Speedway.
Riggs appeared on the rebound, winning at Kentucky Speedway on July 14. But, on Aug. 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, he finished 21st to surrender the lead to Sprague.
With eight races - a third of the schedule - remaining, the championship would appear to be wide-open as Ruttman tops Riggs by 32 points and 130 cover the top five positions. Sixth-place Ted Musgrave, who finished second to his teammate Riggs at Nashville Superspeedway, is 160 off the pace.
Jim and Marlene Smith's Ultra Motorsports won just 10 races between 1995 and 2000 - and never more than two in a year. The Riggs-Musgrave tandem has posted eight victories over the year's first half.
The team's pair of Dodges previously ran one-two on May 6 when Musgrave headed partner Riggs at Gateway International Raceway.
Riggs became the sixth different driver to win a series event in the Music City. His average speed of 132.466 mph made the Federated Auto Parts 200 the sixth fastest race in NCTS history. Riggs headed 131 of 150 laps - the first time the North Carolinian has captured the Gatorade Front Runner Award for most laps led.
The night's two cautions matched the record for fewest caution periods on the series, set in 1999 at The Milwaukee Mile and equaled at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year. Ten laps of caution matched the lowest superspeedway total recorded July 3, 1999 at Milwaukee.
Third-place Rick Crawford posted his best finish of 2001, improving on a pair of fourths. "We were best in class," said the Ford-mounted veteran matched last year's top finish that came Sept. 22 at Dover Downs International Speedway, like Nashville a concrete-surfaced track.
Dodge now has won four consecutive series races in Nashville, dating to Jimmy Hensley's Nashville Speedway USA victory in 1998.
Many made Ricky Hendrick the odds-on favorite to win Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year honors but, following the competition's second leg, it's Travis Kvapil atop the freshman standings by four points over Hendrick. Kvapil added 10 bonus points to his season total with a fifth-place finish - despite a lap four altercation with the Turn 3 wall that sent his CAT Rental Stores Chevrolet to the rear of the field after repairs had been effected during the race's only two cautions.
"Fortunately for me, the caution came out a few laps later," Kvapil said of the incident. "They pounded out the spoiler and stuff (but) we were really concerned. This was a bonus points race for the rookie-of-the-year race and we needed to come out of here with a good finish."
Both Kvapil and Hendrick got NCTS bonus points for leading the Federated Auto Parts 200 but the latter finished 11th, two laps behind, after making two green flag stops to Kvapil's one.
Chicago professional sports franchises will partner with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams for the running of the Aug. 18 Sears Craftsman 175 at Chicago Motor Speedway. Each participating truck will carry a franchise logo and host a player as an honorary pit crew member.
The matchups include Crawford (NHL Blackhawks), Hendrick (NBA Bulls), Coy Gibbs (MLB Cubs), Sprague (Arena Football League Rush), and Carlos Contreras (Major League Soccer Fire). Several other partnerships will be announced prior to the Windy City event.