Las Vegas race notes

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Jack Sprague has led the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings during six consecutive seasons and, when he boosted his margin over Joe Ruttman to 97 points on Sunday, he topped the championship table for the 50th ...

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- Jack Sprague has led the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings during six consecutive seasons and, when he boosted his margin over Joe Ruttman to 97 points on Sunday, he topped the championship table for the 50th time.

It appears the clincher will go down to the Auto Club 200 finale at California Speedway but Sprague, without a doubt, will have to stumble considerable for Ruttman or third-place Scott Riggs to overhaul the steady Michigan veteran. Sprague can clinch the title by finishing ninth or better in each of the 2001 season's final two events.

Sprague's seventh pole of the season wrapped up the 2001 Bud Pole Award of $15,000. He's now qualified fastest on 20 occasions over a NCTS career of 148 races. What motivates Sprague to run so well in Las Vegas you ask? Self-preservation, quips Sprague.

"This place takes so much of my money gambling, running good here makes me feel good about something," he said. Sprague's lap of 33.374 seconds erased Stacy Compton's record set in 1999, the last time the series appeared at LVMS. Sprague also picked up two more special awards: the $12,500 Gatorade Front Runner and $10,000 Clevite Engine Builder for Ronnie Reavis.

Brian Rose donated his share of the Orleans 350 prize fund to the American Red Cross and carried the organization's logo, along with that of the New York City Fire Department, on his No. 51 Sunclear Energy Chevrolet. The sponsor also donated $25 for each lap Rose's Ware Racing Enterprises Silverado completed.

"I feel this is the least I can do for some real heroes," said Rose who completed 134 serials.

Among the more interesting patriotic color schemes among Sunday's race starters was that of Conely Racing's Chevrolet -- painted nose-to-tail as an American Flag.

NASCAR Winston West Series veteran Steve Portenga announced Saturday that his Roto Rooter-sponsored team would move to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2002. The Bakersfield, Calif. --based competitor competed full-time on the NCTS in 1995 with a best finish of 5th, at I-70 Speedway near Kansas City.

Defending NWWS champion and current point leader Brendan Gaughan is expected to announce his 2002 plans on the NCTS in a couple of weeks at Phoenix International Raceway. His Orleans Racing team currently carries NAPA Auto Parts colors. The team was a fixture on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Ron Hornaday until moving to the NASCAR Busch Series.

Scott Riggs was sore but unhurt after a Turn 3 accident in Saturday night's 24 Hour Fitness 150. His Teams ASE Racing Dodge Intrepid, which qualified second and led much of the early portion of the NWWS event, suffered a cut left front tire, sending the car hard into the outside wall. Gaughan, who started 10th, won the race while Bud Pole starter Jon Wood finished ninth.

Ted Musgrave's Mopar Performance Dodge qualified a disappointing 10th after which crew chief Fred Wanke ordered an engine change, relegating the truck to the tail end of the 36-team starting lineup. NASCAR officials determined that while the engine may not have been performing up to the team's expectations, the engine remained serviceable, hence the penalty.

All 36 starters of the Orleans 350 carried "black boxes" installed by NASCAR to monitor g forces in the event of an accident. Data then can be downloaded via PC. One of the boxes was aboard Conrad Burr's Chevrolet which was severely damaged Friday after a freeze plug blew out, dumping water under the wheels which sent the truck backwards into the Turn 3 wall. Burr was unhurt but was forced to withdraw from further competition.

His 33rd series start was the charm: Phil Bonifield was running at the finish for the first time in a NCTS career that began in 1999. He completed 141 laps, finishing 24th.

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Stacy Compton , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Brian Rose , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Brendan Gaughan , Conrad Burr , Phil Bonifield , Steve Portenga