MEMPHIS, TN - June 20, 2004 - Jack Sprague, driver of the ...
MEMPHIS, TN - June 20, 2004 - Jack Sprague, driver of the #16 Chevy Trucks Silverado, has never finished out of the top-five in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season ending championship standings. Following an up and down day at Memphis Motorsports Park in the O'Reilly 200, the three-time NCTS champion is back in that familiar territory sitting fifth in points, only 191 behind leader and fellow Silverado driver Dennis Setzer.
Sprague captured the 22nd pole of his NCTS career Friday and led much of the first half of Saturday's 200-lap,150-mile event on the .75 mile oval. However, the complexion of the race changed drastically for the Spring Lake, MI native when the fourth caution of the day flew on lap 139, two laps after Sprague moved around Ted Musgrave to retake the lead.
During the pre-race driver/crew chief meeting, NASCAR officials emphasized their determination to enforce the not-racing-back-to-the-caution flag rule and freezing the field the instant track conditions go from green to yellow. Wayne Auton, NCTS Director reiterated that teams and drivers were to consider that discussion their warning and if there were an on-track infraction, a penalty would be accessed.
When the lap 139 caution flew, Sprague was negotiating turns one and two with Musgrave in tow. The yellow flew for an accident in turn four but inexplicably, nothing came over the team radio alerting Sprague of the yellow flag condition on the track. He hit the brakes as soon as he saw the yellow light illuminated on the backstretch but it was determined by NASCAR Race Control that a penalty was in order.
"I didn't know the caution came out," Sprague explained. "I didn't hear anything about the yellow on the radio. I slammed on the brakes as soon as I saw the yellow light flash on the wall. I don't know what else I could have done."
After coming down pitroad, taking on four new tires and fuel, Sprague rejoined the field at the back of the longest line in 24th position, the final truck on the lead lap. When racing resumed on lap 145, the race had been slowed by only four caution periods for a total of 26 laps.
With only 55 laps to the end, the race restarted and Sprague began his move charge back toward the front of the field as laps unwound. But the competition began to heat up as the laps clicked off and the caution flag flew five more times before the checkered for a total of 24 additional yellow flag laps.
"It was very frustrating to have so many cautions," Sprague continued. "But it was the way the cards fell. I kept digging and did everything I could to gain back spots.
Sprague finished seventh with Bobby Hamilton taking his second win of the season. Second through fifth were Shane Hmiel, Ted Musgrave, Dennis Setzer and Carl Edwards.
"The Chevy Trucks Silverado was awesome today. I think I really had the truck that could have won the race. We were loose at the start of the race but the guys adjusted it when we pitted and we were good. We were a little tight early in the run but we were going to be good as the race unwound."
Sprague concluded by saying, "It is important to be able to slow immediately when there is trouble on the track, but they (NASCAR) have to help us out inside the truck because we are already focused on so many things that are going on around us.
"They tell us we are supposed to watch the trucks in front of us, the trucks behind us, the yellow lights on the wall and everything else. If we are supposed to react as soon as the flag and/or light are displayed, they need to put a light on the dash so that as soon as they flip the switch, we see it right there in front of us."
The next event for the #16 Chevy Trucks IWX Racing team is June 25, 2004 at the famed Milwaukee Mile for the running of the GNC 200.