Preseason Test: Sprague visits with media

Rain has postponed all on-track activity for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Daytona International Speedway. Saturday testing was canceled completely; Sunday testing is on weather delay. NASCAR announced they would continue testing for the...

Rain has postponed all on-track activity for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Daytona International Speedway. Saturday testing was canceled completely; Sunday testing is on weather delay. NASCAR announced they would continue testing for the NCTS on Monday, January 17, 2005. Former NCTS champions Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday came to the infield media center for media Q & A:

JACK SPRAGUE , NO. 16 CHEVY TRUCKS SILVERADO:

On having old rival Ron Hornaday back in the NCTS:

"It is going to make it more competitive last year. Last year was just unbelievable the level of competition up even from what it was in '03. I was talking to someone today about the changes. I ran the last couple races of '03 and it was pretty much like it used to be. I came back last year and it was tough. It was a whole lot easier to lose points than it was to gain them back; it was just about impossible to gain them back. Before it was Ron (Hornaday), myself, Joe Ruttman, (Mike) Skinner was there for a couple of years, but basically the three of us then (Greg) Biffle came along, but basically if you didn't have a catastrophic day, you were going to finish in the top-five. Now, you can be off just whiskers and getting a top-ten is very difficult. So, to win a championship, it is just that much harder than it used to be. This year he (Hornaday) is going to run for the championship, Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine, Jimmy Spencer are all going to be tough because they are all going to be in good equipment. There are more that I haven't mentioned that are capable of winning races and only a couple guys left the series. It is going to be a tough deal and we are all going to have to be on our game but it will definitely be a lot of fun. I think 2004 was a building year for our Chevy Trucks Silverado team and we have what we need to win some races and be in contention at the end of the season for the championship.

On celebrating Ten Years Tough of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series:

"When I first heard about this deal, the NCTS, I honestly thought it was a joke. I thought this is going to be funny, people racing trucks that it would be flash in the pan and be gone. I think a lot of people thought that. I guess I didn't really understand much of what was going on in creating the series. I was thinking that these were going to be fiberglass bodies, what were they going to be using for chassis and other questions. But then when I got to see a truck and saw that is was just a racecar with a bigger cage and a truck steel body but built along the same lines of a Cup car or a Busch car, I thought ok, this is kind of cool but it still is kind of funky looking. I watched the Winter Heat Series on television and it was some great racing. I thought it was pretty cool. This was back in '94 and I was racing my own late model and I was doing all right, I wasn't making any money, I was surviving. I got a call to drive the No. 31 truck (owned by Bruce Griffin) and I said to myself that I needed a job and what the heck, I might as well try it. So we went to Phoenix for the first race. I had never seen the place before in my life, scared to death I wouldn't make the race having spent all the money to drive all the way from the East Coast to almost the West Coast to get there, cause we certainly couldn't afford plane tickets, made the race and finished seventh. And thought wow, this is really cool and have been loving it ever since.

"I think some of the highlights for me were the first truck race I won in '96 at Phoenix and continued to win three-in-a-row there. It is probably my favorite track for that reason I just love to race there. Obviously, winning the championship in '97 for the first time, that was something that I never thought I could honestly accomplish-to win a championship in one of the top-three series of NASCAR. That was pretty big for me to win it with Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet. In 1998 when it was a huge disappointment to lose it only three points but then in 1999 winning my second by just a little more than that was sweet. It is funny that Hornaday was involved in both those deals cause Biffle moved over and let Hornaday go to win the championship. But it was beautiful in 1999 when he "blocked" Biffle and Bliss that helped me win it. That was pretty cool, '99 was pretty cool when we stopped on the front stretch of Las Vegas and stood on the beds of our trucks side by side and raised our hands together. The fans loved it, Chevrolet loved it and it was a great time. We really didn't do it for promotion; we did it because we respect each other as competitors. We did it cause we raced hard and we love to race each other.

HORNADAY INTERJECTS-"That was my last race in the Truck Series because I was going to Busch."

SPRAGUE RESPONDS -- "Yea, and I was glad."

"The problem we have now is it seems like everyone is expecting sparks between Ron and I like there used to be in the old days but there is just too much at stake and we have to work together. We both drive Chevrolet factory-backed Silverados and we have to help each other out for the sake of our program and our factory Chevrolet effort. David (Starr), Dennis (Setzer), Matt (Crafton) and I did last year. It worked really well. We have some room for improvement to get our Silverados up front all the time and their technical team is working really hard to get us there. The four of us worked really well together and I think we will really have the same thing this season adding Ron to our mix. All the years I worked with a teammate sometimes we wanted to race each other really hard when it wasn't necessary and our program was like that a little bit. But about half way through the year, we all figured it out and if another one of the guys caught you quick, just let them go until you can race with them. Ron isn't dumb, he knows the gig. We will race each other hard but neither one of us is going to go over the edge and looking a something and saying 'Well, maybe I can make it' probably won't happen like they used to. It is all good and we have a lot of respect for each other. In the old days, the media had more fun with our rivalry and made a bigger deal out of it than we did and it helped the series but we would sit back at our buses or at the hotel at night sipping on a cold beverage laughing about what happened. (Sprague chuckles) Some of it was just too funny.

HORNADAY INTERJECTS: "The first year we didn't because we couldn't figure each other out. We are both a little hard headed but we finally got it and made it work"

On racing a NCTS truck at Daytona:

"It isn't bad but you have to be comfortable. I think the most comfortable I have been in here is in a Busch car. In the package that was on them in '02, I like a lot and my car was really good here. But I have never finished a truck race here not beat all up before it was done. I finished well in the Busch race and finished 14th in the Daytona 500 and I have just struggled to get through the truck races here. The trucks push so can much air that you basically not lose the draft, you can get a draft half a straight a way back and catch the guy. When you get in a pile of them, the air is bouncing around so hard it is throwing the truck all over the place. It is kinda fun if you trust the guys around because if the guy in front of you doesn't have a clue and he is bouncing all over the place, he isn't going to finish the thing and neither are you if you are around him.

HORNADAY INTERJECTS: "You are always so honest, so politically correct and honest."

SPRAGUE RESPONDS: "I'm old now Hornaday, it took me a long time to learn how to be politically correct and still be honest. It is fun and it is cool here at Daytona but man it is hairy. Here the last place guy is perfectly capable of running in the middle of the fast trucks because you can't get away from one another."

HORNADAY INTERJECTS: "A perfect example is my son came down here and ran and they actually pulled a spark plug wire off at the start of the race and he ran on seven cylinders. He ran about 35 laps and never lost the lead draft and was in the middle of the pack before they blew the motor. The aerodynamics of these trucks are the reason and it is everything here."

SPRAGUE RESPONDS: "What happens is guys that might not have quite enough skill to run up front can do and that is what makes it hairy"

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Jimmy Spencer , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague
Teams Hendrick Motorsports