With it's sweep of the top four positions and controlling every lap of the New England 200, Chevrolet Silverado clearly demonstrated that it was the longest-lasting, most-dependable pickup truck today in the 14th round of the NASCAR Craftsman...
With it's sweep of the top four positions and controlling every lap of the New England 200, Chevrolet Silverado clearly demonstrated that it was the longest-lasting, most-dependable pickup truck today in the 14th round of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Polesitter Jack Sprague, in the No. 24 NetZero Platinum Silverado, dominated the 200-lap race on New Hampshire's one-mile track, taking his second victory of the season and the fourth for the Chevy Silverado. Sprague became the first two-time winner this year for Team Silverado, claiming his 21st career win. Other winners for Chevrolet in 2001 include Ricky Hendrick and Dennis Setzer.
Rookie Travis Kvapil, in the No. 60 Cat Rental Stores Silverado, once again benefited from crew chief Rick Ren's outstanding pit strategy to finish second, less than one second behind. Memphis winner Dennis Setzer, in the No. 46 Acxiom/Computer Associates Silverado, picked up third place, while Sprague's teammate Ricky Hendrick, in the No. 17 GMAC Silverado, came in fourth.
Sprague, who finished dead last year here after wrecking with Dennis Setzer on the second lap, found redemption this year, as he also set an average speed record of 109.244 mph, which followed his qualifying track record set yesterday. Sprague led 183 laps, giving up 14 of the race's 200 laps to Hendrick under green-flag pit stops, and three to Dennis Setzer, giving Silverado a grand total of 200 of 200 laps led.
The points battle has tightened up after 14 races among Scott Riggs, Joe Ruttman and Sprague. Only 11 points separate the top three.
With the second-best Silverado after Sprague qualifying only seventh (Lance Norick, in the No. 90 Aventis Behring entry) and with Sprague's rash of bad luck this season, one could not blame the Chevy camp for being concerned. In the early laps, after leader Sprague, Kenny Schrader, in the No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Silverado, was the next Chevy in seventh. As the race wore on, mostly under green-flag conditions, as only 19 laps were run under yellow, the Fords fell back, the Dodges had mechanical problems, and the Silverados soldiered on to lead 1-2-3-4-5 by lap 130.
At the end, on lap 193, on a restart following five laps of caution, Schrader dropped out of fifth, as Ted Musgrave (Dodge) and Terry Cook (Ford) passed him for fifth and sixth. It was then a sprint to the finish as Sprague collected a well-earned victory for Hendrick Motorsports and Team Silverado.
This was the sixth time this season that two-time series' champion Sprague has led the most laps, and his previous best finish in New Hampshire was a second in 1997 and 1999.
JACK SPRAGUE, NO. 24 NETZERO PLATINUM SILVERADO (first): "Once again, Dennis (Connor, crew chief) and the guys gave me a great truck. Man, I tell you, the last eight-nine races that thing has been that good and it has dominated that hard and we just haven't been able to finish. He (Dennis) told me he had it figured out. He had the problem fixed. It was nothing the motor guys were doing. It was a problem under the hood of the truck, the heat and where it was going. I trust him with my life. I have for the last seven years. Rick Hendrick gives me great stuff, and so does Chevrolet. Everybody does a great job. I can't thank them enough. I can't thank Dennis enough. This does not make up for all the races we have given away, but it sure feels a lot better than it did last week. Dennis told me I was going to win and I believed him." WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ON THE LAST RESTART? "I was hitting on all eights, so I was in pretty good shape. I didn't want to see the last caution. I was tighter than I had been all day on the last set of tires that I got. I didn't know how hard I could go or how fast I could go. I knew the 60 had run pretty decent all day. When we took off I just got up on the wheel and got away from him over the last couple of laps." ON THE POINTS CHASE CLOSING UP: "It's pretty amazing we're that close to the front considering all the bad luck we've had this season," Sprague stated. "We've just been fighting to get things turned around and gain in the points race. We were able to do that today and now it's a horse race down to the wire over the final 10 events. Our goal every season is to win the championship. If we can continue to run and finish like we did today, I like our chances of winning the championship a lot."
TRAVIS KVAPIL, NO. 60 CAT RENTAL STORES SILVERADO (second, his third second-place finish of his rookie season): "We were pretty even most of the day. Jack was just a little better than we were. His truck turneD a little better through the middle of the corners than ours did. We got lucky. We had a flat tire there at the end. We got that changed. And luckily it went green the rest of the way where everybody else had to recycle through also and we got back into second. All in all it was a pretty good day for the Cat Rental Stores Silverado to finish second behind Jack Sprague." ON THE FLAT TIRE AND COMING IN UNDER GREEN: "I ran it that way about two laps and I didn't even know if the truck's handling was going away or if I had a problem. That cost us a good five, six seconds on the race track. But Jack had great tires all day and he had the truck to beat. I could run with him, but we really didn't have anything for him." ANY HOPE ON THAT LAST RESTART, ANY SPECIAL STRATEGY? "Not really. I knew if I could get there with one to go or on the last lap I was going to run it hard. Jack had been sliding up the racetrack a little bit, kind of like everybody was in the middle of the corner. I was going to try to poke it in there. I'm sure we would have been rubbing fenders coming off the corner, but that's what racing for the win on the last lap is all about." ON GM HELPING THE CHEVY TEAMS: "I have to agree with Dennis (see below). All the Silverado teams -- we kind of realized we had a problem. We started having weekly phone call meetings (led by GM Racing Program Manager Dayne Pierantoni) with all the crew chiefs trying to put information together to help overcome some of the Dodge's (strength). I think it's taken off now. I know for a fact our team, we just stepped up. We didn't sit there and whine 'all these Dodges are beating us.' We just rallied and put our thinking caps on and we just buckled down and tried harder."
DENNIS SETZER, NO. 46 ACXIOM/COMPUTER ASSOCIATES SILVERADO (third): "It was pretty exciting for the Acxiom Silverado. We started 15th and we kind of just picked our way through. We had a pretty good truck yesterday in happy hour. We weren't as fast as some of the guys, but some of them had new tires. We just kept plugging along all day. We got some good breaks on some cautions at the right time, and it worked out on paper. We had a good day." ON CHEVY FINISHING 1-2-3-4. WHAT DO YOU GUYS KNOW NOW THAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW AT THE START OF THE SEASON?: "I think (it's) a lot of hard work on Chevrolet's part. I don't think the rules have changed hardly any. Chevrolet has really buckled down and put in a lot of work. All the people at GM have helped us and got the teams gathered up, trying to get group meetings going. Getting all these crew chiefs who have a lot of knowledge involved in Chevrolet and getting them all to pull together, band together to try to make this thing better, and it's showing."
RICKY HENDRICK, NO. 17 GMAC SILVERADO (fourth): "The team GMAC Chevrolet Silverado was really good today. We struggled with some of the practices and with qualifying, but the team made some good changes and we were fast today. Congratulations to Jack. If Team GMAC doesn't win, I always hope Team NetZero does win. Hendrick Motorsports -- we are one team with two trucks and Jack drove a great race today. I am really happy to see him win. On our last pit stop, we didn' take tires. We were hoping to gain track position. I don't know how well that worked for us. We got up to fourth and I'm telling you it was tough holding off (Ted) Musgrave. I'm grateful for the fourth-place finish. I felt like I was sliding all over the track at the end. We are still fourth in the points and we've closed in on the lead to 62 points. It's our seventh top-five and we are still the top rookie, so it was a really good day."