DARLINGTON, SC (May 12, 2001) - To say it rained on Jack Sprague's parade in the Darlington 200 would be an understatement. Sprague put on one of the most dominating performances of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career only to have a...
DARLINGTON, SC (May 12, 2001) - To say it rained on Jack Sprague's parade in the Darlington 200 would be an understatement.
Sprague put on one of the most dominating performances of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career only to have a wet weather and bad luck relegate his No 24 NetZero Platinum Chevrolet to a 12th-place finish in the inaugural Truck Series race at Darlington Raceway.
"The way our luck is going, man, I don't know," said Sprague. "The guys gave me a great truck. We can't catch a break. I don't know why."
The 147-lap event started out like the weather - bright and shiny - as Sprague took the lead at the drop of the green flag. One day earlier, the 36-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pole position in more than two years rocketing his NetZero Silverado to a lap of 30.192 seconds (162.878 miles per hour) on the 1.366-mile Darlington oval.
Sprague and eventual winner Bobby Hamilton swapped the top spot throught the early portion of the race before heading to pit road for service on Lap 38. There, a miscommunication by his pit crew resulted in Sprague returning to the track in the 15th position.
"I've got the best pit crew in the series," said Sprague. "They had a little problem on that first stop but I knew they would make up for it later in the race."
Back under green, Sprague was a man on a mission as he worked his way back to the front with a thrilling display of driving. Passing trucks at will, Sprague roared back to the runner-up spot by Lap 92 before again pitting for four tires and fuel on the 117th-circuit. This time, the Team NetZero pit crew cracked off a lightening quick pit stop that put Sprague back in the lead in front of Hamilton.
"Like I said, I knew they would bounce back," Sprague stated. "Those guys bust their guts out practicing stops every day that we're not on the road. They're a dedicated bunch and they did the job today."
Back at the front, Sprague and Hamilton swapped the lead before rain red-flagged the event on Lap 129. For more than an hour, Sprague's NetZero Chevy sat idle on pit road before the track was again ready for competition. Unfortunately, Sprague's right rear tire went flat during the delay forcing him to pit road for fresh rubber putting him 12th in the running order at the drop of the green flag. That never happened, however, as rain returned to the speedway red-flagging the event for good at Lap 135.
"If it wouldn't be for bad luck, we wouldn't have had any luck today," said Sprague. "We had a truck that could have won the race and should have finished no less than second. To finish 12th with the kind of truck we had and with the kind of effort the crew put out is a total letdown."
Despite the less than desired results, Sprague still managed to jump a spot in the standings moving to seventh in the championship chase, 161 markers out of the top spot. The 12th-place finish earned the team $9,315 in prize money.
Sprague and his NetZero mates will next head to Pikes Peak International Raceway and the Jelly Belly 200 Sunday, May 20. The seventh event of the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tour will take the green flag at 4 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time and will be telecast live by ESPN. The event will also be broadcast live on MRN Radio.