DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 9, 2001) - Jack Sprague was hoping to cruise to a win in the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway last February. Instead, the two-time series champion got a dose of Daytona's...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 9, 2001) - Jack Sprague was hoping to cruise to a win in the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona International Speedway last February. Instead, the two-time series champion got a dose of Daytona's fury when a wreck on Lap 14 ended any chance of victory in the event. "It really knocked the wind out of our sails," said Sprague of the multi-truck accident. "I was disappointed, but I guess it didn't surprise me because that seems to have happened to us in the first race of the season the last five or six years. We were just riding around in the early going, minding our own business because it was pretty hot up front. They were dicing it up good up there and we were just trying to stay cool and out of trouble. We didn't want to be a part of that so early in the race. I guess it didn't matter because we still got caught up in it." Sprague eventually limped home 33rd completing just 64 laps. This year, the driver of the No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet Silverado is hoping for a much better result. "Ricky and I tested really well at Daytona and I'd like nothing better than to give Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2 finish," said Sprague of he and his new NCTS teammate, Ricky Hendrick. "Ricky easily had one of the best trucks at the Daytona test and mine was pretty good. We brought them back to the shop and the guys adjusted my truck to match Ricky's. If it's anywhere close, we're going to be tough. Hopefully, we'll qualify well and start up front. That way, maybe we can stay out front and avoid the wrecks. The big thing will be to stay together. If we get passed, we can work together to pass them back. If we can do that as well as just stay up front and miss the mess, I think we have an excellent chance of winning this time around." Over the past six seasons, Sprague has been all about winning. Second in all-time series victories with 19, the 1997 and 1999 NCTS champion has finished in the Top-10 in 112 of his 146 career starts. Last year, the 36-year-old Sprague had an "off year" winning three races and finishing fifth in the final season standings. More impressively, Sprague is the only driver in NCTS history to compete in every race held since the division's inception in 1995. Heading into this season, Sprague is the odds-on favorite to win the championship, especially considering he is the only returning driver from last year's Top-5 in points. Armed with a new two-year primary sponsorship deal from NetZero, Sprague's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team returns intact under the leadership of veteran NASCAR crew chief Dennis Connor. Add a second team truck to the mix - Ricky Hendrick's No. 17 GMAC Chevrolet Silverado - and Sprague's chances of another NCTS title seem very good. Of course, the first order of business will be the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 at Daytona, a race that Sprague would love to count as his 20th career NCTS victory. "Winning at Daytona would be a big thing for my career," said Sprague. "I've won a lot of big races in my career including twice at Las Vegas and twice at California. Those were great wins, right up there because they were at great tracks like Daytona. Winning at Daytona would be something special because it is so demanding. It takes a whole different mindset to win there. It's a very grueling place. I'd be very proud to say I won there and it would be a great start on what is the big picture for is this season - winning the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship." The Florida Dodge Dealers 250 will take the green flag Friday, February 16 at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time). The event on the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway will be the first of 24 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races this season and will be telecast live on ESPN.
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