DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 16, 2001) - On one hand, the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 is probably a race Jack Sprague would like to forget. On the other, it just might be the kind of event the two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion...
DAYTONA BEACH, FL (February 16, 2001) - On one hand, the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 is probably a race Jack Sprague would like to forget. On the other, it just might be the kind of event the two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion will point to with pride if he is able to secure a record third division title.
"It sure wasn't the kind of day we were hoping for," said Sprague, who survived a pair of incidents to finish 12th in the season-opening NCTS event at Daytona International Speedway. "We feel like anything less than a win for our NetZero Chevrolet is a disappointment. Still, to finish 12th and get those points will really help us down the road later this season. The key to a great team is making something good out of a bad day and we did that. Today, just surviving was pretty much an accomplishment."
Sprague took the green flag from the sixth position and quickly moved to the front taking the lead by the end of the second circuit on the 2.5-mile Daytona oval. Sprague's rule at the point was short-lived, however, as a tight draft produced contact from behind shoving his red, white and blue No. 24 NetZero mount into the truck of Scott Riggs on Lap 3. The contact caused heavy damage to the right front of Sprague's truck effectively dashing any hopes of victory in the event.
"We had a rocketship," said Sprague. "Unfortunately, we were only able to show it for a couple of laps. It's almost a replay of last year's race at Daytona. I was just trying to stay out of trouble in the early going and got caught up in something on Lap 14. This year, it didn't take anywhere near as long for us to get into trouble."
Despite the wreck, Sprague was able to work his way back into the mix, rallying from 29th in the running order to fifth on Lap 35. Again, luck wasn't on Sprague's side as the damage from the earlier collision forced him into the wall in the Tri-Oval area five circuits later.
Sprague's Hendrick Motorsports pit crew proved to be the difference in this year's finish and last year's 33rd-place effort at Daytona. Time and again, Sprague pointed his mount toward pit road under caution allowing crew chief Dennis Connor and the crew to make repairs on his battered truck.
"It seemed like we pitted 30 times today," said Sprague. "Every time I'd come in, the guys would adjust the truck. We strung it three or four times and we jacked the right front up to try to help the handling. The NetZero Chevy was just too damaged. It pushed really bad all day long and was a handful to drive. At the end, we were just riding around. I still can't believe we finished on the lead lap. I really hate losing anytime, but I really hate it today because it was the first run for NetZero with us."
Sprague, second in all-time NCTS wins with 19, will try to score victory number 20 when he takes to the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval for the Sunday, March 4 Florida Dodge Dealers 400. Sprague is still looking for his first win on the 1.5-mile flat track after scoring two seconds, two thirds and a fifth in his last six Truck Series outings at the track.
"That place owes me a couple," said Sprague. "We always seem to run really well there and I should have two or three wins there already. The Homestead race would be a great place to get my first win there and the first win for NetZero in the Truck Series."
The Florida Dodge Dealers 400 will be televised live by ESPN on March 4. The race will take the green flag at noon Eastern Time.