PORTLAND, Ore. (April 22, 1998) The eyes of the racing world shifted westward last Sunday for a classic confrontation on NASCAR's version of the undercard between NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions Jack Sprague and Ron ...
PORTLAND, Ore. (April 22, 1998) The eyes of the racing world shifted westward last Sunday for a classic confrontation on NASCAR's version of the undercard between NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday.
This potent pair of heavyweights renewed their rivalry in dramatic fashion, proving once again that racing is indeed a contact sport in last Sunday's running of the Chevy Trucks 150 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Sprague asserted himself by taking the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports/1-800-MARROW2 Chevrolet to the front of the pack on three separate occasions, leading the most laps (90) of any driver in the 36-truck field. Along the way, there was some stellar side-by-side racing and enough metal-to-metal contact to satisfy the hardiest NASCAR fan. Sprague called on all his guts and guile to offset a truck gone loose in the final laps, but Hornaday eventually slipped away for his first-ever win at Phoenix, relegating Sprague to a second-straight, second-place finish.
When the series resumes its 27-race schedule Saturday at Portland Speedway for the Craftsman 200 by NAPA Auto Parts, Sprague will attack the half-mile circuit with a vengeance to regain what he believes rightfully belongs to the Hendrick-owned truck team.
"We don't work this hard day-in and day-out to finish anywhere but first," Sprague said. "Hendrick Motorsports has given me everything I need -- not to be just competitive, but to win -- and that is our only priority heading into Saturday's race at Portland."
A lot of drivers, regardless of the series they run in, would be happy with a second-place finish. But Sprague, as he has demonstrated so many times in the past, is not like a lot of drivers.
The fact that he's posted top-five finishes in all three races this season speaks volumes about his consistency, but provides little comfort for a driver who burns to win. In Sprague's mind, the rivalry with Hornaday is good for both men, and for the sport of professional truck racing.
"I don't need anyone to push me when it comes to being competitive," Sprague said. "I love to compete, to race hard and to know that I left it all on the track at the end of the day. But knowing (Hornaday's) there, it gives me a little extra spark and I think the fans enjoy it."
The two former series champions seem to be engaged in a constant battle of "one-upsmanship" whether it's the past or the present you're talking about. History shows that Hornaday won his championship in 1996 only to see Sprague take the title in 1997. And a quick glance at the current standings shows Sprague -- who owned an eight-point edge over Hornaday this time last week -- now spotting his foe two points in the chase for first place.
For his part, Sprague hasn't had any time to think about his rivalry with Hornaday this week. That's because he spent two days testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a Hendrick-prepared Pontiac Grand Prix that could be a fourth entry in the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24.
Sprague's formal debut at the NASCAR Winston Cup Series level is still in doubt, however, as is the lingering question of which heavyweight will still be standing when the 1998 truck season ends.
It's still in the early rounds of this slugfest, but expect Sprague and Hornaday to keep the contact coming Saturday in Portland. Source: NASCAR Online