Sprague, Netzero Chevy third at Homestead

HOMESTEAD, FL (March 4, 2001) - "They need to make this race about 15 laps shorter. Either that, or make it about 50 laps longer. If they would do that, I would have won about three of these things here." The Florida Dodge Dealers 400 proved...

HOMESTEAD, FL (March 4, 2001) - "They need to make this race about 15 laps shorter. Either that, or make it about 50 laps longer. If they would do that, I would have won about three of these things here." The Florida Dodge Dealers 400 proved to be 14 laps too long for Jack Sprague and his NetZero Chevrolet as a late stop for fuel robbed the driver of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway Sunday. "We had to come in and get fuel and that pretty much ended our chances of winning," said Sprague. "We had to do that under green and that killed us. We just can't seem to get a break here." Sprague was well in control of the 250-mile event on the flat, 1.5-mile Homestead oval after taking the lead from pole sitter Scott Riggs on Lap 116. While the two-time Craftsman Truck Series champion quickly built a three-second lead, the race was already decided thanks to two rounds of pit stops several laps earlier. A caution flag on Lap 91 brought Sprague and the rest of the field to pit road for fresh tires and fuel. Just a handful of circuits later, another yellow flew forcing teams to make a decision as to whether to pit a second time. Ted Musgrave, Travis Kvapil and Joe Ruttman again peeled off to pit road while Sprague and the rest of the field elected to stay out on the track. "We had just taken on tires and we knew we couldn't get to the finish on fuel from there," said Sprague. "We thought it was too early to pit and that those guys made a mistake. We also thought that would give us fresher left-side tires for the end of the race. Given there were six cautions in the first 100 or so laps, we never thought the rest of the race would go green. We thought we'd be able to come in and do the work under yellow. It just didn't happen that way." As Sprague sped away from the field in the late going, his NetZero crew waited for a caution that never came. Finally, on Lap 153, crew chief Dennis Connor made the call to pit for fuel only on the following lap. The three-second gas and dash dropped Sprague from the top spot back to fourth with just a dozen circuits remaining. That wasn't enough time for Sprague to work his way back to the lead settling to pass Ruttman on the next to last lap for third place. Meanwhile, the earlier fuel stop paid major dividends for Musgrave and Kvapil and they motored to a 1-2 finish. "I knew we could get Joe at the end of the race," said Sprague of Ruttman. "I knew I could pass him even if he didn't run out of gas. I couldn't even see Travis until the final two laps and there was no way I was going to catch him." Sprague, who earned $21,115 for the effort and jumped to fifth in the season standings after two races (33 points out of first), was convinced it would have been an exciting finish if he would have been able to catch Musgrave. "Ted was good, I'm sure it would have been a good race," said Sprague. "My NetZero Chevrolet was very good at the end of the race. We were running 38.20s to 38.40s the last 10 laps and the rest of the field was in the 39-second bracket. I'm sure that Ted was saving fuel. He had the opportunity to do so because he was out in front so far. He had a good truck and it would have been a pretty good fight. It wouldn't have been as easy as in the beginning of the race when we were swapping the lead and letting each other go. Ted was certainly the one I was going to have to beat. I knew that yesterday in practice and Happy Hour. I think it would have been pretty close." In the end, Sprague chalked up the latest chapter in his love-hate affair with the Homestead Miami track to little more than another dance with Lady Luck. "I can't win here for nothing," joked Sprague to the assembled media. "It's discouraging to have the kind of luck we've had here. We've had great trucks here. Awesome trucks. We had a chance to fight for this thing today. I can't tell you if we would have won it, but three or four times, we've had trucks that could win the race here. We ran second to Rick Crawford (1998) after we broke a valve spring and ran second to Dave Rezendes (1996) when Rezendes came off Turn 4 and knocked me out of the race. Last year, we finished third when we took on tires late in the race and we got tight. I think we led all of those races. "On the old square track here, I lost the race on the last lap when we cut a left-rear tire. Me and this place have a real problem going on." Sprague will be looking to put his Homestead Miami 'problems' behind him when he and the NetZero Chevrolet visit the West Coast for the Orchard Supply Hardware 250 Craftsman Truck Series race. The event at Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield, CA is set for Saturday, March 17 and will be telecast live by ESPN and broadcast worldwide by MRN radio.

-John Close

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Rick Crawford , Scott Riggs , Joe Ruttman , Travis Kvapil