MADISON, IL (May 6, 2001) - Mechanical gremlins spoiled a top run and a shot at victory for Jack Sprague and his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet in the Dodge Ram 200 at Gateway International Speedway Sunday. Sprague was leading the 160-lap ...
MADISON, IL (May 6, 2001) - Mechanical gremlins spoiled a top run and a shot at victory for Jack Sprague and his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet in the Dodge Ram 200 at Gateway International Speedway Sunday.
Sprague was leading the 160-lap event when he headed for pit road for his final stop of the day on the 125th circuit. As he slowed to enter the pit lane, the motor on his Chevrolet Silverado developed a misfire that hampered the two-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion over the final 35 laps dropping him to an eighth-place finish.
"That was incredibly disappointing," said Sprague, the defending champion of the Gateway event. "I'm not sure we had anything for Musgrave (eventual winner Ted Musgrave), but we surely had a second-place truck. We qualified third and ran in the Top-5 all day. I guess we should be happy the engine held up over the final laps and that we were able to finish."
"We won't know what really happened until we get back to the shop and take the engine apart," stated crew chief Dennis Connor. "I'm guessing it was the same problem we had a couple of weeks ago at Martinsville (VA). This time we were lucky enough that it didn't back up into the carburetor and we were able to finish the race. The Dodges are so dominant right now that the Chevys and Fords have to strain their guts out just to keep up. That's when things break."
Sprague and his NetZero mates appeared to be on track for a second straight Gateway victory when they qualified third at a speed 129.017 miles per hour (34.879 seconds). After heavy rain showers delayed the start of the race for more than two hours, the Spring Lake, MI driver quickly moved into the runner-up spot behind Musgrave before heading for pit road on Lap 27. There, his Team NetZero crew cracked off a perfect pit stop to get Sprague back out in front of the field and in first place. The crew managed to repeat the fete later in the event drawing high praise from Sprague.
"I can't say enough about this NetZero/Hendrick Motorsports pit crew," said Sprague. "They bust their tails every day practicing pit stops and they proved today they are the best in the Truck Series. It's really hard to pick up spots out on the track, so whenever they can get us some in the pits, it's a huge bonus for us."
The rapid-fire pitwork kept Sprague in the hunt for his first win of the season until his engine soured in the final stages of the race.
"We were pretty good today, but I don't think anyone was going to challenge Musgrave," said Sprague, who earned $11,550 for the effort. "We were good, not great. We battled a loose condition all day and we couldn't fix it no matter what adjustments we would make. We were lucky to finish in the Top-10. We'll just pick up and head to Darlington next week and hope for a better day there."
Sprague, the only driver to compete in all 151 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events since the inception of the division in 1995, will take the green flag in the Darlington 200 at Darlington Raceway Saturday, May 12, at 4 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time. The event, which will mark the first-ever appearance by the Truck Series at the famed "Track Too Tough To Tame," will be telecast live on ESPN and will be broadcast by MRN radio.