NAZARETH, PA (August 26, 2001) - A strong third-place finish in the Chevy Silverado 200 was just what Jack Sprague and his No. 24 NetZero Platinum Chevrolet needed as they moved closer to a third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series...
NAZARETH, PA (August 26, 2001) - A strong third-place finish in the Chevy Silverado 200 was just what Jack Sprague and his No. 24 NetZero Platinum Chevrolet needed as they moved closer to a third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.
Sprague notched 165 points in the event to move within 20 markers of leader Joe Ruttman. With six races remaining, Ruttman has 2,745 points followed by Scott Riggs (2,732) and Sprague (2,725).
"Hey, we're just 20 points out and if we can keep gaining on them every week, we'll be fine," said Sprague, after finishing behind Greg Biffle and Terry Cook on the tricky one-mile Nazareth Speedway oval. "It sure beats breaking and finishing 23rd or 24th, scoring just 80 or 90 points a race. It was still a great day for the NetZero Platinum Chevrolet. You can't win every race - we know that. We had the best Chevrolet here today, the only truck on the lead lap that wasn't a Ford. That's something."
Sprague took the green flag from the third position after posting a lap of 27.940 seconds (128.848 miles per hour) in qualifying Saturday. The solid tour marked the 10th-straight race Sprague has gridded his NetZero Platinum Silverado in the Top 3 posting a 2.0 qualifying average during the streak.
Never out of the Top 4, Sprague battled a handling problem throughout the 200-lap test on the tough Nazareth track.
"My truck was extremely loose, much looser than it's been in a long, long time," said Sprague. "We had to loosen our truck up in Happy Hour yesterday to try to keep up with the Fords. Then in the race, we got even more loose. I think I found out why when we made that final stop to change left side tires. Considering what was wrong, it could have been a lot worse."
Running third, Sprague came to pit road for right-side tires and fuel when the yellow flag flew for the second time in the race on Lap 142. Two laps later, Sprague was back on pit road a second time.
"After we changed right side tires, the truck felt really strange," said Sprague. "I knew I had a flat left-rear tire and there's no telling how long it had been going flat. We had to come in and replace that tire and fortunately, having to come in a second time didn't hurt us. I'm sure that's what was making us loose all day. We're just lucky we were able to change it and prevent a problem with it on the race track."
With only four trucks on the lead lap, Sprague quickly moved past Rick Crawford for the third spot and set his sights on Biffle and Cook. The two Ford drivers appeared to be out of reach when the yellow flag flew again, this time with just seven circuits remaining. Sprague used the caution period to pit one final time bolting on two fresh left-side tires hoping the strategy would boost him to the front on the dash to the checkered flag.
Taking the green with just two laps remaining, Sprague tried his best to get to the front only to have to settle for the third-place finish.
"There were only two laps left when we took the green, so I my big concern was not to make a mistake, not to give Crawford the inside groove on me," said Sprague. "On the last lap, I took a shot at Cook and came up a couple of feet short. We weren't good enough to win the race today and we finished where we ran all day."
The finish earned Sprague $20,865 in prize money and positioned the 1997 and 1999 NCTS champion for a run at a third series title over the final six races of the season.
"We try to win every race we go to," said Sprague. "We've got some race tracks that we run very good at coming up on the schedule. We won at Texas earlier this year and we've won three times at Phoenix, twice at Las Vegas and once at Richmond in the past. I like our chances of winning the championship, but we'll have to be on top of our game to do it."
Sprague's silver and blue NetZero Platinum Chevy will take the green flag in the Kroger 200 at Richmond (VA) International Raceway Thursday, September 6 at 8 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The event will be telecast live on ESPN and will be broadcast by MRN Radio.