HOMESTEAD, Fla. (April 2, 1998) As the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series emerges from the slumber of its 75-day hiatus this weekend at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motor Sports Complex, defending circuit champion Jack Sprague showed...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (April 2, 1998)
As the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series emerges from the slumber of its 75-day hiatus this weekend at the Miami-Dade Homestead Motor Sports Complex, defending circuit champion Jack Sprague showed Thursday he had lost none of his speed by posting the quickest lap in a special four-hour open practice in preparation for Saturday's Florida Dodge Dealers 400.
Sprague turned a lap at the flat, 1.5-mile in 36.376 seconds, an average speed of 148.450 mph. If Sprague can back-up his Thursday lap in Friday's Bud Pole Award Qualifying session at 3 p.m. EST, not only will he win his first pole of the season, but he will keep the drive against leukemia alive by gaining extra notice for his specially-decorated truck, which is carrying "1 800 MARROW2" decals on its white flanks.
Sprague's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team, still in the process of securing a primary sponsor for 1998, is proud to carry the distinctive decal that's become a symbol of success on and off the race track. 1 800 MARROW2, a toll-free information hotline, provides vital information on how to become a marrow donor while helping to create public awareness in the fight against leukemia and other blood disorders.
Sprague had tested his truck in February with other Chevrolets, but Thursday was a revelation for the team, which hopes to announce a sponsor soon but which hasn't slowed down much from its 1997 championship pace.
"Today was nothing like it was when we tested here," Sprague said of the lap that blew away Joe Ruttman's track record of 38.947 seconds, or 140.221 mph -- although that was set when the track was configured with squarer corners rather than the continuous radius bends it now has. "Today's a lot hotter and tighter, but the team go it a ton better than what we started with.
"If we can get it just a little bit better tomorrow, I'll be happy. I hope we've got a shot at the pole. I always think that, but obviously it doesn't work out that way."
Sprague, and the other 54 truck drivers on hand, will have two hours of practice from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST to prepare for qualifying. The top-33 positions will be set in qualifying with the balance of the 38-truck field being filled by provisional spots based on the 1997 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series owners' points.
"If we can get it just a little bit better tomorrow, I'll be happy." "We can be quicker tomorrow. We weren't on sticker tires when we ran our fast lap today. Tomorrow will be a different ball game. We'll wait and see what the temperature is, try to get the truck in the field and then go racing."
In the meantime, Sprague is trying to continue a run that, in 1997, saw 1 800 MARROW2 enjoy 49 minutes, 48 seconds of exposure time, which translated into a total value of $2,626,040. It was the highest value of any "1 800" advertisement, according to the Joyce Julius & Co. "Sponsors' Report."
Hendrick Motorsports founder Rick Hendrick is waging a battle that has gone on for more than a year against leukemia and Sprague wants to do his part to duplicate last year's championship performance that saw the No. 24 team capture crowns in two of NASCAR's three major circuits.
In addition to Sprague's title, Jeff Gordon captured his second NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship for Hendrick, marking the organization's third straight series trophy.
"I think what Jeff and I were able to accomplish last year helped give Rick some much-needed medicine," Sprague said. "It's not the kind that comes with a prescription, but hopefully it helped him nonetheless. I'm eager for the chance to race again and to hopefully carry our 1 800 MARROW2 truck into Victory Lane Saturday."
Sprague is raring to get back in action following the long layoff since his fourth-place finish in the season-opening Chevy Trucks Challenge in Orlando.
"I would prefer to run every weekend and more because that's just the way I am," said Sprague, a 33-year-old Spring Lake, Mich., native who is one of only a handful of drivers to compete in all 71 events in the four-year history of the circuit. "This sport rewards consistency and that's what everybody on this No. 24 team strives for -- to be consistently the best. I'm fortunate in the sense that I love what I do for a living."
And what's not to love? Sprague enters Saturday's race, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. EST, as the sport's all-time leading money winner with $1,600,073 in prize winnings. A good chunk of that came during last season's championship run when Sprague established a single-season money record with $880,835 in winnings.
For all that success, however, Sprague has yet to visit Victory Lane at the 1.5-mile Homestead track, something "Mile Track Jack" fully expects to change come Saturday, with 1 800 MARROW2 along for the ride. Source: NASCAR Online