BAKERSFIELD, CA (March 9, 2001) - Jack Sprague has come close to scoring a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield, CA finishing second in 1998 and third a year ago. In five of his seven Bakersfield NCTS...
BAKERSFIELD, CA (March 9, 2001) - Jack Sprague has come close to scoring a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield, CA finishing second in 1998 and third a year ago. In five of his seven Bakersfield NCTS starts, Sprague has recorded a Top-5 finish. You'd think the driver of the No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet Silverado would content with that record, but just the opposite is true.
"We've run well at Bakersfield and we've run bad at Bakersfield," Sprague stated. "Last year, we finished third. Can I say we've ever had a shot at winning there? I don't know. We've had our chances, but we've never quite been able to get to Victory Lane. Even though we have had some good finishes there, we've been disappointed not winning. We generally run well there. Maybe this year will be the time we finally get that win at Bakersfield."
To do that, Sprague knows he will need to keep his NetZero Chevy in tip-top shape throughout the Orchard Supply Hardware 250.
"The hardest thing at Bakersfield is keeping the body on the truck," said Sprague, who has competed in every NCTS event (148 starts) since the inception of the division in 1995. "There's plenty of bumping and banging, but there's not as much as you think. You slow down so much on a tire run that there really aren't that many crashes. You really have to set up for long periods of green flag racing. You have to get your truck to run as good as it can on worn out tires. Being fast is about being faster than everyone else is. It doesn't matter to the fans if we're slowing down, as long as we're all slowing down. It's like going to a go kart track with your friends. If all the go karts are slow, you don't care because the competition is good. That's the same thing with Bakersfield. It's an old, rough track that's tough on tires. Sometimes, it feels like you're crawling at Bakersfield. It doesn't matter to me as long as I'm crawling faster than everyone else."
Whether it's at full throttle or 'crawling' around the track, Sprague is quick to point out there's usually only one fast way around the Bakersfield track.
"Being able to run fast in the bottom groove all day is the key to doing well at Mesa Marin," said Sprague. "People tend to think there isn't a high groove at Bakersfield, but Ron Hornaday won there once using the high groove and I got a lap back a couple of years ago running the high groove. Last year, there wasn't a high groove. The track there just seems to change from year to year. I don't think they do anything to change it. That's just the nature of the beast. My guess is that it will be a low-groove racetrack this year. Bakersfield is it's own animal. We'll see what it's like this year once we get there."
Sprague will have plenty of support this time around at the half-mile Mesa Marin oval as NetZero, his new primary sponsor this season, will bring a large contingent of fans from its Westlake Village, CA headquarters.
"If I was ever going to win another race, this would be the one to do it," said Sprague, who retained last season's primary sponsor, GMAC Financial Services, as an associate on this year's entry. "The NetZero people have been great. They're laid back, California-style people. We toured their offices in Westlake Village when we put the deal together late last year and the technology they employ is second to none. I can see why they are the fastest growing Internet Service Company. Winning at Bakersfield would be a big boost for everyone - NetZero, Hendrick Motorsports, GMAC and Chevrolet. It would also go a long way in helping us win a third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship. That's what we're really shooting for."
The Orchard Supply Hardware 250 will take the green flag at 8 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday, March 17. The third event of the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season will be televised by ESPN2 and broadcast live by MRN Radio.