It was a battle of the titans in the closing laps of the 200-lap Kroger 200 at Richmond International Raceway. Former truck series' driver turned Winston Cup star Kevin Harvick and series' veteran and two-time champion Jack Sprague were...
It was a battle of the titans in the closing laps of the 200-lap Kroger 200 at Richmond International Raceway. Former truck series' driver turned Winston Cup star Kevin Harvick and series' veteran and two-time champion Jack Sprague were doorhandle to doorhandle (if there were doorhandles on these trucks), nose to tailgate, as they fought for the win in the last 15 laps. Ford's Rick Crawford, Dodge's Ted Musgrave and Chevy's Dennis Setzer were also in the mix in one of the more exciting races of the season.
It was anyone's race from lap 195 to the finish as Harvick led lap 195, Sprague lap 196 and Ted Musgrave lap 197. Sprague prevailed to lead the final three laps, winning his fourth race of the year, his 23rd career and Chevy's sixth of 2001, edging out Harvick by a margin of .062 of a second, the third closest margin of victory in the series' history. Setzer moved into third with two laps to go, as Musgrave dropped to fifth for the finish.
Sprague's victory moves him into the points lead by 27 over Dodge driver Joe Ruttman, and 57 over third-place Scott Riggs, also in a Dodge.
Sprague dominated the event, leading all but four laps. Polesitter Setzer, Bobby Dotter, Harvick and Musgrave led each of the other four.
This was Harvick's first truck race all year, and the 70th of his truck-racing career.
JACK SPRAGUE, NO. 24 NETZERO PLATINUM SILVERADO (winner): "The last 20 laps were rather ugly. Our truck was unbelievable all night. I was on cruise control. The thing was awesome. The last 40 laps I had no right front (tire rubber) left. Ted (Musgrave) got under me, and when I was forced to the outside it turned better So, I thought that maybe I can hold my own out there. (Kevin) Harvick got alongside of me and tried knocking me up so he could get by the lapped truck. He succeeded at that. So, we played a little bumper tag out there and we got him back.
"The guys did a great job. I know Kevin wanted to win it awful bad, but when you bump you gotta take it too. He pulled beside me afterwards and congratulated me. It was a great race. The guys gave me a great truck.
"Man, in Happy Hour I wasn't real proud of what I had. I knew it was hot and slippery and Dennis (Connor, crew chief) and myself and Rex (Stump), our engineer, got together, and we changed about six, seven, eight, 10 things and not big things but little things and, man, they got it close.
"It was a little tight in the center, a little loose off. The first stop we adjusted on it, it got better. Second stop we put left sides on. We got it a little better. We made a mistake. We should have come in when the caution came out on lap 150-something and got rights. The way it worked out we ended up with 130 laps on the right side tires and when we changed lefts at lap 140 -- there was 140 laps on lefts -- the left front was completely gone and the left rear was well on its way to being gone.
"I should have. He (Connor) asked me if I wanted to. And I should have come in and got rights and I didn't. The truck was that good; I never dreamed it would go away. But with 20 to go, man, it was a handful. I didn't think I was going to be able to pull it off. We got beaten and banged up on. I knew Kevin wanted to win this thing extremely bad. That was his number one goal. I also knew he wasn't going to knock me out 'cause I'm running for a championship. I thank him for that. He was roughing me up pretty good down the straightaway. I guess he figured I could hold on to it. That wasn't any big deal. And I roughed him up a little bit in 1 and 2, and got back by him. And Teddy got under me.
"Actually, that's probably what won me the race is when Ted Musgrave got under me and put me in the second lane. It was a lot better up there than it was at the bottom, with the wore out tires. So I got back in front of Teddy and just kind of ran in between lane 1 and lane 2 and got the last two laps out of the way. Man, I'm glad that's over."
ON THE CHAMPIONSHIP: "We led the points three or four weeks ago and lo and behold we went to Nashville with the point lead and didn't even get the green flag. The truck has been unbelievably fast all year. Even when we were at big deficits or little ones they've done a great job. We've had some weird stuff going on, some breakage we don't normally have. Most of it is stuff we can't control. Some of it we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. To be in the points lead with five races to go after the year we've had is just amazing. I can't believe it. It seems like it's been win or break. In fact, we figured out last week after Nazareth -- we ran third -- our worst finish non-wounded, not wrecked or on seven cyinders is a third place all year. How we're leading this thing I have no clue, but I'm happy we are."