May 4, 2005 -- Teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) and crew chief Chris Showalter. The No. 16 team is the defending race winner at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, the next stop on...
May 4, 2005 -- Teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) and crew chief Chris Showalter. The No. 16 team is the defending race winner at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, the next stop on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series circuit.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to action next Sunday, May 15 at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway for the UAW/GM Ohio 250. The race is scheduled to start at 2:15 p.m. ET.
Q: Your team won the first ever race at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway last season. Jack talk about what that win meant to you.
JACK SPRAGUE: It was cool. It's Chris' hometown, it's really close to my hometown. Unfortunately, that's the last memory that I have of a win, but that was a lot of fun. That race track was perfect for a short track. The guys did a great job. We beat the whole body off the thing, and then came home the winner. Hopefully we can go back and do the same thing again. I mean I need to win a race really bad.
Q: And Chris, the Ohio fans embraced the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In fact, they just announced a sell-out for the second straight year. Being from Ohio what did it mean for you to win in front of a hometown crowd.
CHRIS SHOWALTER: It was great. There were probably about 300 people there that I knew last year in 2004, and I have more calling still today trying to get guest passes to come because the race is sold out. It's going to be great to take our Chevy Trucks Silverado back to Mansfield. It's the same exact truck that we won with last year. I think it's going to be pretty cool.
Q: What was it about the track that suited you so well last year and will help you this year?
SPRAGUE: I don't know. I think all the short tracks we were a major factor to win the race. I think at Martinsville -- both races -- we had a shot at winning. New Hampshire, Milwaukee, Memphis, St. Louis. You can go on and on. We were strong at all the short tracks combined. At Mansfield, we were just able to put it all together in a day and get it done. I think by what's happening this year, we're as strong or stronger at these type of race tracks and unfortunately the same things are happening to us. I think we have just as good a shot at winning this year as we did last year.
Q: Anything in particular on this track more important than at others? Maybe in the corners or straights??
SHOWALTER: I think it goes back to both mine and Jack's bringing up in racing. We both started out on little bull ring race tracks like the Mansfield Speedway. It just kind of goes with our background and the way we grew up. Jack, down here in North Carolina, raced at similar track and blistered the field for years down here. It just kind of works out to be something that Jack really likes. So I think it works out great for both of our situations.
Q: Anything you can point to that can help get you over the hump in Mansfield?
SPRAGUE: We have just got to not have bad luck and not shoot ourselves in the foot. This race team has been extremely fast for two years. This year, we've been faster than we were last year. Whether it be, last week for instance, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. We had an oil line come loose that we had to tighten and which put us in the back. We had to come back through the field and within 10 laps to go, exactly like last year, we cut a front tire down and go from a top five finish to 20th.
So we're not having extremely good luck by any stretch of the imagination. We just need a day where we don't have any problems where we can just do our job and get it done. I'm confident, very confident. I love this truck that I won with there last year. It's my favorite truck that we have. I'm extremely confident we can get it done again. We've just got to have an uneventful day and that will bring it home for us I think.
Q: This past weekend Ted Musgrave led all but two laps. You have had races like that. Tell us what that must feel like?
SPRAGUE: It's awesome. You don't have to worry about much. We were the only truck there that had any chance in the world of racing him for that win, and he knew it and we knew it. It was going to depend on the adjustments the we made versus the adjustments he made because the first run there before the first pit stop Ted (Musgrave)and I took off and left the field. I was a little better there than he was in one and two and he was a little better than I was in three and four. I was the only one there that had anything in the world for him and whether I had enough, I couldn't sit here and tell you because he was extremely strong. But I've had those races, and they're awesome.
The Mansfield race last year was about like that where I could get out there and I could just kind of ride, which makes it really easy because you don't make a lot of mistakes when you don't have to run on the other side of the ragged edge. I would have liked to have seen what could have happened if I could have raced with Ted all night long last week instead of having to work my way back through the field. Unfortunately, we weren't able to do that with our Chevy Trucks Silverado. Again, we just need to have an uneventful day. We just need to not have bad luck and not have self-induced problems. I think we're a contender to win every week. I really do. We've just got to hope for the best, I guess.
Q: What do you think about competition as a whole this year as compared to past years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series?
SPRAGUE: Last year was more difficult than I have ever seen it, and this year is more difficult yet. You've got (Jimmy) Spencer, (Ron) Hornaday, Todd Bodine, Ricky Craven -- there's four drivers right there that weren't there last year and there may be one or two more that I'm not thinking of. Johnny Benson. There's good guys you have to outrun that you didn't have to before.
Back in the mid to late 1990s, I was racing four or five guys -- Joe Ruttman, Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday, Greg Biffle -- it was us racing for the win. Now, there are 12 to14 championship caliber drivers and teams that can get it done. You have a little hiccup, and you finish outside the top 10 where before if you had a little hiccup, you could still finish fifth. That's not going to happen these days anymore.
Like what happened to us Saturday night. Under normal circumstances, there would have been six or seven trucks on the lead lap, I would have finished in the top 10. But it's so difficult now that there were 20 trucks on the lead lap, and we were the last one on the lead lap because we have to pit. That's exactly what I'm getting at. In the late '90s, I could have done the same thing as I did Saturday night with a flat tire and finish in the top 10. That doesn't happen anymore.
Q: A lot of fans may not know about Mansfield. What kind of track can you compare it to?
SPRAGUE: Not that it is on the circuit anymore, but it's not that much different than Orange County or South Boston, a little 3/8ths bull ring. Like Chris said, it's a lot like Concord (NC) Motorsports Park used to be before they built it with a dog leg in it. It's just a little bull ring. You drive it kind of like Indianapolis Raceway Park even though IRP is bigger. You drive the higher side of the race track versus the lower side because of the progressive banking. It's just a rooting, gouging place. It's a lot of fun.
Q: How's your heel healing?
SPRAGUE: My heel's doing great. It's tight. It's not painful anymore. It's just tight. That part is a little uncomfortable. But as far as driving, I don't feel any different driving than I did before I hurt it. Just walking, I have a little limp. I'm still trying to loosen my tendons and my ligaments back up from basically not walking on it for two months. There's very little swelling anymore. It's doing great. It's come farther, faster than they thought it would, and me, too. I'm good to go.
This team, the 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet, has to win races. This team is capable of winning races. The team's capable, I'm capable, and we need to win some races and get back in this chase.
Q: Jack, you said you were hoping for an uneventful day? What are the chances of that considering the type of race you had at Mansfield last year?
SPRAGUE: What I mean by uneventful is I don't want any bad luck. I don't need any good luck. I don't expect a gift. I just want no flat tires and nothing happening to us, and no oil lines leaking. It's just freak stuff that is keeping us in bad situations to where it seems like we are always having to catch up. What I mean by uneventful is I just want to not have flats to not have to go to the back and to be able to race for the win like we were last year at Mansfield. That kind of uneventful day. Decent pit stops and me not tearing the fenders off it, just everything going right, just not wrong.
Continued in part 2