SOUTH BOSTON, VA (September 28, 2001) - Pinned against the inside retaining wall just a handful of laps into the NetZero 250, Jack Sprague's chances of a solid finish and retaining the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship points lead seemed...
SOUTH BOSTON, VA (September 28, 2001) - Pinned against the inside retaining wall just a handful of laps into the NetZero 250, Jack Sprague's chances of a solid finish and retaining the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship points lead seemed pretty remote. Sprague, however, had other ideas as he rallied from the incident to score a solid fourth-place finish in the event and retain the top spot in the season standings.
"I can't complain," said Sprague after the 250-lap battle royale on the .400-mile South Boston oval. "The guys did an incredible job and we came back from 20th or worse a couple of times to finish fourth. We maintained the points lead and managed to have a Top-5 finish when we had a bad day. It could have been a lot worse."
Sprague started the event from the pole position after turning in a lap of 15.661 seconds (92.243 miles per hour) in qualifying earlier in the day. The top qualifying run was Sprague's sixth pole this year beating a career-high five poles in a single season set in 1998. It was also Sprague's 19th career pole position, tops in NCTS history.
At the drop of the green flag, Sprague quickly assumed the lead and stayed there until the yellow flag waved when Ronnie Sanders spun in Turn 1. As Sprague and the rest of the field idled around under the caution, Sanders tried to right his truck on the narrow South Boston oval. Just as Sprague slowed to slip by in the inside of the track, Sanders' truck lurched forward pinning Sprague's No. 24 NetZero mount against the inside retaining wall.
"I saw him coming down, so I stopped," said Sprague. "Then he stopped, so I started for the hole and he rolled right down into me and tore the right-front fender of my truck off. My steering wheel moved, so I know we damaged something in the right-front suspension too. That made the truck real tight throughout the rest of the race, but my NetZero team just kept pitting me and trying to loosen the truck up. We never could get it to where the truck would turn in the middle of the corner because the suspension was bent too bad."
Despite the damage to his truck, Sprague was able to put on a dazzling driving display over the next 200 laps working his way back through the field to contend for the win in the late stages of the race. Unfortunately, the ill-handling condition of his truck and the stout entry driven by eventual winner Ted Musgrave were too much to overcome.
In the end, the race still turned out to be a triumph for Sprague as he maintained a 37-point margin over Joe Ruttman in the season championship standings. Instead of a major disaster, Sprague's 12th Top-5 finish of the season put him in a solid position to make a run at third career NCTS title over the final four races of the season.
"I'm really looking forward to going back to Texas," said Sprague of the next event on the tour, the Chevy Silverado 350 at Texas Motor Speedway. "We won our first race of the season there earlier this year and we participated in the tire test before this race. We're taking the same truck back this time that we won with in June, so I know we'll have a great truck. They did a great job repaving the track at Texas. It's smooth as silk. It's going to be fast."
The Chevy Silverado 350 will take the green flag Friday, October 5, at 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The event will be telecast live on ESPN and will be broadcast live by MRN radio.