FORT WORTH, TX (June 8, 2001) - The wait between NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories proved to be worth it as Jack Sprague powered his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet to a convincing win in the O'Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. "Man, it's...
FORT WORTH, TX (June 8, 2001) - The wait between NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories proved to be worth it as Jack Sprague powered his NetZero Platinum Chevrolet to a convincing win in the O'Reilly 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.
"Man, it's been over a year," said Sprague, who last won at Evergreen (WA) Speedway June 3, 2000. "Dennis (crew chief Dennis Connor) and the guys have given me great NetZero Platinum Chevrolets all year long. We've just had a hard time dealing with the Dodges and we gave away a couple of wins ourselves. Man, I had an awesome truck. I've had an awesome truck all year long. We finally got one."
Sprague's 20th career NCTS triumph came after taking the lead on Lap 123 of the 167 circuits contested. A strong run off Turn 2 propelled Sprague by Travis Kvapil for the top spot. Over the final 40 circuits, Sprague roared away from the field to nearly a five-second lead eventually winning by a margin of 4.655 seconds.
"We're the only team in the garage area that's been racing the Dodges all year," said Sprague. "Its not like we haven't been able to race them, but it's a lot harder for me to do what I'm doing than for them to do what they're doing. The truck was just great all night, it stayed glued to the white line. I'd breathe it a little going in, just for fun, and just mat it back and it would stick right at the bottom."
Sprague started the event for the third position after rain washed out qualifying and set the field by points. Strong right out of the box, the 1997 and 1999 Truck Series champion ran with the lead group before heading to pit road for fresh right-side rubber and fuel on Lap 22. There, his NetZero Platinum teammates cracked off a solid stop putting him back on the track seventh, first out of those who pitted.
Sprague wasted little time heading back to pi road just eight circuits later when the caution flag flew for the second time when division points leader Scott Riggs crashed exiting Turn 2. This time, Sprague took on left-side tires and fuel while his counterparts stayed out on the race track.
Well back in the field but armed with four new tires and a full fuel load, Sprague methodically worked his way back through the pack breaking into the Top-5 by Lap 70. With the rest of his competitors having to come to pit road for fuel, Sprague took over the lead for the first time on Lap 94 and had the field covered by more than a lap when his NetZero Chevy sputtered just past the start-finish line on the 1.5-mile Texas oval.
"I did have one scare, I ran out of gas going down into turn one with about 60 laps to go, had to coast down the back stretch and pit for fuel," said Sprague of the Lap 98 crisis. "I thought I got a lap down, but we weren't. I asked Dennis if we were a lap down and we he said we weren't, I said cool, 'we're OK.'"
A caution flag, the third and final of the day for debris on the race track, bunched the field for a restart on Lap 106. Sprague, now seventh in the running order, wasted little time blasting through the competition in front of him that included Joe Ruttman, Ted Musgrave and Terry Cook. On Lap 118, Sprague assumed the runner-up spot past Brendan Gaughn before setting his sights on Kvapil and the lead. Once by Kvapil and in the top spot, it was no contest as Sprague roared his silver and blue NetZero Platinum/Hendrick Motorsports entry to more than a four-second lead.
At the finish, it was Sprague breaking a 22-race winless streak in front of Gaughn, David Star, Ruttman and Ricky Hendrick. The victory also ended an eight-race win streak for Dodge in Craftsman Truck Series competition this season. Sprague's winning time of 1 hour, 53 minutes, 27 seconds set a new race record. His average speed for the 400 kilometer event was 133.620 miles per hour. Sprague earned $62,235 for the winning effort.
"I didn't know if we could run with them or not," said Sprague of the final charge to victory. "On old tires, we had the downforce and the drag working for us. On old tires, I could deal with them. At the end, I came back around after taking the checkered flag and did a burnout, and ran out of gas, so it was extremely close. They'd told me that I didn't have to conserve fuel after our last stop, but the last 10 laps I had a four second lead, so I was running around here about half throttle. It's a good thing I did, because if not, we probably wouldn't have made it."
The victory, combined with Riggs' 26th-place finish, boosted Sprague from 166 points out of first place to just 71 markers out of the top spot in third place.
"Winning here at Texas is a big relief," said Sprague. "At least now it will get the reporters off my back saying when are you going to win again. Texas is one of the few places that I really wanted to win, it's one of the few places that we haven't won. I've sat on a poles and led a lot of laps, and I've hit really hard here, so this is just one of those thorns in my sides that I really needed a win at. This is a beautiful place and these guys really do it right. To win here is really special."
Sprague and his NetZero Platinum teammates will have an extra week to savor the Texas victory as the Truck Series will take next week off before returning to action Saturday, June 23, at Memphis (TN) Motorsports Park. Sprague is the defending champion of the Memphis 200, which will take the green flag at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The event will be telecast live on ESPN and will be broadcast by MRN radio.