LATE RACE ENCOUNTER WITH A LAP TRUCK COSTS SPRAGUE "Top Five Finish Denied Due To Lap Traffic" FORT WORTH, TEXAS (JUNE 11, 2006)- A solid top-five finish for Jack Sprague and the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota was derailed in the...
LATE RACE ENCOUNTER WITH A LAP TRUCK COSTS SPRAGUE
"Top Five Finish Denied Due To Lap Traffic"
FORT WORTH, TEXAS (JUNE 11, 2006)- A solid top-five finish for Jack Sprague and the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota was derailed in the closing laps of the Sam's Town 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night. While running in fourth place with just seven laps remaining, Sprague was spun by a lapped truck and forced to pit for fresh tires. The incident relegated Sprague to an 11th-place finish in a race where he had been a top-10 truck for the majority of the night.
"What happened to us out there today is really disappointing," Sprague said. "We had a top-five finish taken away from us by a lap truck getting in the way. It's all part of racing, but that doesn't change the fact that someone not being smart cost us a good finish and a lot of points in the long run. The Con-way Freight Toyota was really good tonight, and I'm proud of this team. I just wish we could be celebrating another top-five run instead of being disgusted by our luck."
After two practices in the unrelenting Texas heat, Sprague and the Wyler Racing team were happy with a truck that they believed would race in the top three all night and have a shot at the checkered flag.
The No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota qualified 19th for the 167-lap event. Sprague practiced patience in the early stages of the race. By Lap 18, he had moved up one position into 18th-place. That's when Sprague reported to his crew that the truck was "loose in the center on the gas." When the first caution of the night waved at Lap 21, Sprague was sitting in 14th place on the race track. He told his crew that the Con-way Freight Toyota was getting better but that it was still loose.
Sprague elected to pit at Lap 23 under the first caution. The crew changed two right side tires, made an air pressure adjustment and added fuel. The strategic move in the pits to take only two tires and a quick stop moved the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota into eighth-place for the race restart at Lap 25.
When the green flag fell, Sprague began a march to the front. In one lap, he picked up one spot. Two laps later, Sprague moved into sixth-place. Under the second caution of the night at Lap 34, Sprague told his crew that the Con-way Freight Toyota was still loose.
"It's coming to me, but I just have to be careful out here," Sprague said.
Sprague restarted in sixth-place at lap 37. Just 12 laps later, the caution waved again. Sprague reported to his crew that the No. 60 was tight behind other trucks. The team elected to come down pit road at Lap 51 for four tires and fuel. The No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota returned to the track in 10th-place for the Lap 54 restart. Surrounded by lap trucks, patience would again be the key as Sprague tried to put his Con-way Freight Toyota in contention for a top finish or even a win.
"I knew we had one of the fastest hot rods on the track," Sprague said. "Getting through the field was tough, but the crew gave me a great truck, and I knew it was capable anywhere on the track."
With a steady hand on the wheel, Sprague began making his way through the field -- ticking off each position ahead of him. By Lap 75, Sprague was in sixth place and was turning the fastest laps on the race track. Under the long green flag run, Sprague told the crew that the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota was still loose. Crew chief Tony Furr told Sprague to hang in there and they would make an air pressure adjustment to help tighten up the truck on the next pit stop.
That stop would come when the caution flag waved at Lap 99. Sprague, then in fourth place, pitted for four tires, fuel, an air pressure and track bar adjustment to help improve the handling on the No. 60 Toyota Tundra. The Con-way Freight pit crew ripped off a rapid stop, and Sprague returned to the track in the second spot.
When the race restarted, Sprague fell to third place but continued to turn some of the fastest laps on the track. He held his position on the track until a fast moving Todd Bodine (the race's eventual winner) passed Sprague at Lap 159.
The following lap, as Sprague held fourth position, Sprague's hopes for a top-five finish were dashed when the lapped truck of Kyle Krisiloff made contact with the No. 60. Sprague's Toyota spun coming off turn two and down the backstretch -- but a great job of driving by Sprague kept the Con-way Freight Toyota off the wall. With only five laps remaining, Sprague -- who was now in fifth place -- wanted to stay on the track to come away with a top five, but crew chief Furr feared the truck would have flat tires and cause bigger issues for the No. 60 team. Sprague brought the No. 60 down pit road to the attention of his crew for four fresh Goodyear tires. The No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota returned to the track in 11th place.
The long caution period set up a green-white-checker finish, but Sprague could not pick up any additional positions, so the Wyler Racing team finished the race in 11th place. With the 11th-place finish, Sprague moved up to fifth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point's standings -- 287 points behind leader Todd Bodine.
"It's not easy to swallow when a lapped truck ruins a top-five run for you with just a few laps to go in the race," Sprague said. "The Con-way Freight Toyota may not have won this race, but we would have left Texas with another top five. As competitive as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is right now, those top-fives are important. We have the biggest race of the season coming up next weekend -- the Con-way Freight 200 at Michigan. We're going there with every intention of coming home with a big win for the team and for our sponsor, Con-way."