Coca-Cola Family 200 Friday notebook By Marty Smith BRISTOL, Tenn., (June 4, 1999) News, notes and quotes from the Coca-Cola Family 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway: After a successful nose job, Jack Sprague went out and snuffed nearly...
Coca-Cola Family 200 Friday notebook By Marty Smith
BRISTOL, Tenn., (June 4, 1999) News, notes and quotes from the Coca-Cola Family 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway:
After a successful nose job, Jack Sprague went out and snuffed nearly the entire field in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying Friday. Sprague, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet, hit the wall with just an hour remaining before qualifying was schedule to being. Following extensive repairs to the nose of the truck by his team, Sprague placed it third on the starting grid.
"It just got away from me there in practice," Sprague said. "We had a bout an hour and fifteen minutes (between the accident and qualifying) and the guys put a complete nose on it, bumpers and all. There wasn't a radiator duct in it or anything. They strapped the radiator down and let her go. The fenders were all messed up."
Even so, Sprague avoided his "biggest fear," of having to pit on the backstretch and was actually the quickest truck in the evening's "Happy Hour" practice. "We just had to get a good lap in," he said. "I told them, you know they wanted to go to a backup truck, and I told them that if they fix this truck, I'd put it on the pole. I just came up three-hundredths short."
The top-3 start adds to the momentum Sprague has following his victory at Odessa, Mo., two weeks ago.
"It's important for us to stay up in the top-5, and the guys did a good job of getting me there today," he said.
Heading into Saturday's race, Ron Hornaday stands a mere point behind Sprague in the points race. But after qualifying an abysmal 24th on Friday, equaling his worst outing of the season. Thus, he'll have a tough road to eclipse his friend this weekend.
Beginning this weekend in Bristol, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams face a grueling nine-week, 10-race stretch. During the run, they will venture from Bristol to Dallas to Portland, Ore., then on to New York, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire before finishing with a night race in Indiana on August 5.
"The best way to prepare for this stretch is to have three or four race trucks ready at all times," said Butch Miller, driver of the No. 18 Dodge. "However, you never know what's going to happen from race to race -- the strategy is only as good as the paper it's written on. Most of the teams try to anticipate the worst, that way they'll be ready."
Stacy Compton, driver of the No. 86 Dodge, added, "We have six trucks ready to go at the shop, so we're ready. We're actually looking forward to the stretch -- we want to get our first win and keep banging out they top-5s and top-10s. We've been working really hard on our road coarse program, so we're exited about the Portland race next month. We want to win races for Dodge and RC -- that will help us in our run for the 1999 NCTS championship."
The No. 24 GMAC team received a surprise this weekend as team member Tony Witt arrived at Bristol wearing a wedding ring. A gas man and chassis specialist, Tony and Paula Lund were en route to the track Thursday.
"Actually, as of yesterday, me and my fiancee' made some plans and we went and got married," said an excited Witt. "We just went to the courthouse and did it." Sprague's single-point lead over Hornaday is the closest margin since April 19, 1998, when the order was reversed following Hornaday's win at Phoenix International Raceway. Sprague is the fourth different driver to head up the standings this season, as well as the sixth different driver to record a victory.
Just three drivers -- Hornaday, Sprague and Joe Ruttman -- have finished all 756 series laps run at Bristol, with a combined average finish is 4.5. Only seven drivers -- the aforementioned trio, along with Mike Bliss, Rick Carelli, Jimmy Hensley and Butch Miller -- have competed in every series race at the .533-mile track. Bliss is the only one without a top-10 finish.
Chevrolet has won the past three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races at Bristol. Ruttman recorded Ford's first overall series victory at Bristol in 1995. Through the O'Reilly Auto Parts 200 two weeks ago, four of the eight events held in 1999 have gone into "overtime." The season record for extended races is five in 1996. Nineteen of 105 Truck races -- 18 percent -- have ended with a green-white-checkered flag finish. Last year's event at Bristol went six laps its scheduled distance.
Source: NASCAR Online