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Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Updated: October 9, 10:49 AM ET
Let go by KHI, Sprague returns to No. 60 Wyler Racing Toyota

By John Schwarb
Special to ESPN.com

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Terry Cook (60) recorded just two top-5s in 20 starts and no top-10s in his last seven races.

Sprague moves from KHI back to Wyler as silly season continues

Remember the cliffhanger from the '80s TV show "Dallas" in which Pamela Ewing woke up one morning and opened the shower door to find -- surprise! -- her husband, Bobby? Pam had "dreamed" an entire season to cover for actor Patrick Duffy, who returned after leaving the show to pursue other opportunities.

Perhaps Jack Sprague can relate.

The three-time Craftsman Truck Series champion left the No. 60 Wyler Racing Toyota to join Kevin Harvick Inc. this season, creating what was expected to be a two-truck Chevrolet juggernaut with three-time and defending champion Ron Hornaday Jr. But after eight months that were more nightmarish than dreamy, Sprague was fired Monday and landed back in his old Wyler Toyota on Tuesday, after that team released Terry Cook.

Just another week in the soap opera known as the Truck Series, in which the musical chairs are nearly as crazy as the racing.

Here's a 5-cent recap of some of this season's moving and shaking:

    • Joey Clanton crashed out of the season opener at Daytona and was promptly fired by Roush Fenway Racing.

    • Donny Lia won for TRG Motorsports in May, the first rookie winner in five years, only to be out of the seat by August.

    • Mike Skinner, last year's runner-up, has driven for three crew chiefs at Bill Davis Racing and ended a winless 2008 with the third one, Doug Richert, watching from a television booth.

    • Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia downsized from two teams to one, taking away a seat from part-owner Stacy Compton and putting competition director Jeff Hensley out of a job. Hensley was crew chief for Skinner at BDR and returned to the team last month to go atop the pit box with its latest pickup, Brian Scott.

    • HT Motorsports parted ways with former champion Ted Musgrave on the morning of the Las Vegas race, with Compton stepping in on short notice to finish the day.

And those are just the big names; we'd need more bandwidth to cover the almost-weekly swaps at the back of the grid.

Yet this week's KHI/Sprague divorce was particularly jarring in its swiftness and timing. Sprague crashed for the second consecutive race Saturday at Talladega and was out of the seat two days later, not even given the consideration of finishing the final five races in the No. 2. Harvick, a part-time driver since 2002 in his own stuff, announced that he would drive for at least one of the remaining races, Oct. 18 at Martinsville, Va.

Sprague had a fair start to the year with five finishes of seventh or better in the first nine races, reaching as high as fifth in points before going backward with poor finishes in trucks that were consistently solid in practice and qualifying. With teammate Hornaday on a late-season surge in his attempt to become the series' first repeat champion, one figured that Sprague had to soon assume a role as an on-track wingman, driving the same top equipment. It never happened.

"Possibly [it would have], and maybe it would have kept going like it is," Sprague said. "You'd have to think with the performance, sooner or later you'll get the results and things will turn around, but sometimes it's tough waiting for it. It's been a miserable year for everybody involved."

Sprague took some issue with the timing of Harvick's decision, voicing concerns Monday that it would be difficult to find another seat and even revealing thoughts of retirement, but a day later he was back in the game.

The Wyler family had given Sprague everything from a job [full time in the No. 60, 2006-07] to a spouse [wife Amy is the niece of team owner Jeff Wyler], and came through again Tuesday just in time for the 28-time race winner to stay alongside Rick Crawford atop the all-time starts list.

Cook, a six-time Trucks winner and third all time with 285 starts (Crawford and Sprague have 292), stepped into the No. 60 this season when Sprague, understandably, left for one of the top teams in the series. But Cook couldn't find the winning form Sprague had three times in his two years, recording two top-5s in 20 starts and no top-10s in the last seven in a Toyota that has operated most of the year on a tight budget. He became expendable with Sprague suddenly on the market.

"We appreciate the effort that Terry Cook put forth for us this season and we have nothing but positive things to say about him. He's truly a class act," team president David Wyler said in a statement. "However, we are not totally pleased with how our team has performed this season and as we look forward to growth in 2009. We needed to do something to help us evaluate what we need to do to get better.

"It is no secret about our relationship with Jack, and when he became available it seemed very logical for us to put him in the truck for the remaining five races."

The team is shopping for sponsorship to keep Sprague in the seat for next season, so maybe a year from now his KHI experience will be a footnote of the past, a fleeting experiment that failed but didn't hurt his career long term. Just like Patrick Duffy, magically reappearing at Southfork Ranch.

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.

Hornish to make first start

Sam Hornish Jr.

Hornish

Sam Hornish Jr. will become the second IndyCar Series champion to drive in the Truck Series. He'll pilot the No. 4 Dodge of Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia next week at Martinsville in partnership with Penske Racing, his employer in Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series racing. Chris Carrier, Hornish's crew chief on the No. 77 Cup Dodge, will serve as crew chief in the truck race.

Dario Franchitti also drove a truck at Martinsville last year, finishing 33rd in his NASCAR debut. He made a total of 24 Cup/Nationwide starts this season before his Cup sponsorship with Chip Ganassi Racing ran dry. He's returning to IndyCar racing next year with Ganassi.

An interesting sponsor for Sadler

Virginia native Hermie Sadler, a two-time starter in the Trucks' inaugural 1995 season, will drive next week at Martinsville in a No. 48 Chevrolet sponsored in part by Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Sadler, a wrestling promoter for years, has made Cup and Nationwide starts in vehicles sponsored by wrestling companies.

Wonder what his sponsor would have thought of the throwdown at Loudon, N.H., between Red Horse Racing and Germain Racing.

Standings