Veteran racer Sprague gets first truck win of season

Updated: July 16, 2006, 1:23 AM ET
Associated Press

MILLINGTON, Tenn. -- Jack Sprague raced to his first victory of the season and the 26th of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career, holding off rookie Eric Darnell by 0.251 seconds Saturday night in the O'Reilly 200.

Sprague, a three-time series champion, won for the first time since June 2005 at Texas and became the first driver to win two truck races at Memphis Motorsports Park. It was also the first win for his Wyler Racing Toyota team.

"It's been a long time and I wanted it bad," he said, "It's a new team, and we've been so close. But now they know what it feels like to win. The spring in the step is different and hopefully it will bring more."

After a late pit incident took Dennis Setzer out of the picture, Sprague had to work his way around Darnell following the final round of pit stops in the last 20 laps.

Sprague passed Darnell at lap 193, but after a late spin by Aric Almirola forced a green-white-checker overtime finish, Sprague showed his experience on the restart. He allowed Darnell to tap his bumper, then took off, leaving Darnell to briefly spin his wheels.

"I overdrove the car there," Darnell said. "I think if I had 3-4 more laps I could've run him down. My truck was great on longer runs."

Matt Crafton finished third and two other former series champions, Ron Hornaday and Mike Bliss, rounded out the top five.

Sprague started from the pole and dominated most of the race, only to have Setzer take the lead going into both rounds of pit stops.

"I'd be great for 40-50 laps and then my truck would get tight and Dennis had me," Sprague said.

Setzer, the points runner-up the past three years and a past winner at Memphis, appeared to be in position to control the race down the stretch, but ran into trouble on a pit stop after a caution for debris on the 175th lap.

As Setzer came into his stall, Kevin Grubb's pit crew pit put down their sign in the stall in front before Setzer came past. His truck got tangled in it, forcing a pit delay that dropped him to 10th.

"The 15 sign was down low and they dropped it underneath my truck when I came by," Setzer said. "When they went to jack my truck up, it was caught up there underneath the truck and when they tried to jack up the truck, it slipped off. An unfortunate deal."

Points leader Todd Bodine struggled to a 15th-place finish, but still came out of the race 117 points ahead of David Reutimann. Johnny Benson, who entered the race in the second spot, got involved in two separate incidents, and finished 32nd, falling one spot to third, 163 points back.

The average speed of the race, slowed by seven caution flags, was 88.365 mph.

Sprague gained a share of the series career record for poles, taking the top spot with a lap of 117.529 mph around the three-quarter-mile Memphis oval.

It was the first pole of the season for Sprague and the 28th of his career, equaling the mark held by Mike Skinner.

Kelly Sutton, who races while battling multiple sclerosis, sat out her second consecutive event while feeling the effects of injuries suffered in a crash July 1 at Kansas Speedway.

Brad Keselowski, who finished 30th last week filling in for Sutton at Kentucky Speedway, qualified her No. 02 Chevrolet sixth, the team's best qualifying effort of the season. He finished 16th.

Former Boston Red Sox outfielder Mike Greenwell, making his second NCTS start, spun out on the fifth lap and struggled all night. He finished 33rd, four laps down.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press