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Last-lap heroics lead Sprague to Craftsman Truck win

2/17/2007 - NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jack Sprague created two milestones
with one move.

Sprague used a dramatic pass on the final lap Friday night to win his first race at Daytona International Speedway and give Toyota its first victory at NASCAR's most famous track.

"To win Daytona was an absolute shock," Sprague said. "It's huge for everybody involved. I knew Toyota would win at Daytona. I wasn't sure Jack Sprague would."

Pole-sitter Sprague and fellow Toyota driver Johnny Benson
teamed to close the gap on Travis Kvapil coming off the final
turn. Benson slammed into Sprague, sending him shooting to the outside while Benson dropped below the yellow line -- a move NASCAR
reviewed and deemed legal -- to make it a three-truck race to the line.

Sprague edged Benson, claiming the season-opening Craftsman Truck series race. Kvapil was third.

"I can't believe I won Daytona," Sprague said. "This is by far the best race I've ever won."

He knew he had Benson to thank for that. In fact, his crew did just that, going over to Benson's truck to thank him personally.

"He hit me so hard coming off [turn] four my teeth came out," Sprague said. "If it wasn't for him hitting me like he did, we would have never won this race."

Toyota made its NASCAR debut three years ago in the truck series. The foreign automaker finished second at Daytona in 2004, third in 2005 and claimed spots two through five last year.

Now, Toyota has made it to Victory Lane.

Sprague, Benson and defending series champion Todd Bodine agreed on the final caution to stay out instead of changing tires, get in line and move to the front.

Kvapil, driving a Ford, nearly spoiled the plan.

He took the lead on the restart with six laps to go and pulled several truck lengths out front. But the Toyota teammates ran him down coming out of the final turn and blew by as they approached the checkered flag.

Sprague edged Benson and Kvapil in what might end up being the closest race of Speedweeks.

"I've been here before. I've been on the other side of that deal," said Kvapil, who has three straight top-five finishes at this event. "I knew that was going to happen.

"It was me against the world, it felt like."

The race had seven cautions for 34 laps, with six accidents.

Ken Schrader, Derrike Cope, Mike Wallace and Mike Bliss were knocked out of the race. Nextel Cup regular Carl Edwards had transmission trouble early but came back to help his Roush teammates late in the race.

Terry Cook and Chase Miller had the most dramatic wrecks.

Cook got hit from behind with about 40 laps to go, slammed into the wall and came to a sliding stop on the frontstretch while bursting into flames. Cook escaped without injury.

With 19 laps to go, Miller slammed into the wall and collected three trucks in the mess. His accident made for an even tougher night for Bobby Hamilton Racing, a team dedicating the season to its late owner.

Bobby Hamilton Sr. died last month after a nearly yearlong bout with head and neck cancer.

Hamilton raced the first three truck events last season before turning the wheel over to his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr., and beginning aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

The younger Hamilton drove the rest of the season and finished 16th in the series standings. But he disagreed with the direction of the team and parted ways.

Schrader stepped into the seat and hoped to win at Daytona in Hamilton's memory, especially with Hamilton's name still painted above the window. But neither Schrader nor Miller were able to finish the race.