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Sprague Frustrated by Chicagoland Finish

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (July 15, 2002)—Jack Sprague was quick to jump from his IROC race car into his No. 24 NetZero Chevrolet for the start of Saturday’s Tropicana Twister 300 NASCAR Busch Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Unfortunately, Sprague didn’t have the opportunity to use the extra seat time to his advantage when an engine failure in his No. 24 NetZero Chevy saddled him with a disappointing 42nd-place finish.

“I don`t know what to say about today,” said Sprague, who finished 10th earlier Saturday in the third IROC race of the season. “The car was never really good for us all weekend. It felt like it wanted to dart up the track in the corners.

“The guys changed almost everything on the car before qualifying and we finally ended up with a decent car by the time Happy Hour was over yesterday. We knew it would be okay for the race.

“Never in our dreams would we have thought we`d have an engine problem,” he continued. “We`re all pretty bummed out about it.”

From the start of the weekend, Sprague`s NetZero Chevy had a mind of its own, leaving the veteran driver and his crew chief, Dennis Connor, scratching their heads. The three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion did all he could to get the car smoothly through the corners, but the No. 24 never improved.

Despite several pre-qualifying changes, the Spring Lake, Mich., native continued to struggle, posting the 26th-quickest time of the session (30.703 seconds).

“I don`t know what the problem was with the NetZero Chevy during practice and qualifying,” said Sprague. “It was downright evil out there. I couldn`t drive it.

“The car kept trying to dart off the track. When I say we changed everything, I mean it. We changed everything except the paint and the decals and it still qualified terrible.”

Sprague`s red, black and silver NetZero Monte Carlo appeared to be cured at the drop of the green flag as he picked up several positions before the caution flag waved on lap nine. The driver radioed his crew that the car was much better than the day before, but when the race resumed on lap 13, Sprague told the crew that his engine had lost a cylinder.

“The car was pretty good from the few laps I ran,” said Sprague, who despite the finish maintained the third position in the points chase, 150 markers behind leader Greg Biffle. “If anything, the NetZero Chevy was a little tight in the middle of the corner, but I figured that was because I was running behind someone.

“I knew if I got out in clean air it would be better, but it doesn`t matter now that we lost the motor.”

Sprague and the NetZero Chevy will try to make amends in the next race on the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series tour—the Charter Pipeline 250 at Gateway International Speedway on Saturday, July 20. The event will be televised live on TNT (8 p.m. EDT) and broadcast on MRN Radio affiliates (7:30 p.m. EDT).

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