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Sprague wins NCTS season opener at Daytona

Feb 17, 2007 - 4:56 AM By Jim Ralabate PA SportsTicker Auto Racing Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida (Ticker) -- Travis Kvapil had Victory Lane in his sights. But Jack Sprague spoiled the party at the last possible second.

Sprague passed Kvapil on the final straightaway to win Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Chevy Silverado HD 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

It was the 28th career checkered flag for Sprague, who averaged 117.739 miles per hour in a Toyota Tundra. The 42-year-old veteran became the first driver in NCTS history to win here in a Toyota and needs only one victory to tie Ron Hornaday Jr. for the all-time series lead.

"Travis could have really messed the whole deal up and wrecked the whole field, but he was really good about it," said Sprague, who won $93,375. "I can't believe I won Daytona."

Sprague barely finished at the head of the class in a field featuring seven former series champions, a record at Daytona's season opener.

After battling for the lead position with four other drivers throughout the 100-lap event, Sprague trailed Kvapil with five laps remaining and made several futile passing attempts along the inside.

Sprague still trailed coming through turn 4 of the final lap when he made his bold move, driving his Toyota along the outside of Kvapil's Ford F-150 to win by just 0.034 seconds in the eighth-closest finish in series history.

Johnny Benson also barely beat Kvapil to the finish line along the inside in a Toyota to finish second.

"The goal is to get Toyota in Victory Lane," Benson said. "That's our job, so I pushed Jack as hard as I could. Once I saw Jack was going to be in the lead, I was trying for second or the win. I knew if I stayed behind Jack, I wasn't going to get second, so I cut across the track."

"I owe Johnny, I owe Johnny big," Sprague said. "He said he'd go with me. I saw him up there on the top and I had to go."

Kvapil came in third, followed by the Toyotas of Mike Skinner and reigning series champion Todd Bodine.

"I knew that was going to happen," Kvapil said. "I got down the backstretch and looked in my mirror and said, 'Oh no, I'm out too far on these guys.'"

A three-time series champion, Sprague took the first step toward his record fourth title.

"This is by far the best race I've ever won," he said. "It took a lot of help from all the other Toyota drivers. It was awesome. I can't thank Johnny enough."

Sprague headlined a star-studded field which also featured Hornaday, a two-time NCTS champion, and former champs Mike Bliss (2002) and Ted Musgrave (2005). Kvapil (2003) and Skinner (1995) also own series crowns.

The eighth consecutive season opener held at Daytona's 2 1/2-mile superspeedway, Friday's race featured 21 lead changes among seven drivers and seven cautions. Kvapil, who led six times for a total of 49 laps, kept his performance in perspective.

"Our F-150 was the best truck out here tonight," said Kvapil, who registered his third consecutive top-five finish in this race. "I don't know how I could have done it any better. I guess I could have tried blocking Sprague better, but I thought we would have wrecked."

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