Sunday, June 11, 2000

Auto Racing Insider


Not all truck drivers long for Winston Cup

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        A NASCAR Craftsman Truck race is the featured opener at Kentucky Speedway next Saturday. Some of the drivers aspire to race the major-league Winston Cup someday, but some don't want the hassles.

        Jack Sprague, two-time Truck series champion and 2000 points leader, says you can have the Winston series. Nothing personal, because he once wanted to do it too.

        “Those guys only get maybe three weekends off per year,” Sprague said last week, during a media preview at Kentucky Speedway. “We get like 20 weekends off. I've got a little girl (age 5) I want to see grow up, and I'm not going through that.”

        Sprague, 35, has made a good living as the top name in the truck series. He has won more than $4 million since the series began in 1995 and can live comfortably for the rest of his life.

        In Winston Cup, Sprague said, maybe 90 percent of the drivers are not having fun. The intense pressure to win has sent several wannabes packing, with about 75 percent of a given Winston rookie class gone within a few years.

        Steve Grissom has been there. Grissom, now a star in the Truck series, ran Winston Cup from 1994-99 before losing his full-time ride. His best Winston finishes were two fourths in 136 starts. He parachuted into the Truck series with Richard Petty Motorsports this year but wants to return to Winston Cup.

        “There's a little less pressure in the trucks, but really it's the pressure you put on yourself,” Grissom said.

        Like Sprague, Grissom is married with a young child. But unlike Sprague, who had his fill in the NASCAR Busch series with 70 career rides, Grissom wants the bright lights again. At 36, he is still relatively young for a racer.

        “Yeah, I'd like to get back,” Grissom said. “The goal is to be in Winston Cup and be in competitive situations and win races.”

        Not Sprague.

        “I can make a good living here,” he said. “I think I'm doing what I need to be doing.” NASCAR LIVE: E-mailer John French reminds us there is more local motorsports radio than the Shur-Good Racing Report on WLW-AM (700), 7-9p.m. Sundays, and Pit Talk on WMOH-AM (1450), 7-9p.m. Thursdays).

        Superspeedways Week ly, hosted by Rob Steins and Brian McNay, runs Tuesdays from 6-7p.m. on WCKY-AM (1360). “About 99.9 percent of what we talk about is NASCAR,” McNay said.

        THE FORCE: John Force won his 86th career drag race last Sunday, breaking the NHRA record of 85 he shared with Bob Glidden. It was Force's fourth straight Funny Car victory and fifth this year.

        Local fans heard about it the same night, as Force was interviewed via telephone by WLW's Bill “Seg” Dennison on the Shur-Good Racing Report.

        The NHRA's Pontiac Excitement Nationals will run Thursday through Sunday at National Trail Raceway, just east of Columbus.

        INDY TV RATINGS: TV ratings for the 2000 Indianapolis 500 stayed the same as 1999, with a 5.5 rating on ABC-TV. That means the race was seen in 5.5 percent of U.S. households with television sets.

        TV ratings for the Indy 500 have slipped since reaching 8.4 in 1995.

        This year's Indy ran into some competition. A three-hour rain delay meant the race was televised opposite a Los Angeles-Portland NBA playoff game.

        Tom Groeschen welcomes your email at tgroeschen@enquirer.com

       



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