RACING ONE: Keller on Point at The Peak

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Jack Sprague and his No. 24 NetZero Chevy team achieved a huge goal when it won its first NASCAR Busch Series race last month at Nashville Superspeedway. The momentum from that victory, however, slipped away quickly, and now Sprague and his team are working hard to regain their stride. Sprague hopes to recapture the lost momentum this weekend in the NetZero 250 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, where he¿ll start from the 24th position after a qualifying lap of 129.431 mph Friday. Jason Keller won the pole with a fast lap of 131.801 mph. Mark Green qualified second, followed by Ashton Lewis, , ., , , , Ricky Hendrick and . Sprague left the Nashville race with the Busch Series points lead, but in the subsequent five races, the team has met with limited success. He finished 16th at Kentucky, 14th at Milwaukee, 28th and Daytona, 42nd at Chicago and fourth last Saturday night at Gateway International Raceway. ¿We never imagined to come out of the box like we did and lead the points and win a race,¿ said Sprague, who has fallen to third place, 165 points behind Busch Series standings leader . ¿Sure, it¿s a great feeling to lead the points for so long, but we still have a shot to come back and make a run for it and I wouldn¿t count us out yet. ¿What¿s hard to stomach is the way we lost the lead. The late-race wreck at Daytona and then engine failure just a couple of laps into the Chicago race a few weeks ago just killed us. I try not to think about it too much. Besides, this team was in the same situation in the Truck Series last year and fought back to sit at the front table at the banquet.¿ Biffle has been hot as of late, with three victories and seven top-three finishes in his last eight races. He¿s pulled out to a 72-point advantage over Keller in the points. Sprague is the only other driver within 300 points of the lead. Sprague has had a good deal of past success at PPIR. He had three top-fives in the four races he participated in there, including a second-place run behind in 1999. Biffle is a past winner at PPIR in the Craftsman Truck Series, in 2000. Sprague has yet another incentive to do well this weekend. His car¿s primary sponsor is the sponsor of the race. ¿NetZero has put a lot of time and advertising money into this race to make a good show of it,¿ Sprague said. ¿I hope I do my part and give them a great performance in return. NetZero has done so much for us in the last two years (in the Truck Series as well). I¿m glad they made the jump with us to the Busch Series. There¿s going to be a lot of people in the grandstand rooting us on and we¿re going to do all we can to give them something to cheer about.¿ Hornaday is certainly giving his team and his sponsor, Dr. Pepper, something to cheer about these days. The veteran, who took over the driving duties of the No. 26 Chevy for Lyndon Amick earlier this season, has stepped up his performance in recent weeks, including a second-place finish at Gateway International Raceway last Saturday night. The runner-up finish was the best ever for Carroll Racing. Hornaday has three top-five finishes in his last four races. ¿The first step to achieve success at anything is to set reasonable goals,¿ Hornaday said. ¿When I first came on board with this team in Loudon, N.H. (in May), we sat down and decided what we needed to do. We¿ve come to realize that perseverance is the key. I work hard to help keep the team¿s morale high. These guys put their hearts into the No. 26 car and I¿ve love to give them a well-deserved win.¿ , the 2001 race winner at PPIR, is out for the remainder of the season nursing injuries suffered in an accident earlier this season. Purvis also continues to hold the track qualifying record of 135.629 mph, set last year. The green flag is scheduled to wave on the 43-car field in the Netzero 250 Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

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