NASCAR

RACING ONE: Sprague breaks through for Busch win

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Jack Sprague had done everything but win a NASCAR Busch Series race. He's led a lot of laps, posted a lot of solid finishes and even led the points standings. But until Saturday night at Nashville Superspeedway, Sprague had raced 89 times in the Busch Series without a victory. That streak ended with a win in the Inside Traxx 300, as Sprague passed an ailing with 22 laps to go and pulled away to victory. Sprague led 144 of the race's 225 laps. "Ten years, baby," Sprague said. "We're been working at this for 10 years. Man, this is awesome. This feels as good as my first truck win. This is unbelievable. We had a great time out there. Rick (Hendrick) gives us great stuff. The motor was awesome, the (pit crew) has gotten better continuously all year." Jr. finished second, with Biffle coming home third. was fourth, followed by Jason Keller, , , Hank Parker Jr. and rookies Shane Hmiel and Casey Mears. With 56 laps to go, Sprague shot around Keller after a restart to get the lead. Keller's crew chief, Steve Addington, had gambled by only changing right-side tires, but Sprague was too strong. The victory was anything but assured at that point, of course. There were three cautions in the remaining 56 laps, and after the second of those, Biffle passed Sprague to get the lead with 39 to go. Just before the final caution, though, Biffle brushed the outside wall as he was making his move into Turn 1. The car's handling went away, and Sprague moved in and passed him on Lap 203. Biffle's troubles went deeper than the brush of the wall. Early in the race, the alternator belt came off, and Biffle had to turn off all the fans off in his car. The crush panels that keep carbon dioxide in the car were knocked out when he bounced off the wall in practice earlier Saturday, so he struggled to get clean air all night. "I kinda got a little woozy there at the end," Biffle said. "I ran into the wall going into the corner down at the end of the straightaway. Just my fault. It pushed the front fender in, and I couldn't stay in front of the 24. I'm pretty disappointed with myself for doing that." The race went green after Scott Riggs' spin on Lap 206, and Sprague moved away from Biffle. Hamilton Jr. passed Biffle and appeared to close on Sprague, but time ran out. "I'm kinda curious: What in the hell does it take to win at this place?" said Hamilton Jr., who led here last month but came up short. "I've finished third and second. The Marines Ford was fast. (Crew chief) Fred Wanke kept making changes. We were a little bit tight, and then we were loose. We were tight, and then (Wanke) came through for me and I stormed up through there. "Sprague was on his own. He had a real good car. We'll take second. ¿ I might go home and kick the cat or something, but I'll get over it." Sprague, a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, moved to the Busch Series full-time in 2002 as Hendrick Motorsports brought he and Ricky Hendrick over. Sprague ran the Busch Series many years ago but couldn't find victory lane then. This season, he's finished in the Top 5 five times and the Top 10 10 times. But he had never won ¿ until Saturday night. "I wanted that guitar bad when I saw it in the drivers meeting," Sprague said of the guitar that is given to the winner in Music City. "This team has wanted to win bad. We've been close. We could have won Texas, here in the spring. "The newspapers were starting to say we're doing everything except winning. Now, we've won a race. Maybe they'll get off me a little bit. But, man, this team is awesome." The next race for the Busch Series is the Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Speedway on June 15.

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