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First Year True Value IROC Drivers Gunning for Championship

JOLIET, Ill. (July 8, 2002) - Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte are once again in their familiar positions of being in contention for the True Value IROC Series championship. Last year, Labonte edged Stewart for the season title by winning the fourth and final race in Indianapolis.

As the all-star series heads into the third race of the current season with its debut appearance July 13 at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway, two first-year True Value IROC drivers - Kevin Harvick and Jack Sprague are chasing Stewart and Labonte for the prestigious title.

Stewart leads the True Value IROC standings with 35 points. He is followed by Harvick (32 points), Labonte (30 points) and Sprague and Al Unser Jr. (each with 22 points).

Harvick vaulted into contention after his dominant victory at the recent True Value IROC race April 27 at California Speedway in Fontana. He led 46 of the 50 laps and moved from ninth place to second in the point standings. At the opener in Daytona, Harvick finished ninth.

"Winning a True Value IROC race is right up there for me with getting a Daytona 500 win or winning a Cup race at Bristol or Indy," said Harvick, who received his True Value IROC invitation for winning the 2001 Busch Grand National championship. "Putting the fenders to these open-wheel guys and racing with the elite of NASCAR is pretty cool alone in itself. I'm just glad we have an opportunity like this to race on level ground, with all sorts of these drivers."

Harvick feels he will have an advantage this weekend because of the successful experience he had last year by winning the inaugural Winston Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway.

"You can put good money on us winning twice this weekend," said Harvick, who races the Richard Childress-owned Goodwrench Chevrolet in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. "Just being in the championship points race with Tony (Stewart) is exciting. You have to take the good when you get it and you can bet I'm after that championship. Coming back to Chicago where I got my second Cup win last year is going to do nothing but help me in the IROC race and the Cup race. Any extra time you can get on a track, regardless of what you're driving, is always a benefit."

Sprague, who received his True Value IROC invitation for winning his third NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship last year, has been a consistent performer in the first two IROC races of the season, finishing fourth in Daytona and fifth in California.

"I didn't go into this figuring I was going to win the championship," said Sprague, who is also in contention for the Busch Grand National championship. "I just wanted to be competitive and be able to race against these guys. But to be racing against the best drivers in the world and to be tied for fourth is great. I have a shot at winning the championship, but I need to get points for leading laps and win one of the last two races. Whatever happens, I'm having a blast in these cars. It's a great time and a great honor to be involved in the True Value IROC Series."

Like Harvick, Sprague will also race twice this weekend. Following Saturday's True Value IROC race, Sprague will jump into his NetZero Chevrolet and compete in the Tropicana Twister 300 Busch Grand National race.

Sprague is currently in third place in the Busch standings. He lost his first-place hold after finishing 28th due to an accident late in the race in last Saturday's event at Daytona International Speedway. He knows that winning the Busch season championship would most likely give him a True Value IROC invitation next year.

"I would love to race in the True Value IROC Series two years in a row," said Sprague. "Just to be able to do it once is a great honor. But if I don't get a chance to do it again, I've done something that 95 percent of drivers never get to do. But if I get lucky and win the Busch championship and be able to race IROC again, that would be unbelievable."


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