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King Of Trucks Can Nab Another Jewel Tonight

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 19 2009
Ron Hornaday Jr. and crew chief Rick Ren go for six in a row tonight at Bristol.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Ron Hornaday Jr. and crew chief Rick Ren go for six in a row tonight at Bristol. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

Ron Hornaday Jr. has a chance tonight at Bristol Motor Speedway to extend his Camping World Truck Series win streak to a record six, which would be the first time in decades that a driver in a major NASCAR division won that many consecutive races.

Richard Petty is the all-time leader with 10 straight wins in Cup in 1967. It seems appropriate for Hornaday to be mentioned in the same sentence as Petty since the truck series veteran has become the Richard Petty of his division.

The two drivers hold most of the important all-time records in their respective divisions, including most career wins. Hornaday’s 44 triumphs far surpass runner-up Jack Sprague’s 28 just as Petty s 200 are nearly double David Pearson’s 105. And with three titles already and a good start on a fourth, Hornaday has proven that he can make the best of bad days, just as Petty did in winning seven Cup titles.

Now it’s not just statistics that say Hornaday is one of, if not the best driver ever in the truck series. Influential people in the sport are saying it too.

Humpy Wheeler, long-time promoter and former president of Lowe’s Motor Speedway said Hornaday has put on some incredible performances over the years.

“He has always been a tremendous driver, and what he’s done with the trucks is pretty incredible because truck racing is probably the most competitive type of racing in NASCAR,” Wheeler said. “There’s more passing, they run closer and get pretty wild … it gets hairy on the track.

“The fact that he’s been able to keep that truck together and put this fantastic record together is a wonderful achievement.”

Mike Skinner, who has posted some pretty impressive truck numbers of his own, taking the inaugural championship in 1995 title and winning 26 races and counting, said his long-time rival is simply toying with the field these days.

“We need to break Hornaday’s arms and legs and maybe [crew chief] Rick Ren’s, too, to slow them down a little now,” Skinner said. “That’s about the only way to slow that team down.  Right now they’re like a steamroller and are definitely in a class by themselves.

“It’s embarrassing, because they’re just playing with the rest of the field.  They just get out there and ride around and when it’s time to go, they go.”

That’s very much the way Petty was in his dominant days, and it’s was due in large part to the strength of the team behind him. That’s the case with Hornaday today.

Hornaday’s team, owned by his long-time friends Kevin and DeLana Harvick, is putting great equipment under him every time out. The Harvicks teamed up with Hornaday in 2005, just as it appeared his NASCAR career might be about to stall out.

The combination has proved to be as strong as the Pettys and cousin Dale Inman back in the day, and Hornaday appreciates what he’s got.

“I’m real fortunate to be driving,” he said. “Kevin and DeLana gave me a second chance.”

He also should be grateful that the Harvicks chose to run him in the truck series instead of Nationwide, where they also field entries and where he also has experience.

As fellow truck driver Terry Cook points out, the truck series seems made to order for Hornaday.

“He’s a hard-charging, tough competitor and every lap he runs, he races like it’s the last lap,” Cook said. “And when you’re in a shorter race, and the truck series runs the shortest races of the three national major touring divisions, his driving style fits the truck series perfectly.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 19 2009
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