For Ron Hornaday and Joe Denette Motorsports (JDM) it has been the story of their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season. The No. 9 Chevrolet Silverado has been fast at every track visited and in contention for wins throughout the 22-race season, but various issues out of Hornaday's control have robbed them of a trip to victory lane in 2012. Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was no different as Hornaday qualified the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet in the top-10 but fought the handling of the truck throughout the night, ultimately finishing 20th in the final rundown.
In the only NCWTS practice session on Friday, Hornaday reported the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was a little too free and had no fuel pressure. The JDM crew got to work putting a new fuel pump in the No. 9 Silverado.
Halfway through the two-hour practice session Hornaday was happy with the handling on his No. 9 machine. After making a mock qualifying run, Hornaday shot to fifth on the charts with a time of 32.750 (164.885 mph) and ended the session early from the 13th position, happy with his Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet for the 134-lap race.
Hornaday was the 26th qualifier in 17th Annual Ford EcoBoost 200 time trials on Friday afternoon. With a fast lap of 32.211 (167.645 mph) Hornaday immediately shot to the top of the charts saying his No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was, "comfortable to drive." Hornaday's quick lap secured the eighth starting spot, on the outside of the fourth row.
After making his ninth top-10 start of the year in the Ford EcoBoost 200, Hornaday was quiet on the radio in the opening laps and reported that his No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was loose off the corners and dragging the splitter. Chasing his ill-handling machine, Hornaday fell back to the 17th position by lap 20.
Soon after Hornaday lost one lap to race-leader, Nelson Piquet, Jr., the first caution of the night waved at lap 37 for debris on the racing surface. Crew Chief Doug Howe used the caution to call the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet to pit road for four tires, fuel, a chassis adjustment and a few minor repairs to raise the splitter. Following an extended stay on pit road, the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was scored 27th on the charts at the lap 41 restart.
Hornaday would work his way up to the 21st-position by the time the next caution waved just four laps later at lap 45. Hornaday did not make the trip down pit road under this caution and reported that the splitter was no longer hitting the track.
Hornaday once again restarted from 21st on the board when the field retook the green flag at lap 50. Although Hornaday was in position for the "Lucky Dog" Award to advance back onto the lead lap, the caution he needed never came while he held the elusive spot. Hornaday reported from 20th on the leaderboard that the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was tight on long runs and by lap 73 of 134 he also reported that the splitter was once again making too much contact with the racetrack.
As the green flag run continued, the field began making green flag pit stops. Hornaday came to the attention of his JDM pit crew at lap 89 for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. The No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet rejoined the field 25th on the charts, now down two laps to the race leaders.
The third caution of the night waved for debris at lap 105 and Crew Chief Doug Howe brought Hornaday to pit road for his last stop of the night. The JDM pit crew gave the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet four fresh tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment before sending Hornaday back out 23rd in the lineup, three laps down to the race leaders.
The NCWTS field retook the green flag at lap 109 and as the race heated up, Hornaday remained 23rd while things began to get exciting ahead of him. The fourth caution of the night waved at lap 126, with less than ten laps remaining in the 134-lap event. Hornaday radioed back to his JDM pit crew that the changes made on the last stop, were no longer helping the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff machine.
Crew Chief Doug Howe chose to bring Hornaday back to pit road one last time for a chassis adjustment and fuel on the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet before the field restarted again at lap 130.
In the closing laps of the 2012 NCWTS season, the leaders brought out one last caution to set up a green, white, checkered finish to close out the year. Hornaday restarted the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet from the 21st position and crossed the line 20th on the charts when the checkered flag waved on the Ford EcoBoost 200.
Cale Gale captured his first NCWTS victory in a photo finish over NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Kyle Busch. Joey Coulter, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Miguel Paludo completed the top-five finishers while James Buescher was crowned the 2012 NCWTS champion.
Ron Hornaday Quotes: "This was a new chassis that we brought for tonight's race. We didn't get to the wind tunnel with it and didn't really know what to expect once we got it to the track. I was pretty loose in practice but the guys worked really hard and got it dialed-in. I knew we wouldn't be the fastest but I was pretty happy with our lap in qualifying and it was comfortable to drive. I'm not really sure how we were so good in qualifying though and so far off at the start of the race. I was plowing because the splitter was dragging the ground and I was really tight on the longer runs. It's unfortunate but it doesn't surprise me after the year we have had. I have to thank Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff for their support this year. We have some great things working for the future of Joe Denette Motorsports and hopefully we can make an announcement in the upcoming weeks."
Joe Denette Motorsports