2009 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Saturday news conference transcripts
An Interview With:
RON HORNADAY, JR.
ANDREW BOOTH: We're joined by Ron Hornaday, driver for Kevin Harvick, Incorporated in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Take us through your off season and how are you looking at 2009 coming up here at Daytona.
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Well, racing wise we're looking real well. Fluffing and buffing the trucks, brand new trucks in the end of the deal. We've got some new sponsors going to unveil here pretty soon, going to have some new colors on the new Camping World Truck Series, so we're looking forward to it. It's going to be a lot of fun.
Kind of hard, my father passed away just a couple days before Christmas and it was pretty tough. But he was ready. Anybody as ready as my dad, he paid his trash for a year, he paid all his taxes and everything for a year, so he was ready to go. We didn't know he was that sick, and he was one of the quiet guys that kept everything to himself and didn't want to burden my racing on it, and that's kind of what hurts my feelings, that he didn't want to bother me with my racing to let me know about his health. He's in a better place, he's you will there with my mom and Dale and they're going to all go racing up there together.
Other than that, I wish we would never quit racing. We had a great year last year with Johnny Benson and all that. It was a lot of fun coming down to the last race at Homestead.
Q: Do you consider yourself this is a tough question, but do you consider yourself the prohibitive favorite for this '09 Camping World truck championship; Johnny is with a new team, Skinner is struggling to find a ride, so I mean are you guy?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: No, I don't look at it that way. Last year I was racing with Skinner and then with Johnny, and then it was Bodine and everybody. It's how it works. Mike Skinner was a tough guy to race for the championship the previous year, and look how his season happened last year. Anything can happen, just I'm fortunate enough that Kevin and DeLana are very focused on racing to put the people in the right places and we've got the same team together, and that's what it's gonna take, the gel factor of the whole team working together, they know how I am, I know how they are and I know they're gonna put great stuff underneath me, but if I say I was a favorite to come in, I'd be wrong because anybody can win a truck race. This is what's so good about the truck racing. It's unbelievable competition. These young kids got something to prove, and I'm going to go in there with an open mind and be the first race, I'm going to race as hard as I can. If you get through Daytona unscathed that's going to set the whole season for you.
@#Q: I wanted to see if you would mind talking a bit more about your dad and the influence he had on you and your racing career and so forth.
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Well, ever since I was born he was racing, and to come home to have a race car in the garage, he always raced for other people, and when he first got his car at home, just to come home to show all the kids at school, my dad races, come by the house, there's race cars there, got a lot of trouble by my friends looking at parts and just misplacing them when he goes to put the drums back on the car and missing lug nuts and screws and bolts.
He was a hard knock type racer, believed in his family first. He always put food on the table first and racing came together. He kind of taught me that way. I was fortunate enough to meet my wife Lindy at a young age when I was working on other people's race cars. She said with all the time you're working on other cars why don't you just build your own. Doing that with the help of my dad building my first competitive race car, it was a lot of fun. The coolest part about it is my dad is like my father in law, they're from the old school, don't throw nothing away, and both of them raced together. I got my dad's toolbox when he passed away, and it was the first just remembering all the tools when I got to build my first race car with and all the trick tools we made to pull a shock off back then or a spring out, and I'm building a 66 El Camino with the tools that my father left me. It's a good remembrance of what he's done for me.
Hopefully he's taught me right. He's never gotten an opportunity to go to Daytona, and I don't know if it's legal or not but I've got a little bit of his ashes when I come down here that I'm going to spread in the lake so don't be watching me because I don't think it's legal, because he's never gotten to race here at Daytona, he's raced with the best, raced from Ontario to Riverside with all the big boys as you call it, and he gave me a big path to go down, and I was fortunate to have the father that I had and parents because they kept me involved in racing, and there's other things I should have done or could have done, and that phone call from Dale changed my life in '94. They were probably the most proudest. They got up and moved their family themselves, mom and dad moved back to North Carolina. It was pretty cool. I was the youngest of six of us, and to see them following me around in racing, that was pretty cool.
Q: I apologize for having to bring this back to present after such an eloquent remembrance. The Truck Series has at last count only six full time trucks with full sponsors for the season. Are you concerned about that, and how do you think this is all going to play out?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Well, I thought it was a little bit more than that, but I'm sure with what NASCAR is doing and Kevin and DeLana are a very big part of trying to keep this Truck Series going, we've seen a falloff of the trucks before, but it always seems to come back. A lot with the fuel cell changes and a lot of the pit stops last year has really hurt a lot of people expense wise, and I think we get back to the one day shows, it's really going to help us out in the Truck Series.
I don't know how to fix it, but I think everybody is hurting right now in the economy we have right now, but we'll see what happens. I mean, we're going to be out there and race as hard as we can, and we're going to put on a good show for the fans, and we need you guys to help out on that. We can't slam the Truck Series because it's one of the big three of NASCAR. All the series are down a little bit right now, but it's tough out there to try to get sponsors. We're fortunate enough with the quality of what Kevin and DeLana are doing putting us on the racetrack, making a good mark of racing hard, that we're fortunate enough to get some of the sponsors who are coming to us.
You see what Kevin has been doing. He's helped a lot of guys out building race cars for them. Right now they're doing a lot of the Chevrolet trucks for other teams and stuff, so they're out there hustling and trying to keep trucks out there, trying to keep the cost down, putting bodies on their trucks for them and just doing a lot of things that nobody sees what Kevin and DeLana's hearts are doing for this Truck Series and the Nationwide teams.
I'm just fortunate enough to see what they're doing, and Kevin is not one to brag about it, but it's amazing how much he is really into this Truck Series because it started his career and he really understands racing and what it means to younger drivers to have a Truck Series to come in and have a place to get their feet wet.
Q: When Rick Crawford was in earlier he said basically you only need two trucks to race, so are you concerned at all about not having full fields?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Yeah, we are. I mean, I am. But I mean, I never thought about it, two trucks? It's still a race. No, like I said, we just need the support of the fans. I don't know how this is going to come out. I heard we've got 35 trucks coming to Daytona, so let's see how we can keep the trucks going. I think the ones that will hurt us is California, towing it all the way. It starts like all the hotels are starting to work with the economy, starting to bring the prices down. But we'll see. It's all talk right now. We'll have to see when we show up at the racetrack and see what we have when we get there, I guess.
Q: Can you talk about the first time you met your son in law Drew and when he first started
RON HORNADAY, JR.: No, I can't. That's the problem. I don't remember the first time I met Drew.
Q: Were you accepting of him dating your daughter and all that stuff?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Oh, yeah. Drew has worked at Ultra Wheel with my son. He's just been a good, quiet guy. He's not the father of my grandkids, but he sure acts like it. He is the father. He's the one that buys the quarter midgets, he's the one that took them motor owe cross racing. Now with him going Cup racing he ain't going to have time, so now Pappy is going to take over them roles. I'll take them to Bobby Labonte's track on Friday nights and Saturday. Drew is quiet, awesome, don't want the credit, just a hard working kid. What he's brought to our family is a lot, just the happiness that he brings to my grandkids and my daughter and everyone else.
It's kind of cool to see everybody at Roush try to fight over Drew because Kenseth wants him back now and Carl Edwards wants to keep him. I don't know what he brings to the table because I've never raced with him or for him, but he's a very knowledgeable person, and we keep our racing really short because I don't want to know what he does and he don't want to know what I do because that's just going to keep our relationship that much closer.
Q: Kevin talked earlier about your wealth of experience. With all the experience, what have you learned along the way in racing that has worked the best for you?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: For one, it's all about the fans. I mean, we wouldn't even be where we're at, and I think Dale has taught me that. If it wasn't for the fans, we wouldn't be able to do what we do. You treat people how you want to be treated. I try to treat people like we want to be treated. I have fun with a lot of people. I don't think I have one bad you can say Kyle Busch and I have a big argument or fights or whatever, and that's not true. Kyle drives like I do. He races hard. He has no respect for a lot of the others. He just says the wrong things at the wrong time. So to say that I dislike anybody on the racetrack or anything, I can't say that. I like a lot of people out there. I race hard, and it takes good competitors.
You might have a grudge match for a year or so and hopefully you can get over that. But you just learn by your mistakes and go on. I don't know, there's a lot you can pinpoint, but just treat people like how you want to be treated. Race them like you want to be raced.
Q: As well as you know Kevin, can you sort of turn the tables and tell us what you expect out of him in the Cup Series this year?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: You know, you look at Kevin, and he's the gung ho hard racer, and all of a sudden you look at it, and it's like, man, he's finished a lot of laps, he's been on the lead lap and look where he finished in points. Very surprising to see him when he was the kid at Bakersfield to where he is now. I'm very proud of him. He feels like my son because of all the things we've done, and now there's things I don't do in front of him because he's my boss. That's what's so funny about him is I've got the respect as a boss, he used to stay on my couch and we used to wrestle around and cut up and punch each other, and it's yes, sir, no, sir, and he might be the kid but he's still my boss. Pretty awesome to see what they've done out there in a short amount of time racing.
Q: You're probably one of the fiercest competitors across the board in NASCAR, but you've also given a lot back with Kevin and Jimmie Johnson. But in the current environment with so many guys out of work and so many young kids still trying to come into the sport, is there anybody you're either monitoring or advising or have you worked with? I know you'd probably like to keep it under wraps, but is there anybody that's come to you in this environment?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: You know what's so good about the Truck Series and all that stuff, Mike Walsh said, What do you got for springs? I don't know. He said, you're not going to tell me? I said, wait a minute. I went over and got the set up shoot from my crew chief and I showed him every spring, every shock. I don't feel like anybody drives like I do. I used to build race cars and I used to have a saying, if your motor builder was compatible to my motor builder, if you think my car has something different, you can have my car. That's the way I feel. I feel I'm a better driver. I have nothing to prove to nobody but myself if they've got the same thing that I've got.
So when the young kid comes up to me, Brian Scott, for instance, he still drives for another manufacturer and still comes and talks to me once a week even today, he's called me once today, it's one of those things where you teach them what you've already learned or you tell them what you've already learned so they don't go down that wrong path.
Jimmie Johnson, before he got his ride, he's had a lot of opportunities, and he waited enough time and had somebody to talk to where he took the right path. He could have went down a different path of a different manufacturer or whatever. There's a lot of drivers out there that need to get a chance, and I'm going to go out and do that shootout next week, and to go out there and support our local tracks and show these kids if they beat Ron Hornaday or Kyle Busch or somebody like that, and that's how I got my break down in Tucson running the winter heat and Dale Earnhardt called me, so if I get down there and one of them kids beats me and they get an opportunity to come back here and Jack Roush puts two or three drivers from the west coast in one of his rides to give them a break, that's all you can do.
ANDREW BOOTH: Thank you for coming in.
Q: How are you feeling?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Me, other than Atlantic City last year at three below, Orlando this morning and then here, not bad for having a cold. It feels like I'm all stuffed up and going to blow my head off, but I feel good. I can't wait for Daytona. Went down to the five mile Phoenix, got a pretty good piece coming down there.
I think last year I came across the line, the year before that, I was running second on the white flag and I think I finished 14th or 15th. I've got to learn from that, run like 14th or 15th and finish up front. See you guys in a couple weeks. Hopefully you support the Truck Series.