SAN FRANCISCO (Dec. 7, 1999) To racing enthusiasts everywhere, the name Ron Hornaday is synonymous with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series greatness. The Palmdale, Calif., native has won a series-record 25 races over the past five seasons, not to mention two series championships.
Thus, heading into the 1999 season, Hornaday was the favorite to repeat as champion, and in the process tighten his grip on the series' record book. However, it didn't quite work out that way.
The season started as planned, with Hornaday winning two of the first three events - the Chevy Trucks NASCAR 150 at Phoenix International Raceway and the NAPACARD 200 at Evergreen Speedway -- and securing the top slot on the points chart.
However, he failed to win another race the entire season, relegating him to a career-low seventh-place finish in the overall standings.
"We didn't have one of our better years, but one thing this team did do was fight to the end," Hornaday said. "It is obvious if you look at the second half of the season, we were back to being one of the top-3 teams. We just had a hard time closing out races for wins."
Following his victory at Evergreen, Hornaday finished in the top-10 in three of the next five races, enabling him to maintain a slim points lead over the ever-consistent Stacy Compton. However, he would finish outside the top-10 in eight of the next 12 races, including five runs outside the top-20, dropping him from championship contention for the first time in his career.
Now, Hornaday will leave his superior rank and stellar numbers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series behind in order to make a run at NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division Raybestos Rookie of the Year in the 2000 season. He'll drive the No. 3 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, another ride out of the Dale Earnhardt Inc. stables. With that comes rather large expectations -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won back-to-back series titles in his father's NASCAR Busch Series car, and the No. 3 has finished in the top-5 in points five straight years.
"I'm going to miss everyone involved with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series," Hornaday said. "This has been my family for the past five years and it is going to be strange not seeing all the familiar faces next year. But it is also time to do something new and see if we can succeed in the NASCAR Busch Series."
Hornaday will likely prosper as he moves to the next level of NASCAR racing. He's fared rather well in the NASCAR Busch Series, among other stock car series, in 1999. He dominated the early portion of the Outback Steakhouse 200 at Phoenix, and went on to finish sixth after leading the most laps. Then, three weeks back he showed his merit yet again, dominating and winning the ARCA Bondo/Mar-Hyde Series Georgia Boot 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Both of those performances were in Dale Earnhardt, Inc., cars.
It looks like Hornaday's future in the NASCAR Busch Series might just rival his success in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series after all. Why not? His name is already synonymous with racing greatness.