2010 NASCAR Preseason Thunder Daytona Fan Fest: Friday news conference
January 15, 2010
An interview with Ron Hornaday Jr.
DENISE MALOOF: We are joined by our four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Ron Hornaday, Jr. Now you've got to go for a fifth. Any fun off-season things that you would like to share with us?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Very quiet Christmas and New Year's. I was with Bodine on his wedding, so I can't say quiet New Year's. Great Christmas with the kids, grandkids, a lot of fun. Pretty exciting first seeing Bodine get married. He told a story when he went to put the ring on her finger and it didn't fit. He said, do I really have to marry her now? Is that an omen? Beautiful wedding, though.
Q: I'm hoping we'll get a story out of this, but can you go back a little bit, your history with Dave Fuge, whatever it might be? Have you worked together? I'm sure you've raced around each other, two old-school guys getting together for this 2010 season, what are you looking forward to?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Well, when I first started racing, used to go to Mesa Marin, and when we saved enough money -- our local track was Saugus, and we'd have to travel a couple hours to Bakersfield. And Dave Fuge, to go up there, you've got to beat one of his cars. It was Fuge Race Cars, and he was one of the best. And when he started his truck team he designed his own chassis, did his own bodies, him and Mark Smith paired up and they were a battling team. They've won two championships with two different drivers. I got an opportunity to drive his truck to help Mike Bliss win the championship down at Homestead and we ended up winning the race and Mike won the championship. Dave and I kind of go way back. We've never had a run-in, so that's a plus. Rick Ren and I had a run-in before, and he became a great crew chief, too.
We're in a box at KHI. Kevin knows what he wants on his trucks, he knows what he wants for a body, he knows what wind tunnel numbers he wants. Our hands are tied. When we leave the shop, what it is is what we've got. We can change a spring here, and we can change a little bit of tow and stuff like that. It's back to calling great races and driving as hard as we can up to me and Dave. When we leave the shop, both trucks are going to be exactly the same, the Nationwide and truck teams, and we're just going to keep everything on the same page, so it's going to be easy for Dave Fuge and myself.
Q: A year ago Rick Crawford was in here and he was really passionate, almost tearful, talking about the challenges that are ahead for the Camping World Series. Are a lot of those challenges still there? Most people argue that the trucks put on the best races. What more can you do to kind of move your way up the ladder there?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: We sat in here last year at the same time talking about that, and we didn't think we were going to have a full field. I think there was one or maybe two races we didn't have 36 trucks. We came down here, and I think we sent two of them home. That just says a lot for the Truck Series. People get in their trucks, put a quick sponsor together to come down here for Daytona. I know there's new teams out there. I know of seven new teams that are starting, seven new trucks, not teams. So I don't know. NASCAR, we're going to Pocono, we're doing the things we need to do. Do we need to go back to shorter tracks? I don't know. When Kevin hired me, he said he had to hire an extra body guy. We need to stay on these big racetracks. When we said we were going to Daytona, I didn't get a chance -- I came down here, but I didn't get a chance to race the first race at Daytona. I thought NASCAR was nuts.
But the second year I got to drive Ricky Hendrick's truck down here. I think I ran 10, 15 laps, got out and praised NASCAR how good these trucks run at a super speedway.
The venues and tracks we're going to this year, the new teams coming in, some of the new sponsors, you'll see some neat colors on my truck this year I'm looking forward to. It's truck racing. We just got done doing a great commercial. NASCAR is definitely behind the Truck Series 125 percent. I'm looking forward to 2010. I think we've got some great things coming.
Q: Is it fair to say there's more optimism this year than there was a year ago?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: I think so.
Q: Glass half full now rather than half empty?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: You know, I don't know where these sponsors are coming from, but it seems like people are still getting last minute sponsors coming aboard and all that stuff, but they're still dedicated to do it themselves. They're still coming to a lot of these racetracks. I know a lot of these guys are dedicated. I know another new team, one of Crawford's trucks, we're going to see when we go down there. It's going to be pretty awesome.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about what it's going to be like not to hear Rick Ren's voice in your ear during the race, and how do you think he's going to help Kyle, but then again, is he going to be giving Kyle maybe some inside information on you that might help Kyle?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Well, I guess you haven't really listened to our conversation, Rick Ren and mine. I said, Rick, are you listening to me? He says, hold on, I've got to write these notes down. He's always been a big note taker. To get answers it's always been Rick Carelli. Rick called some great races with the pit stops the way they were, it threw us all up for a curving at the beginning of the year, and I think Rick and I learned that. NASCAR has changed some of the rules back this year.
Rick and I have won a lot of races together, and like I said, ten years ago with Rick Ren coming over, it probably wouldn't have worked. I was so hardheaded and he was hardheaded. I think the gel factor of Rick and I understanding what Kevin and Delana has given us to work with, it's not going to miss a beat. I know that he's going to do a great job for Kyle. He's definitely an organizer, he definitely keeps a lot of paperwork.
We came down here for the first Daytona test, and if you've ever seen the front of a hauler, how all the chairs are out there, I asked him a question, and he said, hold on a minute, and he started taking his notebook out. And by the time we were done, I had to get up because he had no more room for all his notes. So he can never give you an answer until he gets the right answer. That's what I'll miss about Rick. He really studies things and all that stuff. When we leave the shop, we're usually the best. We try to change things at the track, we try get better.
The last five races we tried things for this year that didn't work, and we put them right back to what we knew from the first race.
If we do that -- we're building all brand new Trucks the last two races, one was our 2010 KHI trucks and Kevin sold every other truck but the two we've got and I'm tested those last week.
Just talked to Dave Fuge today, our truck for Daytona just got off the plate. It's in the paint shop right now, and our second truck will be done, and the third truck don't get here until next Wednesday. They're going to be struggling to get the 2 truck done, but they built those two trucks within a week time period to go to Phoenix and Homestead for Kevin. I have no doubt they can't built four more trucks before Daytona.
Q: Kind of in that same vein, do you view this as a challenge, the change in crew chiefs, and since Rick did go over to Kyle Busch, would beating Kyle be any sweeter since he's got the guy who left you running his organization?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: No, beating Kyle by himself is a task. He's a hard racer every lap, and I don't think -- whatever they bring, Rick is just going to bring organization. That's what he's going to bring to the table. He's very sharp. He puts some good people together. We've kept 90 percent of our people together, and we're pretty happy with that.
I can go back to the day of Dale Earnhardt when he won the championship with three different crew chiefs in the same year. It's just how people put together and it's just Kevin and Delana put people in the right places. Rick Ren would even sit here and say the same thing. I'm sure they're not going to miss a beat and I know we're not going to miss a beat. This is just making us stronger and it's going to make us try that much harder. And without stirring anything up, Rick Ren left on good terms in my eyes. And nobody understands how far Rick Ren had to drive. He was at Bill Davis' and he was at KHI for the last six years, and to drive an hour and 15, hour and 20 minutes each way for that many years, you know, he is getting older in his age, and he said he fell asleep a couple times at the wheel, and he thought twice about what he was going to do in his life, and he got a good opportunity to go to Busch's and more power to him, and all the success he can have, but hopefully I can try to stop that.
Q: You've obviously had a great career. What would it mean for you to win here at Daytona, and also, have you had a chance to talk to Jack, and have you got a dig in on him yet after passing him for the championship?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: Well, if you guys listen, I called him out. I said, all right, Jack, I've got four, you can come back and try to get four. I keep digging at Jack all I can. He definitely needs to be in a truck. He's a great competitor. I think when I passed him on the winds, he got kind of upset. So when I got him on championships, he's going to have to come back. To win four, you guys are making it really huge. I'm just out there doing my job, and to look back what you guys talk about and what you guys write, that's pretty cool. I didn't know he was in the era with Richard Petty or Bobby Allison and stuff like that. That says a lot.
I don't look at it that way. I just go out there and hopefully I can win five, hopefully I can win six. I'm not done. As long as Kevin and Delana keeps having me and they keep building trucks, we're going to keep racing.
Q: How about winning here at Daytona?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: This is big. My dream was to come to Daytona to win a race at Daytona. I don't care if it's on a bicycle. I'm going to still try to win a race here. I learned a bunch, Dave Fuge brought a bunch of stuff with Ernie Cope and all that stuff.
Our best truck we've had for a super speedway is a backup after we found the wind tunnel loads, after we went down the straight line and did some straight line testing, and we're going off that. We've got a couple trucks that we wind tunnelled and learned a bunch. So I'm looking forward to it.
Bodine might be pushing me around here at Daytona this year.
Q: As far as champions go, it's always said that they dig deal deeper. Do you feel you have a deeper reservoir of talent and energy, or is it more like hard work and some good luck on your part and the team's part, also?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: I'd rather be lucky than good any day. But I've got to still be good, because these young kids want my job really bad. A lot of people are coming up to Kevin and saying, hey, I'm better than that old guy, let me have a shot. I've got to keep winning races, keep doing what I do, and Kevin and Delana believe in me 120 percent. He's got my favorite truck he's stole again, so that's two trucks he stole from me. He's putting in his barn.
To this day I makes me feel good to go over to DEI and see the first championship truck I drove in '96 for Dale and Teresa. Now some day I get to go to Kevin and Delana when they ever build a museum and see one of the first trucks that I ever won a championship for them.
Heck, when I retire, I want to sit on that front doorstep and show my grandkids everything I've won. I'm not done winning races. I want to win a lot more, and it just makes me drive that much harder. We won six races last year, I've got to win eight this year and maybe ten, and we're going to do whatever we can to win another championship.
Q: Do you think Kyle Busch will be looked on differently by the drivers in the Truck Series now that he's putting money in it and being an owner than they have say in the last few seasons?
RON HORNADAY, JR.: I don't know how to answer that. He's still Kyle Busch. I really admire how he came about starting his team, how he went to Kevin, Kevin started his team, and what Kevin wasted money on and what he shouldn't have wasted money on, how he built things. I think he probably saved a bunch of money going in there and building a shop, and that's why it's taken a little longer, because he's adding things or not adding things, and he changed his mind in the middle of the deal. He's one of the kids you can say that you know a good rookie when you see him on a racetrack, and Kyle is going to be a good rookie owner because he's already asked questions. He didn't learn by mistakes. He came up to Kevin.
We knew what was going on before Rick Ren did because Kyle asked if he could take Rick from him and stuff like that. I hope there isn't any hard feelings of Rick leaving and vice versa, and I don't think we're going to miss a beat. Hopefully we need another successful team. We're losing one of the best teams out there, Jack Roush, and I think Kyle is going to step right in their place and put some great trucks out there and have more competitive racing.
DENISE MALOOF: Ron, thank you very much. We'll see you very soon.
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