Hornaday to drive No. 1 at Darlington By Shawn A. Akers MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 17, 1998) - Dale Earnhardt Inc. announced Tuesday that 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday will drive the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte...
Hornaday to drive No. 1 at Darlington By Shawn A. Akers MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 17, 1998) - Dale Earnhardt Inc. announced Tuesday that 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday will drive the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet Monte Carlo this weekend in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series TranSouth Financial 400 at Darlington Raceway, and possibly at Bristol Motor Speedway the following week. The brightly-colored No. 1 will be piloted by the only driver to have won a title for DEI, Ron Hornaday.
The 39-year-old Hornaday replaces Steve Park, who was injured on March 6 while practicing for the PRIMESTAR 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Doctors predict Park's recovery will take anywhere from three to six months. Park returned home from the hospital over the weekend.
Ty Norris, general manager of DEI, said Hornaday will also drive the Pennzoil Monte Carlo at Bristol in the Food City 500 on March 29, unless a permanent replacement for Park is found before that race.
Hornaday said that he has no designs on replacing Park as the permanent driver of the No. 1 Pennzoil Chevrolet.
"I'm just trying to keep the seat warm for Steve," said Hornaday, who tested at Darlington last week in preparation for this weekend. "The car will be ready for him as soon as he gets back. I think they picked me because they wanted to keep the driver in the family, and I give them a few extra weeks to decide who they are going to put in the Pennzoil Monte Carlo until Steve returns.
"I told Park I would do anything for him. If that means wash his Harley or clean his motorhome or take his girlfriend out to dinner, I would do that for Steve. He's a good kid. He's helped me and I've helped him. We've water-skied at the house together. I'm not out here to get his ride. This is just a good opportunity for me to help him out."
Norris said officials at DEI couldn't have made a better choice than Hornaday to help fill in during Park's absence.
"Ron Hornaday deserves an opportunity to drive the Pennzoil Monte Carlo," Norris said. "The only thing Ron has done for Dale Earnhardt, Inc., is become the all-time winningest driver in truck series history and bring DEI its first team championship. He would be our first choice to replace Steve, but Ron and DEI have a commitment to NAPA to win the 1998 truck championship. And that's going to be Ron's focus starting in two weeks."
Hornaday has 18 career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories, including the 1998 opener at Walt Disney World Speedway in January.
Norris said DEI is still talking to several drivers about filling Park's seat until he returns. Hornaday returns to the seat of the No. 16 NAPA Chevrolet in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on April 4 at Homestead, Fla.
"We are talking with several drivers," Norris said. "We have some pretty solid options at the moment, but nothing is set in stone. We think this can be a great opportunity for any driver. We are a new team and very young, but we have a lot of talent here and the resources are phenomenal.
"We hope to have the interim driver in place right before or right after Bristol. We don't want to get into a 'driver of the week' deal, but we have no problem letting Ron Hornaday race the Pennzoil car at Bristol. I think if you have seen how well he gets around that place in a truck, you know what I'm talking about."
Hornaday said the opportunity will provide him with some diversification in his racing career, and perhaps somewhat prepare him to race in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series somewhere down the line. But for now, he's content with being in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "I'm going to be 40 years old this year," Hornaday said. "Dale Earnhardt gave me a good opportunity to drive his truck and make a good living for my family. Yes, I want to race some day at Daytona. That is my goal. I'd still like to be the hero in the truck series. If I win eight championships in the truck series, that would be great, but I do have a goal of running in Winston Cup someday."
Hornaday said the main priority for the Pennzoil Chevrolet team this weekend will be to qualify for the TranSouth Financial 400.
"Our goal is to make the race," Hornaday said. "It's an honor for Dale Earnhardt to give me a shot at doing this, but like a lot of people in Winston Cup, we are going to the track with the first priority of making the race. When you make that one lap, you don't know if you are going to come back in one piece. If you do make that good lap, then you have to start worrying about the race."
"We tested Ron for two days at Darlington," Norris said. "Darlington is a pretty tough race track, but Ron is a pretty tough racer. We have a lot of confidence in his ability to get the job done."
Source: NASCAR Online