Hornaday not average Martinsville Speedway rookie

MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 19, 2001) - It's difficult to think of Ron Hornaday as a rookie. He's 42 years old. He's the winningest driver in the history of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He's won a pair of NASCAR Craftsman Truck ...

MARTINSVILLE, VA (March 19, 2001) - It's difficult to think of Ron Hornaday as a rookie.

He's 42 years old. He's the winningest driver in the history of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He's won a pair of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championships. He captured two Busch Grand National races a year ago.

But there he is, lumped into the Winston Cup rookie class of 2001 with youngsters like Casey Atwood, Jason Leffler, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Andy Houston.

And it's even more difficult to think of him as a rookie for the Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway on April 8. In five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts on the tough .526-mile oval, Hornaday had two top-five finishes and was in position to win both of those races. But the driver of the Conseco Pontiac owned by A.J. Foyt says despite his Martinsville experience, he's still a Winston Cup rookie.

"When you come into the Winston Cup level, and especially going to Martinsville and 500 laps there, you definitely become a rookie," said Hornaday, who won a record 25 races during his five years in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and finished in the top five in 64 of his 121 truck series starts. "You've got to learn to be patient at Martinsville, to save your brakes, saving the whole thing for the end. That's what being a rookie is all about."

Hornaday admits, though, all of those Martinsville laps in a truck certainly can't hurt in his race for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors this season.

"We tested there a lot and we've run there good in the trucks," said Hornaday. "And the trucks act like a Cup car with the long wheel base. I know how to get into the turns and that's what you have to do at Martinsville ... stop and turn and go the other way. It's two short drag strips with corners at each end. I think we can do ourselves pretty good there."

Hornaday has proved to be a good fit for the Foyt team, a team which has struggled the past couple of years. He opened the season with a surprising 17th in the Daytona 500 and then was a stout ninth in the UAW-DaimlerChrylser 400 at Las Vegas. The last two weeks have been a test for Hornaday and the Conseco team with a 39th in the Cracker Barrel 500 in Atlanta and a 42nd in the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 at Darlington.

"The last couple of weeks we've learned a lot. We have to learn from our mistakes," said Hornaday. "This team is jelling together and getting to know each other and that's all part of it, getting to know the people. When you can do that, that's when you can start winning races."

Great seats still are available for the Virginia 500 for $40-$65. There are seats available in the Clay Earles and Bill France Towers and in all of the grandstand sections. For tickets, call the speedway toll free at (877) 722-3849 or order online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Bud Pole qualifying kicks off the weekend on Friday, April 6 with the Craftsman Trucks at 1:30 p.m. and Winston Cup time trials at 3 p.m. The Advance Auto Parts 200 Truck race is Saturday, April 7 at 2 p.m. The Virginia 500 starts at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 8. All seats for qualifying and the Advance Auto Parts 250 are unreserved.

-martinsvillespeedway.com

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Jason Leffler , Kevin Harvick , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Casey Atwood , Ron Hornaday Jr. , A.J. Foyt