* What A Difference A Year Makes For Hornaday, KHI * Eight Have Mastered 1.5-Mile Tracks In Past Year * Engineering Moves HT Motorsports To Next Tier Hornaday's Kentucky Speedway Victory Was Team's Turnaround DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 9, 2007)...
* What A Difference A Year Makes For Hornaday, KHI
* Eight Have Mastered 1.5-Mile Tracks In Past Year
* Engineering Moves HT Motorsports To Next Tier
Hornaday's Kentucky Speedway Victory Was Team's Turnaround
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 9, 2007) -- In 2006, Ron Hornaday Jr.'s (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) victory in the Built Ford Tough 200 ignited a mid-summer hot streak of top-five finishes at Kentucky Speedway, Memphis Motorsports Park and O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.
The two-time champion cooled off a bit in the fall but Hornaday has been a title contender since this year's drop of the green flag at Daytona in February.
Second in the standings going into the season's mid-point, Hornaday would like nothing better than to defend his victory and become Kentucky Speedway's first series two-time winner.
"The win at Kentucky was very special," said Hornaday, who looks for series win number 32 on Saturday.
"It really signified a turnaround in our program. To beat my competitors in that race was huge.
"It helped change our outlook and our program."
There's no arguing the turnaround.
In 2006, Hornaday was unable to string together more than a trio of top-10 finishes. This season, the 49-year-old California native has been outside the top 10 just once -- 11th in Atlanta -- and has completed all 2,005 laps run through the first 12 races.
Hornaday says a couple of changes at Kevin Harvick Inc. have led to the team's success.
"Everyone has put so much effort into the 1.5-mile program," he said. "Kentucky was when we figured out the coil-binding set-up and built some trucks that I was really comfortable in."
Harvick also signed veteran crew chief Rick Ren, a 13-time winner with four different teams.
"When Rick arrived, he took a good team and made it better," said Hornaday, whose 2006 victories have come at Lowe's and Dover. "He has such an attention to detail and is so focused and driven."
Eight Competitors Have Won Last Ten 1.5-Mile Track Events
With nine races on 1.5-mile tracks -- more than a third of the 2007 schedule -- doing well on the intermediate layouts is key to winning the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.
Beginning in 2000, just two champions -- Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford) in 2003 and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Toyota) in 2005 -- have failed to win at least once on the intermediates.
How have this year's top three title contenders fared on the 1.5-mile tracks? Pretty well, thank you.
Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), Hornaday and Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) have captured a combined five wins in the most recent 10 intermediate track races.
Each has a 2007 win: Skinner in Atlanta, Hornaday at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Bodine in Texas.
Engineer Ken Woodward Sparks Success Of Remade HT Motorsports
It's taken several seasons but HT Motorsports, owned by Virginia's Jim Harris, is on the verge of becoming a top-10 team.
Driver Terry Cook (No. 59 HT Motorsports Toyota) currently ranks 13th in the standings, just 62 points out of 10th.
Harris completely remade the team over the off-season, bringing in Bobby Hamilton Racing alum Danny Rollins, Hamilton's 2004 championship crew chief.
Rollins convinced former Dodge Motorsports technician Ken Woodward to become the team's engineer. Both Cook and Rollins say Woodward's efforts have taken the team from mid-pack to contender.
"It took about a month for us to work things out," said Woodard. "It looked like a good opportunity, especially with TRD and the resources they were devoting to the Truck Series.
"(Danny) told me that with Terry Cook on board as the driver, we had an opportunity with this team to really do something fantastic. I'm always up for a challenge, especially in racing, so I agreed to sign on and here I am."
Now as a part of the Toyota camp, Woodard can see why the brand is enjoying a lot of success in NASCAR's truck division.
"When we were racing against the Toyotas, we all thought they were doing a lot of different stuff -- stuff we hadn't even thought of doing -- because they were just throwing money at the deal," said Woodard. "Well, now that I'm over here in the TRD camp, as far as I can tell, they are doing all the stuff we were doing and all the stuff we wanted to do. We used to sit around and say 'this is what we should be doing.' "
Cook finished 16th in last year's Built Ford Tough 225. The Harris team was one spot behind with driver Chad Chaffin (No. 40 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet).