Ron Hornaday, Back Home Again at Phoenix International, Posts 24th Career Victory in NASCAR Craftsman Trucks By OWEN KEARNS JR PHOENIX, Ariz. - Ron Hornaday may have been off his normal pace when he finished a non-contending fourth in the March...
Ron Hornaday, Back Home Again at Phoenix International, Posts 24th Career Victory in NASCAR Craftsman Trucks By OWEN KEARNS JR
PHOENIX, Ariz. - Ron Hornaday may have been off his normal pace when he finished a non-contending fourth in the March 20 NASCAR CraftsmanTruck Series' 1999 season opener in Miami.
One race, however, hardly makes a season and in the aftermath of Hornaday's repeat victory in Saturday's Chevy Trucks 150 at Phoenix International Raceway any suggestion the NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team might have peaked a year ago would appear greatly exaggerated.
Hornaday, starting fifth in the 35-truck field, set a steady pace during the $337,540 race;s opening laps as five competitors swapped the lead six times.
On lap 79, however, it was time to go. Hornaday passed Jay Sauter;s GM Goodwrench Chevrolet and never looked back, despite intense pressure down to the checkered flag from archrival Jack Sprague and sophomore Andy Houston. The challenging duo got close, feinting high and low around the one-mile superspeedway, but to no avail. Hornaday beat Sprague;s GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet by 0.509-second, with Houston a few lengths further back, to give the new Silverado its first one-two-three finish.
The winner;s 24th career victory was worth $39,275 as Hornaday averaged 95.137 mph for the 150-mile distance.
Dodge Ram drivers Stacy Compton and Dennis Setzer occupied the final two spots in the top-five, running three of the last four laps side-by-side, before Compton's Royal Crown Cola nipped the Mopar Performance truck by about six inches. Outside front row starter Rick Crawford finished sixth, the highest ranked of the Ford F- 150 drivers. Jimmy Hensley, Sauter, Kevin Cywinski and Mike Bliss followed him to the stripe.
The first 19 of 27 finishers completed all 150 laps. Opening race winner Mike Wallace settled for 14th, falling from the fifth-place his Team ASE Racing Ford occupied following the event's seventh caution (for Turn 3 debris) which was lifted on lap 120.
Hornaday's second win at P.I.R. elevated the 40-year-old Palmdale, Calif. veteran to a familiar spot in the point standings first, by 20 over Compton, who fashioned his second, solid top-five finish for Impact Motorsports and crew chief Kevin Cram.
The race's finish a carbon copy of the 1998 Chevy Trucks NASCAR 150 was improbable, given its beginning. Racing Kevin Harvick and Crawford three-wide into Turn 1 on lap two, Sprague's Bud Pole winning mount broke loose and spun into the outside wall. He restarted 33rd, got tagged for passing to the left and lost a lap to a stop-and-go penalty. Unfazed, Sprague regained the missing serial on a 30th lap restart, passing Greg Biffle's Grainger Ford. A slashing drive back through heavy traffic, plus some excellent pitwork directed by crew chief Dennis Connor, brought Sprague all the way to the top-three with 50 laps remaining.
He passed Houston's CAT Rental Stores Chevy on lap 125 and planted his truck on Hornaday's bumper but too many laps on the Silverado's right-side tires gave Sprague a handling handicap, particular at the pivot-point of Turn 4, which was impossible to overcome. Hornaday, meanwhile, was right where he wanted to be in front and dictating both pace and track position.
"I didn't write Jack Sprague off when he went a lap down," said Hornaday. "He races hard. We were lucky today. We got the lead and got the truck freed up and it ran well from there."
In winning, Hornaday became the first driver to win in all five seasons of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Sprague, who tagged the wall coming off Turn 4 on lap 125 in his futile pursuit of Hornaday, blamed himself for his early miscue. "I lost this race for the team and I take full responsibility for that," he said. "I'll go home tonight and kick myself for passing those cars on the restart."
Other race leaders included Harvick, whose second consecutive strong run came to naught thanks to a wiring failure; Crawford, Sauter, and Biffle. Sprague started first for the fourth time at Phoenix but never led a lap, giving up 10 bonus points in the standings to Hornaday, who paced all lap leaders with 72. Next event is Saturday's NAPACard 200 at Evergreen Speedway, the tour's 100th scheduled events. Hornaday, Sprague, Joe Ruttman, Rick Carelli and Butch Miller are eligible for a $100,000 bonus from Craftsman, should one of the five win the ESPN-televised event.