Hornaday focused on the long-term By Dave Rodman MONROE, Wash. (April 5, 1999) The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series had best beware in 1999. Ron Hornaday, the series' only two-time champion and current point leader has roared out of the gate and is...
Hornaday focused on the long-term By Dave Rodman
MONROE, Wash. (April 5, 1999) The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series had best beware in 1999. Ron Hornaday, the series' only two-time champion and current point leader has roared out of the gate and is approaching Jeff Gordon-like status among his competition. He can be beat, but teams will have to step up their programs another notch and take races away from Hornaday and his NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet crew, if their performance in Saturday's NAPACARD 200 at Evergreen Speedway is any indication.
Hornaday won his second straight race this season, dominating the 200-lapper on the .646-mile oval by leading 185 circuits. He exited the Pacific Northwest with $140,100 in winnings, thanks to claiming a $100,000 bonus from Craftsman for winning race No. 100 and participating in all 100 races in the series' history.
More importantly, by winning his series-leading 25th career NCTS race, he waltzed off to this Saturday's run in Bakersfield, Calif., with a 45-point lead in the point standings over surprising Stacy Compton, who was fourth Saturday in the No. 86 Royal Crown Cola Dodge.
"We try to look at the big picture," Hornaday said. "Winning Craftsman's $100,000 was great -- but $250,000 and the season championship is the goal for us. We're just going to race as smart as we can."
Crafty he is, but Hornaday has proven in five seasons in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series that he is aggressive when he needs to be and extremely talented as well. The reason for winning 25 percent of the series' races hasn't gone unnoticed.
"This NAPA Auto Parts team is unbelievable and Ron Hornaday is the best driver I've ever seen in my life, and I've worked for quite a few of them," said veteran crew chief Sandy Jones, who joined the Dale Earnhardt, Inc. team in the off-season and took only two races to win with Hornaday -- the quickest the Palmdale, Calif., driver has ever won his second victory for any of the five crew chiefs he's worked with.
After only three races, the competition acknowledges Hornaday's strength, but they realize they've got something to work with as well.
"The pit stops got us this fourth place finish today," said Compton, who with Hornaday is the only driver to log top-five finishes in all three races this season. "The guys worked hard all day and kept us in good track position. This is another great run for us in the championship chase. Kevin Cram and this crew really had good stops and that is what is keeping us consistent."
After finishing second Saturday in the Icehouse Beer Ford, Ron Barfield vaulted into ninth in the points and sees only better things ahead, despite his inability to handle Hornaday.
"We just had a monkey on our backs the first couple of races, and now it seems like that monkey has kind of gotten off us," he said. "The crew did a hell of a job on our pit stops and we kept our position. If the guys can do that for me every week, than I think that we're going to win a bunch of races here. We'll get used to running up front because we are going to be there every week."
Mike Wallace is three races into his tenure with a new team, Jim Smith's Ultra Motorsports Team ASE Ford camp, and he has seen the top of the mountain with his opening victory at Homestead and the other side with a 14th place finish at Phoenix. He was happy to notch a fifth place at Monroe.
"Our goal was to finish in the top-five," said Wallace of his up-and-down NAPACARD 200. "It looked like (Ron) Hornaday was dead-on all day long. The guys made adjustments each time we came in and I'm just glad the race wasn't any longer than it was. I was protecting the bottom trying to get us a top-5 finish."
Wallace did just that and remained in third in the point standings as a result -- his best in a three-year stand in the NCTS. Wallace is 79 points out of the lead and looking forward to Saturday's Dodge California Truck Stop 300 presented by Spears Manufacturing at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif.
"I guess you can say that we did a good job," Wallace said of his second top-5 this season. "It was a decent run for the Ultra Wheels/ASE team. It's a top-5 finish and that's what we have to do. We're points racing right now and Ron has jumped a little farther out on us. We'll go on to Bakersfield and hopefully do better there."
Source: NASCAR Online