BUSCH: Darlington: Ron Hornaday preview

Hornaday looking to get back into top-five *SAFER Barriers This years NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) race at Darlington marks the first event at the "Lady in Black" for the new SAFER barriers. The barriers are designed to help absorb the impact of...

Hornaday looking to get back into top-five

*SAFER Barriers

This years NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) race at Darlington marks the first event at the "Lady in Black" for the new SAFER barriers. The barriers are designed to help absorb the impact of a crash, lessening the brunt of force on the driver. While everyone in the garage applauds the effort of NASCAR and Darlington Raceway to install the barriers, many are concerned about how to race the track with 33 less inches of racing groove. "You run so close to the wall that the extra space will make a big difference in car setup," said ACDelco crew chief Butch Hylton. "I think a lot of setups will change. The biggest issues will be the center and exit of turns one and two and the exit off turn four. There was so much grip right against the wall that is now gone. It's going to be very interesting to see how that plays out."

* Learning from the best

Hornaday learned his way around Darlington with the help of seven-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champion Dale Earnhardt. In 2000, Hornaday stepped up to the Busch Series from the Trucks, taking over the No. 3 car from Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Since the Truck Series did not race at Darlington at that time, Earnhardt manned the radio and talked Hornaday around the track. During the race he offered advice to Hornaday and helped him find the groove that led to an eighth place finish in his first race at the track.

* Can Bristol testing help at Darlington?

The ACDelco team tested at Bristol Motor Speedway last week to prepare for racing the high banked short track next week. But while Bristol and Darlington are two completely different tracks, the No. 2 Chevy tried some things that just might help them this weekend. "We found some basic chassis stuff that Ron really liked," said Hylton. "This new tire has a different feel to these guys and we are trying like everyone else to figure it out. We think we learned a lot that can work this weekend. Now we just have to see if it will."

* What ya' Haulin'?

The ACDelco transporter will unload chassis No.27. It is the same car the ACDelco team raced to a 10th place finish at Rockingham (N.C.) in February. "I think a lot of teams will bring their Rockingham cars to Darlington. Even with less racing groove, this race is all about tire management and racing the track. Just like The Rock," said Hylton.

No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet driver Ron Hornaday on Darlington Raceway

What are your thoughts on the new SAFER barriers installed at Darlington Raceway?

"I think the SAFER barriers are the right way to go at every track, but I'm surprised that they came to Darlington so soon. I would think that they would be one of the last tracks to have them, because you race right up against the wall anyway. But any step towards driver safety is the right step."

How will they affect how you approach the track?

"When we heard how much they moved into the groove (33 inches), Butch Hylton and I looked at it on a tape measure and it didn't look like much. Then we put the tape on the right front nose of the ACDelco Chevrolet and it's half a car width. That's when you say to yourself, wow! It's going to be pretty interesting once we get out there. Each time we go to Darlington at least 10 cars get a stripe in the first practice. With 33 inches less groove, I hope we still have a field (laughing)."

After the race at Las Vegas, you fell out of the top-10 in points for the first time in the past two seasons. How much does that concern you in your bid for a NASCAR Busch Series championship?

"We had a bad race at Las Vegas. I'm not sure how we missed it, but we did. It shows just how competitive this NASCAR Busch Series is. If you have one bad race, you can lose several spots in the points standings. That's what happened to us. I know we will be right back in the hunt after Darlington. We aren't worried about points right now. But when you drive the ACDelco car for RCR that's how you are judged. By wins and championships."

What is the key to getting around "The Lady in Black"?

"It is three things and they all work together. Number one, you have to just race the track. Number two, you have to be smooth and take care of your tires. Number three and this is the one that makes the other two work, you need enough forward bite to run fast without burning off the left rear and getting sideways loose. It you can get number three, you have a great chance at winning at Darlington."


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Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Ron Hornaday Jr.