BUSCH: Fontana: Ron Hornaday preview

* "GOOD VIBRATIONS" Ron Hornaday and the ACDelco racing team come into California Speedway feeling good about their recent success. The No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo has been one of the fastest cars on the track over the last few...


Ron Hornaday and the ACDelco racing team come into California Speedway feeling good about their recent success. The No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet Monte Carlo has been one of the fastest cars on the track over the last few weeks and that has helped the Palmdale, CA. driver move from 13th to ninth in the NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) championship chase.


Although Hornaday is known throughout racing as a short track ace, the driver of the ACDelco Chevy is showing that he can handle the big tracks as well. Hornaday finished 10th at California Speedway last year and backed that up with top-five runs at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, where he finished third last weekend. Hornaday's best finish at California Speedway was a third place finish in the NASCAR Trucks Series race in 1998.


The ACDelco team got off to a slow start in 2004, but don't count Hornaday out of the championship battle. The next four races setup wonderfully for the Richard Childress owned team. Hornaday finished 10th at California Speedway in 2003. He ran in the top-three at Gateway (IL.) International Raceway last year before a rare broken transmission took him out of contention. He finished second at Gateway in 2002. At Richmond (VA.) International Raceway, Hornaday scored an average finish of 10th in 2003. And finally, Hornaday has won two out of the last three races he has entered at Nazareth (PA.) Speedway.


The ACDelco transporter will unload chassis No. 025 at California Speedway. It is the same car that won at both Michigan International Speedway and Richmond International Raceway with Kevin Harvick at the wheel last year.

ACDelco Chevrolet Driver Ron Hornaday on California Speedway

What's the key to running well at California Speedway?

"It is really a combination of things. You have to have a great motor, number one. You are in the gas so long here and there is so much room, that a great motor can make up for a lot.

Second, you need to be able to hold the car on the bottom and get back in the gas early off the corners. That is the hard part on the setup, because you carry so much speed into the corners. If you free it up off the corners, sometimes it will free you up getting in, which makes a driver very uneasy at close to 200 mph. The other part of that is when you tighten the car getting in to make it more comfortable, it can make you tight off the corner and you have to wait to get back in the gas. If you get the setup just right, you can really drive the car anywhere you need to, which is a lot of fun.

Looking at your NBS finishes at California Speedway, you have improved every time out. Do you feel like you now have a good feel for the track?

"I think I have always had a good feel for the track. We ran very well in the Truck Series at California Speedway. We never finished outside the top-10. It just depends on what the situation is. I think we have had good runs there every year, we just never finished where we felt we should have. I think we showed last year, that we can qualify up-front and race in the top-five all day long. I think we have a great shot at a win. Butch (Hylton) and the guys have put together an awesome package for this race, so I'm very excited. You can feel the momentum building on this ACDelco team."

When you left Southern California in 1995 to go drive for Dale Earnhardt you were a local legend. Do you feel that same fan appreciation when you return to California?

"I love the fans on the west coast. They made me who I am today and I can never thank them enough for their support. It was tough leaving back in '95. I had never been to North Carolina and wasn't sure exactly where it was. But when I got the offer from Dale, I had to go. But the fans stayed with us. They have been the best to me and my family. I think the people of California have proven to the rest of the country that they are awesome fans. That's why Fontana got a second date. It was the fans that made that happen."

You have climbed back into the top-10 in points. How has the team progressed since Daytona and where do you still need to improve?

"I think we have just started doing what we want to do. Early on, I think we tried to work in combination with Ricky (Viers) and the No. 21 team on setups and changes. We still share a lot of information, but we do our own thing now and so do they. I don't drive like Kevin does. Clint doesn't drive like I do. We just concentrate on our car when we get to the track and that has helped us the most. I believe in Butch and he believes in me. We just said to each other, 'let's do our own thing'. And it is starting to pay off.

We need to get better at the start of happy hour. For some reason, our car isn't where it needs to be when we start the final practice and we lose time making big adjustments. A lot of that was trying to run a combination of our stuff and the No. 21's stuff. Now, we are just going with what we think will make us better and I think we will be much better the rest of the season. But we need to get some wins. That's our main goal. Not points, but wins."

What are your feelings about returning home and racing in front of your hometown fans?

"It is always a cool deal to me when we race in California. I have so many great memories of racing out there and the people who helped me get my start. I can remember back when I used to be a service technician working on cars during the day and then building race cars at night, dreaming of one day racing NASCAR's best. And with a lot of help from friends and family I have been able to do that.

We have run really good at California Speedway in the past but for one reason or another we haven't finished well and that is something I hope to change this weekend. Richard Childress Racing has run well there, but RCR is still looking for their first win at the track, so that is the goal for ACDelco Chevrolet this weekend. And I think we have the car and the team to do it."

Can racing in front of your hometown fans be a distraction? Is there more pressure?

"I guess there is a little more pressure, but it comes from me, not from them. Anytime you race in front of your hometown, you want to do well. It's like racing in Charlotte. With so many teams based there, you are racing for bragging rights. It's the same way out here.

We have a lot of friends who we only see during the California race weekend, so that is fun. We try to cook out one night with everyone at the track to catch up. So it's not really a distraction. We just don't get to spend the time with our friends that we used to. But a little time is better than no time."


* Hornaday, a native of Palmdale, CA, cut his teeth on the short tracks in and around the Los Angeles area. Many consider Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, CA, to be Hornaday's home track because of his many wins at the half-mile facility. But Saugus Speedway, just north of L.A. was actually Hornaday's home turf. It was the only track that Hornaday ever ran for the track championship, which he won in his only full-time attempt at the title. Other California tracks where Hornaday dominated include Stockton, El Cajon, Eureka, Shasta and Sears Point.

* While Dale Earnhardt, Jr. brags about his "Dirty Mooresville Posse", it was Hornaday who was the first NASCAR driver to head such a group. Starting in 1989, Hornaday was the "sheriff" of the NASCAR Southwest Tour drivers known as the "Palmdale Posse." Hornaday won back-to-back series titles in 1992 and '93. The Posse included Lance Hooper and Dennis Dyer.

* With all the talk about the "young guns" in NASCAR, keep in mind that a few of them spent their early years in racing sleeping on Hornaday's couch. Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson all took up residence with Hornaday at one time or another.


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About this article
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Richard Childress Racing