BUSCH: Fontana: Ron Hornaday preview

Hornaday returns home to California looking for first NASCAR Busch Series victory of 2003. * Ron Hornaday and the No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet head west to California sitting second in the NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) points standings, just ...

Hornaday returns home to California looking for first NASCAR Busch Series victory of 2003.

* Ron Hornaday and the No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet head west to California sitting second in the NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) points standings, just 78 points out of first. Despite only one Top-five finish in eight races, the ACDelco driver has been the model of consistency with eight Top-20 finishes and no DNF's. Hornaday's best overall finish in NBS points was fifth back in 2000. That same year he was named Most Popular Driver in the series.

* 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.

* Speaking of Bakersfield, CA and Mesa Marin Raceway. Hornaday will return to the site of his many victories at the track on Saturday night to run in a 75-lap late model shootout. Last year, the city of Bakersfield honored Hornaday with a key to the city and his own day, Ron Hornaday day, on Sunday October 20, 2002. Hornaday's late model car is owned by Gary Collins, the son of track owner Marion Collins.

* 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.

* Hornaday made three starts at California Speedway in the NASCAR Truck Series. His best finish was third in 1998. He also had one NASCAR Winston Cup start at the track in 2001 for A.J. Foyt Racing, where he finished 34th.

No. 2 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.

Third, you can't forget about fuel mileage, because it has been a factor in nearly every race here. But playing the mileage game can bite you as well. I know so far this year, we have had good motor and good mileage. If we can get both again this weekend, we will have that factor covered."

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."

You and Kevin Harvick are returning to your roots on Saturday night, to race a 75-lap shootout for the late models at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Ca. How excited are you about the race?

"I am very excited about this race. The whole reason Kevin and I are doing this is to say thank you to everyone at the track that helped us along the way. It is a very cool deal. When we were starting out, this was our Daytona, because it was the highest banked track we had ever seen. I can tell you this, the sparks are going to fly, because we have to start at the back. I guarantee the fans are going to love this race!"

Ron Hornaday is currently second in the NASCAR Busch Series Point Standings. The No.2 ACDelco Chevrolet is 78 points out of first place.


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About this article
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Lance Hooper , A.J. Foyt
Teams Richard Childress Racing