BUSCH: Hornaday needs win at Nazareth

NAZARETH, Pa. (July 15, 2000) This hasn't been an easy two-year stretch for Ron Hornaday. If you think racing is a tough racket when you're not winning, it's especially tough on you when you once won regularly. A kid wants ice cream a lot more if...

NAZARETH, Pa. (July 15, 2000) This hasn't been an easy two-year stretch for Ron Hornaday. If you think racing is a tough racket when you're not winning, it's especially tough on you when you once won regularly. A kid wants ice cream a lot more if he or she knows what it tastes like. Just ask Jeff Gordon. Hornaday has walked two miles in Gordon's shoes.

The NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division driver, who will have his second best starting position of the year (fourth) and best in 18 races in Sunday's Econo Lodge 200 at Nazareth Speedway, was once a Victory Lane staple in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In two consecutive seasons (1997-98) he won six times in that series, including one at Nazareth Speedway.

It seems once Hornaday made the decision to move to the NASCAR Busch Series, though, he found out just how hard it can be to win races. He was the proverbial lame duck in the Truck Series, his performance dropping off to the point where archrival Jack Sprague even sprang to his defense. The chemistry he had with crew chief Fred Graves in his last championship season ('98) just didn't materialize with Sandy Jones a year later. And things have been almost as tough in this, his Raybestos Rookie of the Year campaign in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Hornaday is still a threat to win races, but he's not the guy everyone else watches. He's finished third twice in his new gig, driving the No. 3 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and has seven top-10s in 18 starts. Three of those have come in the last four races, signifying that perhaps we'll soon see the Hornaday of old, instead of an old Hornaday. But the Hornaday of old was in Victory Lane. Sunday he'll have his best chance of getting there in a long time.

"The guys have been working their tails off on this NAPA Chevrolet," he said. "Maybe we can get this thing up front. I'm pretty excited. I'm getting a pretty good feel for it. These guys have been working their guts out for the past six months. I think we've gained on something the past couple of weeks. We've tried some different stuff. A little shock stuff. A little track bar. That's all we've changed so far."

His recent finishing success is no accident. He has qualified in the top-7 only five times all year (including this weekend), and three of those have come in the last five races. When the Econo Lodge 200 starts, Hornaday will only have a pair of Greens (Jeff and David) between himself and the green flag.

"I can't wait for the green flag to drop come Sunday," said Hornaday. "There's not that much difference between the (NASCAR Busch Series) car and the truck. It's still a gas pedal and a steering wheel. But when we figure the balance out in the car, I'll let you know the real difference between the two. Basically, they drive the same."

On Sunday, we may see the same Hornaday that won here in the Truck Series in 1998.

-nascar.com-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jeff Gordon