Ron Hornaday Jr. Wins "Alan Kulwicki 250 Presented by Forest County Potawatomi Racing" (West Allis, WI) June 26, 2004 -- While young guns David Stremme and Shane Hmiel fiercely battled for their first NASCAR Busch Series victory, veteran Ron...
Ron Hornaday Jr. Wins "Alan Kulwicki 250 Presented by Forest County Potawatomi Racing"
(West Allis, WI) June 26, 2004 -- While young guns David Stremme and Shane Hmiel fiercely battled for their first NASCAR Busch Series victory, veteran Ron Hornaday Jr. used patience and experience to snag away the win in the "Alan Kulwicki 250 presented by Forest County Potawatomi Racing" Saturday night at the Milwaukee Mile.
Stremme, 27, and Hmiel, 24, swapped the lead numerous times and dominated for most of the event while Hornaday, 47, quietly kept them within sight, saving his equipment to make a late charge. He cleanly swept past Hmiel for the lead with five laps to go. Once out front, Hornaday, drove away to a 1.272 seconds victory over Stremme, while Hmiel fell to a fourth place finish after a last lap tangle with Jason Keller, the defending race winner.
"Those kids (Stremme and Hmiel) were running their guts out and I thought I could catch them, but (my crew chief) Butch Hylton said to just save your stuff and sure enough the more I saved it the more I rolled up into the middle of the corner and gave them more pressure to start racing each other harder and that's when they started to loosen each other up and start spinning their tires," a visibly excited Hornaday explained after scoring his first series win since May of 2003. "In the end it gave us fresher tires."
Hornaday's night ended in a celebratory "Kulwicki Polish Victory Lap" in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 44,238 race fanatics at race end, but the start of the race was no indication to the potency of his Richard Childress-owned car. With a long green flag run at the race's outset, the handling on his AC/Delco Chevrolet was not quite right, resulting in an early pit stop for adjustments which nearly put him a lap down.
The event's first caution flag of the race flew for hard turn one wall contact involving a spinning Casey Atwood on lap 78, which caught Hornaday on pit road mid-pit stop. Hornaday was saved from losing a lap due to all the other lead lap cars pitting under caution. He would line up 14th, last among the lead lap cars on the restart.
Stremme had a strong run, dominating the early stages of the event lapping up to 14th after starting from his first series pole position. Stremme, from nearby South Bend, IN, spent the 2002 racing season living and racing out of the Milwaukee are on the ASA National Tour driving stock cars, and has a large fan following locally.
The second generation racer appeared to have the race in hand before he slid high in turn three while leading on lap 220, allowing three position cars to maneuver past, derailing any chance for his first NASCAR victory.
"I gave that race away," a dejected Stremme reasoned. "We freed the car up a bit and I was just riding around in first, probably running too hard, and I slid the car off the corner and got up in the marbles. I guess you have to give them away before you can finally win one, but I'm confident we can still pull off a victory this year."
Stremme made a fantastic recovery from the mishap and made an exciting charge in the end that included a three-wide pass to move from fourth to second on lap 232. The Trimspa Dodge driver was forced to settle for a runner-up finish.
It appeared Hmiel, who led a race-high four times for 95 laps, had the car to beat during the early and middle stages of the race but found himself desperate for a tire change as the race reached the latter stages. The North Carolinian ultimately lost third place to Keller following some contact in turn four on the final lap.
"We were just got too loose and I ran my tires off," a somewhat disappointed Hmiel recalled of the event's final laps. "He (Keller) just ran over me but I know Jason Keller and he doesn't just run people over. (Honestly,) we have never been the best of friends anyways, so that's OK."
Keller was straight-forward in describing the last lap incident which overshadowed an otherwise strong race run that ended in a third place finish. "I got into the back of the (Hmiel's number) 38 car. He checked up and I wasn't expecting it and it's just one of them deals," he said. "I didn't mean to do it, but if you hit someone on the freeway from behind, it's your fault."
A near-capacity crowd of 44,286 saw 14 lead changes among eight drivers in the "Alan Kulwicki 250 presented by Forest County Potawatomi Racing" event. The race was slowed four times by caution flags and was completed in two hours twenty seven minutes at an average speed of 102.038 mph.
Chasing Hornaday, Stremme and Keller across the finish line were Hmiel in 4th and Bobby Hamilton, Jr in 5th. Completing the top-10 were Mike Bliss, double-dipping Greg Biffle, David Green, Martin Truex, Jr and Clint Bowyer.
The next scheduled event for The Milwaukee Mile features the stars of the Indianapolis 500 in the inaugural "Menards AJ Foyt Indy 225" set for July 23-25 featuring the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series, the return of USAC Silver Crown and USAC National Midget Car Series that same weekend.
Tickets are available by calling (414) 453-8277, or (800) 955-5566, or by going online at www.milwaukeemile.com.