SEASON-BEST QUALIFYING EFFORT BY HORNADAY AT PHOENIX HIGHLIGHTS SMITH & WESSON RACING'S BUSCH SERIES 200 AVONDALE, Ariz. (Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005) -- Veteran driver Ron Hornaday posted the ...
SEASON-BEST QUALIFYING EFFORT BY HORNADAY AT PHOENIX HIGHLIGHTS SMITH & WESSON RACING'S BUSCH SERIES 200
AVONDALE, Ariz. (Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005) -- Veteran driver Ron Hornaday posted the #30 Smith & Wesson Racing Chevrolet's top qualifying effort of its inaugural NASCAR Busch Series season at Phoenix International Raceway this morning before losing a battle with an ill-handling race car in this afternoon's Arizona 200 and bringing home a 32nd-place finish.
After closing out practice Friday 10th on the timesheets, Hornaday's qualifying lap of 131.617 mph (27.352 seconds) around the tricky mile oval at PIR this morning put the Smith & Wesson Racing machine 12th among 46 car-and-driver combinations fighting for 43 available starting spots. It was the fastest qualifying effort among the 16 entrants here this weekend who had to make the field based on qualifying speed. The previous-best qualifying effort for the Smith & Wesson Chevrolet was 24th by Hornaday on Labor Day weekend at California Speedway.
From his outside-sixth-row starting position, Hornaday found he was battling severely heavy understeer from the time the green flag flew, costing him valuable spots in the running order until pitting for the first time under caution on Lap 20. Significant rear-tire air-pressure adjustments did little to help the problem and Hornaday resumed in 35th place, behind a large handful of competitors who opted not to pit. Within six laps, Hornaday fought his way back to 26th, but the understeer was still severe. So the team brought him into the pits again under caution on Lap 40, to add a right-rear spring rubber, and again on Lap 41, to remove a left-rear spring rubber. That also failed to rectify the tight condition. Hornaday resumed in 33rd when the race went back to green on Lap 49, and with the understeer only slightly improved, he did his best to maintain his position over the next 57 laps of green-flag racing.
By Lap 106, Hornaday reported problems with the left-front tire, and the team had no choice but to call him into the pits under green for a fresh set of tires and fuel and further chassis adjustments. The SKI Motorsports crew found excessive wear to that left-front tire -- another factor in Hornaday's inability to race his way back to the front of the pack.
Additional adjustments on the final two pits stops on Laps 110 and 177 of today's 200-lap event proved to marginally improve the handling on the Smith & Wesson Chevrolet, but by then it was too late to regain four laps lost to the leaders.
NASCAR Nextel Cup regular Carl Edwards won today's race, beating Busch series regular Clint Bowyer and fellow Nextel Cup star Matt Kenseth across the finish line.
This was the eighth and final event of the season for the Smith & Wesson Chevrolet of SKI Motorsports. Future plans will be announced at a later date.
"We finally got a chance to show what we're capable of doing in qualifying. Unfortunately, a good car in qualifying doesn't guarantee you a good race car. In other words, you can't have it both ways. We accomplished one of our goals and that was to put the Smith & Wesson Chevrolet solidly in the field. We started out really tight, and it seemed like we just couldn't free the car up in the early going. The 60 laps of green-flag racing that took us to the middle of the race didn't allow us to come in and keep working on the car. Those are the breaks. When you need a yellow the worst, it seems like you just can't get one. We qualified well, and we did our best under the conditions when we went racing, so there are definitely positives to take away from here."
BOB SCHACHT (Crew Chief)
"I'll have to echo everything Ron said. We really gave it everything we had for qualifying and it just wasn't the right balance that we needed for the race. But we did what we had to do, and I'm proud of everyone involved with the Smith & Wesson program.
CHRIS LENCHESKI (Team Owner)
"We saved our best for last this season in qualifying, so that was truly a moment to be proud of for everyone involved with the Smith & Wesson Racing program. We were entertaining our largest contingent of Smith & Wesson guests this weekend as they have a facility right here in the Valley, so it was imperative that we put in a top-notch qualifying effort like we did. We needed it, and Bob (Schacht) and Ron (Hornaday) and the crew got it done -- with flying colors. Unfortunately, things didn't quite work out as we would have hoped in the race, but that is the tradeoff and we'll take our lessons learned and move on from here. Remember, this was only our eighth race ever, so we're very much in our relative infancy compared to most everybody else out there. For what we were able to accomplish this season, we can go forward from here and continue in our efforts to build what we believe will be a winning program."