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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Year of the old guy continues; Hornaday wins four in a row

It’s a good year to be a racer in your 50s.

Not only is Mark Martin threatening a title run in Cup and leading the series in wins, but down in the Truck series, Ron Hornaday Jr. is putting on a show for all the rest of the old-timers and young guns in that series. He capped an amazing June/July and made history by scoring four straight victories.

As I watched Friday night’s race at Indianapolis Raceway Park (a great track to watch a race live, by the way. I highly recommend going), I couldn’t help thinking back to the talk recently about how the Truck series was struggling and might not be around for much longer, and hoping that never happens.

Friday night’s Truck race was possibly the best race I have seen all season in any of the top three series. It didn’t start out great, but the final 150 laps or so provided nonstop action up front that would thrill any racing fan.

The ending had Hornaday trying desperately to hold off a charging Mike Skinner, who was on newer tires. The middle of the race featured Kyle Busch in an intense battle with Skinner for the lead that seemed to never end. Throughout the race, anywhere from two to four cars were up front and you never knew which truck would be leading at lap’s end. There is a great mix of veterans like Hornaday and Skinner, and kids on the way up like Colin Braun and Tayler Malsam.

In short, if this series ever gets shut down, it will be a shame because it provides the best racing of all three main series. The Cup series has the big names, but the competition most weeks is a far cry from the exciting show I watched Friday.

Getting back to Hornaday, who has now won five races this season and built a lead of almost 200 points, it is clear to me now the history books will show that Ron Hornaday Jr. was the biggest name to dr. There are others who have done well there (Jack Sprague, Greg Biffle, Mike Skinner, etc.), but by the time he’s done, he will have claimed pretty much every record in the book.

Hornaday earns people’s respect because he is a pure racer. He wants to win, period, and his skill is on display every week. He’s also not afraid to speak his mind, something else that endears him to fans.

To say Hornaday’s career is connected to Dale Earnhardt Sr. would be an understatement. After Earnhardt took notice of Hornaday prior to the 1995 season during Winter Heat races, his career took off at age 37, and he found his home driving in the Truck series for Dale Earnhardt. Since then, he has won three Truck series titles and 44 races.

There was a brief detour from 2000 to 2004, when he raced one year for A.J. Foyt in the Cup series, and four years in the Nationwide series for Dale Earnhardt, Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick, among others. Now, he drives for Kevin Harvick, the guy who had to jump into Dale Earnhardt’s car when he died so suddenly in 2001.

A combination of great trucks from great owners, and a ton of natural talent (his late father was also a championship racer) have led Hornaday to a great career, even if it never included success at the Cup level.

Just like Martin, he is showing that if you’re a talented driver, age really is just a number. Barring a major collapse, he will likely take home another Truck series title in 2009 and further establish himself and the face of the Truck series.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


July 25, 2009 at 11:21 AM 

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