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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hornaday’s 4th title puts him in elite company

On Saturday, Kevin Harvick Inc.’s main driver, Ron Hornaday, clinched his fourth Truck series title, and his second for KHI.
The same day, team owner Harvick won the race at Phoenix in a second truck.

Solid day, to say the least.

Hornaday has won 4 Truck titles, and it was mentioned on the broadcast that the only people to do this in the top 3 NASCAR series before him are Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty and Jeff Gordon.

But what does it mean when all his titles came in the less-heralded Truck series, where the talent level overall isn’t up to par with the Cup series?

Hornaday had quick stints in Cup (in a weak A.J.-Foyt owned car), and in Nationwide (driving for RCR, where he actually did pretty well), but never achieved the level of success he saw in Trucks.

I say that’s no indictment of Hornaday, as not everyone will be a Cup star, and anyone who would downplay these four titles hasn’t seen Hornaday race much, because he’s pretty impressive. While I recognize the overall talent in Trucks is less than Cup, historically the Truck series has been more competitive than the Cup series, which means his 4 titles are indeed very impressive.

Congrats to Hornday and KHI, who couldn’t have scripted a more perfect weekend.

Kyle Busch a team owner?
It’s been long-rumored that Kyle Busch may start his own Truck and/or Nationwide series team in 2010, following in the footsteps of other driver-owners like Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart. At only 24 years of age, that would be a bold move, but it’s possible he could achieve some success since he’s shown he knows how to win in that series.

The biggest concern he should have: How much will the team distract him from him efforts to compete for wins and titles in the Cup series?

Gordon may be part-timer in 2010
Not that many people would notice, given how badly he has performed in 2009, but Robby Gordon may be around after the first 8 race next year. The money isn’t there after sponsor Jim Beam announced it is leaving the sport.

I love Robby Gordon as a personality, but as a driver he has never really been all that great outside of road courses in NASCAR. Meanwhile, he’s awesome at his other racing endeavours (Baja 1000, etc.) and is regarded as a great talent outside of NASCAR. In the end, it may be the best for him if he sticks to those series.

The biggest impact of him leaving would be that one less team would show up to qualify each week, putting us even closer to short fields in the Cup series.

TRG team on the right track
Despite the #71 team being a start-and-park for much of the 2009 season, team owner Kevin Buckler always insisted he was on the right track. When I spoke to Buckler earlier this season, he said this year was about building toward a competitive 2010.

With the announcement at Phoenix Saturday that Bobby Labonte will remain the team’s driver in 2010, and that Taxslayer has signed on as sponsor for 12 races, he is well on the way to achieving that goal of being competitive next season.

Labonte may not have won in a while, but he has shown in recent years that he can run well when he has a good machine. If Buckler can get the funding to make sure Labonte will be able to race every week, I can see the team moving up a notch to about a mid-pack team (about 25th in points) as opposed to a 37th-place team. That’s progress, and it certainly helps when you have a past champion like Bobby Labonte driving, which means you’re almost guaranteed to make the races.


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