Ron Hornaday Jr. brought home a dominating victory in tonight’s Toyota Tundra 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Early in the race, Hornaday, Jr. seemed to struggle keeping pace with the truck of pole-sitter Timothy Peters, driving the No. 17 Toyota of Strutmasters/Red Horse Racing.
However, shortly before the competition caution at lap No. 35, he started getting his timing down in the turns, giving the throttle a little extra nudge with his toe.
This allowed the grizzled veteran to stop losing ground four times a lap.
“I finally figured this track out,” the winner said in the post-race press conference.
On the straightaways, he was clearly king. And on lap No. 33, he reeled in Peters with a fantastic pass.
First, he ran right on the No. 17 truck’s bumper, forcing him to bear down on the rear of the No. 60 truck, Stacy Compton, who was a lap down.
Peters drifted high to avoid Compton, who was not in a giving mood, and Hornaday darted down beneath both racers as they all entered turn one, wresting away the lead.
It was an advantage that he would only relinquish for 10 laps during the middle of the race.
At times, Hornaday, Jr. appeared to be running an entirely different type of truck, pulling away to commanding leads of up to 20 truck lengths.
After the race, Mike Skinner, driver of the No. 5 PC Miler Navigator Toyota Tundra (owned by the NFL’s Randy Moss), said as much in the following statement:
“Right now, the KHI stuff with (Ron) Hornaday, Jr.—they are in their own ZIP code.”
The only times he was reeled back into his pursuers was when he encountered stubborn drivers who were a lap down.
However, Hornaday made a living passing cars coming out of turn No. 4
He and Peters both stormed past Wes Burton in the No. 89 early in the race after rifling out of the turn, and Hornaday blew by the lapped No. 57 car of Norm Benning two trips around the track later.
This stellar action was just laps before the Longhorn Chevrolet took the lead for the first time.
Finally, he regained the lead for good with a shockingly easy pass coming out of turn No. 4 on lap 92, putting the moves on a seemingly helpless Brian Scott, driving the No. 16, sponsored by Albertson’s.
On lap 105, Hornaday, Jr. had the closest thing to a close call as he probably had all night. On the restart, he seemed to spin his wheels just a bit, and Scott in the No. 16 rammed him from behind.
The leader was seemingly jolted back to life by the tap from behind, but not before Scott took the middle groove, with Hornaday pushed tight against the barrier and Peters, only slightly behind, in the low groove, nearest the infield.
Hornaday never lost the lead, however, and ran away from the pack once again, establishing a two-truck lead by turn four.
The veteran chalked it up to hard racing.
“Well, I don’t know. The kid was just racing hard,” he began lightly. His mood seemed to shift somewhat as he thought about it more.
“You know, he knows records are out there and he’s trying to make a name for himself,” Hornaday continued. “He kind of pushed me into the turn, and I wasn’t real happy about that. But we’ve talked it over among ourselves and we’re good now.”
After the race win, which was Hornaday’s fifth consecutive, the talk turned to history.
No one in the history of the NASCAR racing series, save Bobby Allison and “King” Richard Petty, has ever won as many as five consecutive starts.
When asked point blank if he would have thought that anyone—much less his own team—would have been dominant enough to take five truck races in a row, Hornaday replied candidly:
“No, not at all. I’ve won three in a row, but then something always goes wrong. . . I don’t know what it is.”
Hornaday’s crew chief, Rick Ren, became the winningest in NASCAR truck series history, at 27 race wins, collected with five different racers.
Hornaday took home the collector’s edition Gibson Les Paul trophy guitar, designed by Sam Bass.
The No. 33 team took a stranglehold on the points lead with the dominating victory.
Already leading the ever-popular Skinner by 178 points, Hornaday, Jr. benefited from the difficult night by the No. 5 truck. Skinner struggled to a 14th place finish and gave away second place in the series to Matt Crafton in the No. 88, who finished fifth.
Hornaday, Jr. now leads Crafton by a commanding 216 points through 14 races.
Delena Harvick, the registered owner of the No. 33 and member of Kevin Harvick, Incorporated, leads the owner points race.
Stay tuned for my final impressions tomorrow night here on Bleacher Report.
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