When things are going well it’s easy to ride the highs. When things are going bad it would be easy to crawl into a bottomless pit.
That’s unless you’re Ron Hornaday Jr.
The defending Camping World Truck Series champion hasn’t had the greatest start to his title defense, but he’s still making the best of it. Now halfway through the 2010 season, Hornaday sits sixth in the championship point standings after getting off to what can only be described as a roller coaster start.
Wrecks in the first two races of the season, Daytona and Atlanta, gave way to three straight top five finishes. That looked more like the Hornaday everyone knew and counted on as a contender. But while he’s been able to climb his way toward the top of the point standings he hasn’t escaped the bad luck bug.
Wrecks have followed him from Daytona and Atlanta, to Iowa and Pocono. Suspension problems in Gateway have helped take the No. 33 team out of the consistency game.
As the series watches Todd Bodine continue to increase his point lead and put himself in the drivers seat, no pun intended, for the championship, Hornaday and others are just trying to stay on track. Finally capturing his first win of the season at O’Reilly Raceway Park, the longest into a season he’s gone without winning, Hornaday can’t be where he wants to be.
Yet, everyone knows you can’t always be the driver that can be found up front, the man everyone has to chase. Watching Hornaday however, you can help but be struck by the fact that he seems perfectly fine in the position he finds himself in. Sometimes it’s what isn’t seen that tells the best story.
The Hornaday away from TV cameras is still competitive, having no problem talking about his truck, other trucks, his competitors or season. It’s what he does on a weekly basis when asked, but this year is different considering his performance.
To Hornaday it’s nothing to get too worked up about, “You gotta learn how to lose them before you can win them,” he said two weeks ago in Darlington. “We’re just now starting to gel and put out team back together and that’s part of it [racing].”
“You can try to do everything right, we’ve got fast trucks, but you can’t help [broken] sway bar arms, you can’t help flat tires,” he continued. “You can help what I did at Pocono, making it three wide and wrecking, that stuff you put yourself into. We’re giving it all we can and maybe the problem is we’re trying too hard.”
The solution he said, “I just need to step back a little bit, take a deep breath and hopefully we can get back on track.”
Taking a deep breath in the Hornaday world doesn’t mean turn around and get over excited and start screaming. It doesn’t mean fighting with his crew or trying to place blame elsewhere.
Hornaday in fact seems to have put the heat on his shoulders for some of his team’s disasters this season.
In answering questions thrown his way it was, “if I don’t wreck ‘em [trucks].” Or after the race saying, “knock on wood [he knocked on his head] that I didn’t wreck.” The four-time truck champion also feels that if he hadn’t wrecked so many trucks his team would be a lot better prepared for upcoming races.
Other attention diverters would be in making jokes and picking on himself. The self-proclaimed “old man” of the truck series garage isn’t afraid to take a shot at his age (52). Repeatedly saying that it’s too far of a walk from the garage to the media center for someone like him.
That came after he arriving in his new golf kart which he was proud to say, “that baby’s street legal too,” calmly struts in to take his chair. Almost as if he had not a care in the world, even though he drives a race truck for a living.
Comfortable in his own skin maybe or content with his accomplishments to date, many things to be thankful for. Things don’t always have to be as stressful and fast paced as the garage normally is and Hornaday does a great job of separating himself from it when need be.
Other drivers play along. Hornaday is one of the few drivers that everyone seems to respect and is grateful to race with. Ken Schrader, teammate to Hornaday when driving for Kevin Harvick Inc, wanted to take a jab at Hornaday for not going to the shop.
Timothy Peters joined in too. Peters sat in the media center giving remarks about finishing second when Hornaday walked in, however on SPEED he was giving his post race interview. Peters stopped and said, “Hey Hornaday, you’re on TV, how’d you get here so quick?”
“I’m good,” Hornaday replied.
The smile with which he delivered the answer was nothing more than further proof that even the seasoned of racers knows how to have fun. Behind the turning wrenches and sweat, there are smiles and laughs as each team tries to beat the other.
It’s all in good fun, one big family just enjoying the weekend. A weekend where while working hard, can still crack a smile and love what they do. Hornaday is one of those many individuals who even if things haven’t gone his way, has shown that he’s not one to get caught up in it.
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