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Hornaday keeping his head up
August 25, 1999 - By Brett Borden, NASCAR Online

TOPEKA, Kan. - The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has its usual grudge match as it heads for the home stretch of the season. As usual, one of the drivers involved is Jack Sprague. And, as usual, the other guy has posted several victories to keep Sprague from running away with things. What's different this year is the name of that guy. Instead of Ron Hornaday, it's some guy from the Northwest who drives a Ford, of all things.

Sophomore sensation Greg Biffle has definitely pushed Hornaday off the front page of the sports section this year, but the veteran Hornaday is not bitter.

In fact, despite the fact that he is leaving for the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division next season, Hornaday says he has things left to achieve in his six remaining truck starts in 1999, the first of which comes Saturday at Heartland Park Topeka in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 275.

"There's still things up in the air," said the driver of the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet. "If I were to win the next four or five races we have, I could be up there. And I'm not saying that we're counted out, but points are tough to get.

"These guys run hard. This series is tough. NASCAR has done a great job. They give you five points for leading the most laps. Five bonus points for leading a lap. And pit stops. We're doing what we have to do. We've got the most bonus points, we're leading the laps, we're leading some tracks the most laps, and we're getting out of the pits good. We haven't had luck on our side. I don't see winning the championship, but we're still trying to get back up in the top-3 or four.

"When it comes down to it, I don't want to be the guy racing there. I know what it was like coming down to the first championship and last year was the worst with Jack Sprague and myself and we had to finish wherever Jack did. If he won, we had to finish second. We did that and won by three points. There's going to be a lot of basket cases by the end of the year."

There are those who would say that Hornaday had one too many eggs in his basket this year. He announced his intentions to switch series next year, and a thousand things have seemingly gone wrong since. But the two-time series champion says that as far as he can tell, his team is squarely focused on their current series, and he has witnessed proof of it.

"I gotta say their (attention) is on the trucks, because I just went in there (his shop) and I just got back about an hour ago and we've got a test coming up in about two weeks in the Busch car, and it's still sitting there in its primer -- nobody's touching it. So we're definitely worried about this truck. We want to do the best we can for our sponsor, NAPA, and Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

"You want to go out there and you want to win races. And that's what we've always tried to do."

And that's what they always have done, successfully. Hornaday has won an average of almost six races a year, but only has two this year. And those came in the season's first handful of races. Despite that fact, he says the team is not hanging its collective head.

"It's not hard to stay upbeat," he said. "I just don't open the Winston Cup Scene as much anymore to see where I'm at in points. It's definitely tough. Everybody on the team has been blaming themselves. I've been blaming myself. And you can't do that. And that's what we've been trying not to do. And these guys are still keeping their heads on. We're not getting in too many arguments.

"I guess the biggest plus with Dale Earnhardt being a seven-time Winston Cup champion -- he understands, he's been through it. So we're not getting pressure from that side. NAPA, what a great sponsor. We've got them two championships so far, and this year it's not showing like we're gonna get one, but we're not quitting. We're gonna try to run up front and see what we can do, and do the best we can. We want to leave here and try to win some more races and hopefully make it like 30 races (won) in the Craftsman Truck Series where hardly anybody can catch us."

Hornaday is currently stuck on 25, which is 18 more than Biffle has. But Biffle has already matched Hornaday's best one-year tally with seven victories this season, and there are six races left for him to break it. Like Hornaday, Biffle is a former car builder. Hornaday says that isn't the secret to Biffle's success, though.

"It helps, but you definitely have to have the 'seat of the pants' (driver's feel)," said Hornaday. "You've gotta feel the truck. You've gotta understand what it does going into the corner. You've gotta understand what it does in the middle of the corner and coming off the corner. And then you've gotta go down the straightaway. So if you've got a good power plant, you can take that and hit the point, but you've definitely gotta know what the thing does into the corner and off the corner. Greg seems to find that out.

"Those guys start a race and -- we were actually running all over them, at the first half of this last race (Gateway) -- and they come in and make a great change and here he is one of the fastest trucks again. They've definitely got a good communication with him and his crew. He feels what he needs to feel, and you could tell anybody what you have in your own truck spring-wise and shocks or whatever, but there's no two drivers who drive the same. He's got his own different driving style and he's doing a great job."

Hornaday hopes that his driving style will get him to Victory Lane again soon, like Saturday afternoon in Kansas.

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Blk3GM's Dale Earnhardt Site was born on July 26, 1998 and is owned and maintained by Gary Harris.  This site is a tribute to "NASCAR's Greatest Driver" and his up and coming son.  We are not affiliated with any official Team, Sponsors, Media Group or NASCAR.  This site is solely for entertainment purposes.  Information and statistic's on this site have been collected from various NASCAR related sites on the internet, from Winston Cup Scene, Newspapers, Television and our personal experience at Winston Cup and Busch Grand National races.  All statistics are believed to be accurate at the time they are updated but cannot be guaranteed.
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