NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Champion, Ron Hornaday, Jr., was in championship form this weekend at Kansas Speedway for the SFP 250, driving from three laps down to finish ninth, tallying his third Top 10 of the season.
Hornaday and the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Chevrolet took to the track for the first practice on Friday, under unfavorable conditions as they dealt with major cloud cover, high winds and below normal temperatures. NASCAR gave the trucks additional time in the first practice for drivers to test their trucks on the newly paved Kansas Speedway. Hornaday and crew chief, Bruce Cook used the first part of this practice to get the nose and splitter of the truck on the ground, to gain more down force and control. Once they got the Chevrolet Silverado dialed in, Cook and crew used the remaining portion of this practice to scuff the tires for race day, as they learned the truck got “crazy loose” with new tires under it. Hornaday would finish the first practice tenth.
Second practice began a few hours later with temperatures warming up only a few degrees. The crew focused on making changes to the truck that mimicked race conditions, as the temperatures and track conditions during the race would be similar to this practice. Hornaday logged 34 laps in second practice and finished in the 13th position.
On Saturday morning, under sunny skies and friendlier temperatures, Hornaday took to the track 24th for his qualifying effort and laid down a lap of 30.771. The 2011 NCWTS Champion, James Buescher would later run a lap of 30.285, claiming the pole and relegating Hornaday to start from row seven.
The green flag for the SFP 250 flew around 1:18 p.m. CT with Hornaday starting from the back of the field. The No. 9 Smokey Mountain crew made an unapproved change to the truck after qualifying so Hornaday gave up his 13th place starting position. A few laps in, Hornaday’s spotter Bob Jeffrey, told him he was running really good lap times, but Hornaday didn’t get much of a chance to use those lap times to move forward as the first caution came out on lap 15. Driver of the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Chevrolet radioed his crew saying the truck was just starting to come to him when the caution came out. Cook told his driver to take care of his tires, as they were only coming down for fuel during this first pit stop.
As the second caution flag flew, Hornaday radioed to the crew he was really free. Cook reassured him that once the tires warmed up, the truck would come to him. The field would only stay green for three more laps before another caution came out. Hornaday kept the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Chevrolet on the track while other trucks pitted, moving him up to the 11th position.
As the fourth caution flew, Hornaday decided to stay out gaining more track position, where he would restart fourth and in just a few laps, move into second. By lap 51, Hornaday radioed the crew that he got tight when running behind people, as he continued logging laps as fast as the leaders. As Hornaday ran around in the top five, he began trying new lines and knew he had a good Chevrolet Silverado under him.
Under the green flag, Hornaday came in for four tires and fuel. Unfortunately, NASCAR’s computer data determined the No.9 Truck was too fast entering the pits, and had to come back down pit road to serve a pass through penalty. As Hornaday returned to pit road to serve his pass through penalty, he radioed to the team that he may have a wheel loose, and stopped in his pit stall for the No. 9 crew to check the tires. In doing so, the No. 9 had not served their penalty and had to come back down pit road for the third time under the green flag. Although Hornaday was listed three laps down in the 20th position, the NTS Motorsports team did not give up.
As cautions continued to fly the rest of the day, Hornaday was able to move through the field into the 17th position and eventually gained the “lucky dog” spot during caution number nine. After another quick stop for four-tires and fuel, the No. 9 was back on the lead lap and running in 12th position. As the final caution came out on lap 140, Hornaday radioed to the crew that he had another bad vibration. Cook told him to hang on and let the tires warm up. With 25 laps to go, Hornaday finally found the Top 10 again and ran wide open for the final laps settling for a ninth place finish.
“Bruce (Cook) and Bob (Jeffery) did a lot to keep me pumped up with all of the cautions from this race. It’s amazing how fast we were going. We were wide open, never lifting for most of the green flag laps then something happened towards the end (of the race) and we lost the speed.”
“I’m not happy with a ninth place finish but it’s (the truck) in one piece so we can learn from it and try and beat these guys at the rest of the mile and a half races.”
NTS Motorsports PR