Of all the drivers who have taken on Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), Ron Hornaday is perhaps the one with the most experience and success at the Fort Worth tri-oval. That expertise showed when Hornaday overcame having to start from the rear as well as an ill-handling No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet for a 20th-place finish in the WinStar World Casino 350K.
Joe Denette Motorsports (JDM) welcomed partners Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff and SWM Gun Runner on board the No. 9 Silverado for the WinStar World Casino 350K. The event marked the 20th race on the 22-race NCWTS schedule and marked Hornaday's 320th series start.
In the first of two NCWTS Thursday afternoon practice sessions, Hornaday elected to only make a few laps, putting the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet 24th on the charts with a lap of 30.600 (176.471 mph) at the end of the hour-long session, reporting that the truck was too loose for the four-time series champion's tastes.
In the second and final NCWTS practice session of the evening, Hornaday put the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet 11th on the charts in his first run. Hornaday then reported to the crew that his Silverado was free on corner entry. After making a few more adjustments, Hornaday ended the session 27th on the leaderboard with a time of 30.501 (177.043 mph), still battling a loose condition.
Hornaday was the 12th qualifier in the WinStar World Casino 350K time trials on Friday afternoon. With a fast lap of 30.657 (176.142 mph) Hornaday immediately shot to the top of the charts before solidifying the 22nd starting position at the conclusion of the qualifying session, on the outside of the eleventh row.
Before the green flag dropped on the WinStar World Casino 350K at Texas Motor Speedway, Hornaday had to make the trip to the rear of the field for making adjustments on the right front fender of this No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet, which was rubbing during his qualifying run.
After starting shotgun on the 36-truck NCWTS field, Hornaday worked his way up to the 24th-position by lap 15. Hornaday reported to crew chief Doug Howe and his JDM crew that his Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was good entering the corners, but tight through the center and off the turns.
The first caution of the 147-lap event waved at lap 32 for an accident on the front stretch. Doug Howe, crew chief of the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet, used the yellow-flag period as an opportunity to call Hornaday to pit road for four tires and fuel. The No. 9 JDM pit crew gained Hornaday one spot on pit road, which allowed him to restart from the 23rd-position at lap 35.
Happy with the changes made by Howe, Hornaday put the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet on the move and advanced his Silverado six positions to 17th on the leaderboard in just a handful of laps. As the green flag run continued, Hornaday worked his way up to the 16th-position and settled in with no pressure from behind, only reporting that the No. 9 truck was getting tight off the corner as the run went on.
When the second caution of the night waved at lap 66, Hornaday was still scored 16th and reported to the crew that they key to success with their No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet would be getting the nose down closer to the racetrack. Howe called Hornaday to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment to combat his tight issue on the long green-flag runs.
Following an extended pit stop for chassis adjustments, Hornaday restarted the 220.5-mile WinStar World Casino 350K from the 21st-position at lap 69. Soon after the NCWTS field retook the green flag, Hornaday had improved his position all the way up to 15th on the leaderboard after making his way around fellow series veteran, Todd Bodine at lap 81 of 147.
As the laps wound on Hornaday continued his march to the front, picking off truck after truck, the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was up to 14th on the charts. Unfortunately, Hornaday's handling issues on long runs returned and he radioed to pit road that his No. 9 Silverado was loose into and exiting the corners and tight through the center.
Green flag pit stops ensued as the remainder of the 147-lap event went caution-free and Hornaday brought the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet to the attention of his JDM pit crew at lap 117 for two tires and fuel from the 15th-position. As the rest of the field made their green-flag stops, Hornaday remained 15th on the leaderboard as the stops cycled through.
After falling back to 19th on the charts as the green-flag run continued, Hornaday reported to the crew that the No. 9 Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff Chevrolet was so loose that it felt sideways. As the checkered flag neared, race-leader Johnny Sauter put Hornaday one lap down with just under 10 laps to go.
When the final laps concluded, Hornaday was officially credited with a 20th-place finish in the WinStar World Casino 350K at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnny Sauter took the checkered flag in the 14th annual event followed by Parker Kligerman, Nelson Piquet, Jr., Kyle Busch and Ty Dillon.
Ron Hornaday Quotes:
"We took a swing at it and just missed it this weekend. We found out once we got to the track, that the front-end geometry was way off which was causing us to be loose on Thursday during practice. The guys took a big swing at it and thought we had the problem fixed for qualifying and the race. Unfortunately, I was just really loose in qualifying and the right front fender was dragging so we decided to cut our losses and fix the problem before the race. We weren't bad at the beginning of a run but the long runs killed us. On the final green-flag pit stop we opted for two tires instead of four to gain track position but it didn't work out in our favor. It's been a tough year, but hopefully we can rebound in the last two races."