Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ron Hornaday - Heart and Soul of a Champion

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines champion as “one that is successful through praiseworthy ability and hard work.” Champion is definitely the word that you would use preceding NASCAR Truck Series four-time champion Ron Hornaday’s name any given day because he is a talented, smart and fierce competitor. 

It was bewildering to think that Hornaday had to figure out for what race team he would be driving along with finding sponsorship for the upcoming year due to Kevin Harvick, Incorporated’s decision to shut down their Truck Series program last year. Understandably this was a respected decision between both parties; however, it would ultimately lead to this veteran driver being without a ride for the upcoming race season.

In November 2011, Joe Denette Motorsports announced that Hornaday signed a one-year deal with them to compete in the 2012 season. Outside of the love of racing many wondered why the four-time champion driver would choose to partner with a very young truck series team.  In response to the inquiry, Hornaday had this to say “Joe has a lot to offer, he definitely enjoys racing –that is the biggest part. Anyone that puts the love into it like he does, you know that program will be successful.” Additionally, hiring Jeff Hensley (crew chief for the No. 9 Chevy) coupled with freedom to build his own trucks whereas they had been built for him before meant a great deal to this veteran. Moreover, Hornaday was very adamant about the fact that he wanted to be driving a Chevrolet – “There are only so many Chevrolets and I’m not going to another manufacturer. I have been driving Chevrolets my whole career and I’m going to stick with it.”

His current teammate is 18-year old rookie Max Gresham and Hornaday commented about this young driver’s talent, politeness as well as great family background. In regards to a question asked about him being an advisor/mentor  to the rookie, Hornaday feels that he can’t give specific information (e.g. successful maneuvering around a particular track) unless Gresham asks him directly. Although this seasoned driver will not force advice upon the up-and-coming talent, he will be available to provide some sound wisdom if needed. 

At the time of this interview, the points standings showed Hornaday sitting ninth, approximately 31 points behind leader Timothy Peters. I asked him what he thought would be the best he could finish since this is the first season with this race team, outside of capturing another championship, when the checkered flag waves in Homestead on November 16. In true multiple-champion-like fashion, with a smile on his face, his reply was, "Minus one point outside of the championship," basically letting me know that number five is in his eyes.  Hornaday plans to battle hard to the end and does not intend to settle for anything less than the top spot. 

As we all know, being involved in the racing industry requires adapting to a very fast-paced lifestyle; therefore, drivers have to find that perfect balance to keep them grounded. The balance in Hornaday’s life comes in the form of his beautiful wife of over 30 years, Lindy Hornaday, who has been featured in a Skirts & Scuffs WIN Series interview conducted by columnist Lindi Bess earlier this year. His grandchildren are very important to both he and his wife so they try to stay involved with as many activities with them as possible.

The future holds no boundaries for the 53-year old athlete who has no immediate retirement plans on the horizon. Yes, I asked Hornaday about retirement plans and he quickly established that it wasn't not an option now or anywhere in the near future. “Does NASCAR have an age limit on racing?” was the rhetorical question thrown back in my direction with that warm, relaxed smile on his face.

Of course not. I'm sure if NASCAR had such a restriction there would be many fans boycotting because this four-time champion definitely has a lot more tire rubber to put down on the track.


Update: Hornaday crossed the start/finish line in sixth position when the checkered flag waved at the conclusion of the SFP 250 in Kansas. As a result, he has moved up to seventh in the points standings, 34 behind the current leader Timothy Peters. In that race, he made an amazing save – check it out: http://www.nascar.com/video/post-race/highlights/120421/cwts-kan-high-one/index.html?MostPopular.

(Note: Fortunately, everyone that was involved in the multi-truck wreck caused by the contact between Harraka and Hornaday were fine.)

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be heading to Charlotte for the N.C. Education Lottery 200 on May 18. The race is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on SPEED.

I would like to thank four-time NCWTS champion Ron Hornaday and Jessica O’Brien (JDM PR Rep) for allowing me, on behalf of Skirts & Scuffs,  to interview this phenomenal, history making athlete who will continue to make strides throughout his career in the racing industry.

Unique Hiram is an Associate Editor/Contributing Writer for Skirts and Scuffs. Additionally, she is also the author of "Fast Lane Poetry" which was published April 2011. Unique can be contacted via email or through Twitter.


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