BRISTOL — Ron Hornaday Jr. has a ton of experience to draw from and his young teammates at Turner-Scott Motorsports were plenty willing to ask for advice.
Hornaday, a four-time champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, led a test session Tuesday for the upcoming UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Despite a series-record 51 wins to go along with his record number of championships, Hornaday said some of the other young drivers in the series don’t show the same respect as his teammates.
He understands it and remembers when he was a young driver trying to break into the sport.
“I go back to my Winston West days and I remember racing Bill Schmidt and Bill Sedgewick,” Hornaday said. “Sedgewick came over when I was a rookie and was like the other Bill is mad at you. I asked him for what and he told me I was a young kid and didn’t respect him. Now I can see what he’s talking about since the shoe is on the other foot. They don’t know you’re a four-time champion. They would just as soon move you out of the way if you’re struggling or having a bad day. You just have to go out there, win some races and show them you can still do it.”
The 56-year-old California native is showing them he’s still one of the top drivers in the Truck Series, currently fourth in the point standings.
Hornaday has eight top-10 finishes in 11 races this season. He finished second at the Eldora (Ohio) dirt track two races ago and now is ready to come to Bristol where he has two wins, including leading every lap in 1997.
“My father was there that day for Father’s Day,” he said. “I remember riding around in the back of a pickup truck with my dad and then going out and winning it.”
Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and nephew of NASCAR Chairman Brian France, talked about having Hornaday on his same team.
“It’s been really good working with Ron and all the other guys,” Kennedy said. “It’s nice having people where we can sit down after practice, debrief and go over what our trucks are doing. It helps us work to be as fast as we possibly can.
Kennedy also has his own experience to draw from. The 22-year-old Florida native made his Truck Series debut at Bristol last August. He finished 20th, but obviously picked up on some good short-track tips.
He finished fourth at Martinsville later in the season and followed it up by finishing third at Martinsville earlier this year. Still, Bristol with its high banks is a different animal with the flat track at Martinsville.
“It’s cool to come back to a track I’ve already been to,” said Kennedy, who ranks seventh in the standings. “I’ve set the bar at a certain place to try to outdo ourselves. We’re learning a lot today, a lot more than I thought we would for the hours we’ve been out there.”
Ben Rhodes, a 17-year-old rookie from Kentucky with just two Truck Series starts, also tested for the Turner-Scott team. He is no stranger to Bristol or racing in the Tri-Cities area. He won last year’s season-finale for the Late Model Stocks at Kingsport Speedway and he has two starts at Bristol in the K&N Pro Series. He sat on the pole and finished third at the Pitt Lite 125 for the K&N Series in March.
Still, he was happy to get advice from Hornaday, who has been with the Truck Series since its inaugural season of 1995.
“He’s taught me a lot on the track and off the track,” Rhodes said. “He’s been in it so long, he’s the perfect person to learn it from. This is just my third race and I really don’t what I’m doing right now. When you have somebody like him that you can feed off of, it makes everything better.”
Hornaday added he’s still learning as well.
Every week presents a new challenge with a field of drivers no longer comprised of the names whom Hornaday battled for his championships.
“It’s definitely changed, a new learning experience for me,” he said. “You can’t just go up to that 24 truck and move (Jack) Sprague out of the way or (Mike) Skinner in the 5. It’s different every week, but it’s still fun. When you unload the truck and you’re good, it’s still enjoyable.”comments powered by Disqus