Returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) for his final start of 2014 with NTS Motorsports, four-time series champion and all-time career wins (51) leader, Ron Hornaday Jr. rolled into Texas Motor Speedway to once again pilot the No. 9 Rheem Chevrolet Silverado. Following two productive days of on-track activity, at the end of the 147-lap event, Hornaday would show once again why he is a champion. Hornaday overcame multiple obstacles throughout the WinStar World Casino and Resort 350 to bounce back after an early tire issue and come home with a respectable finish inside the top-12.
After an early Thursday morning of inspection,, NTS Motorsports competition director and Hornaday's crew chief for the weekend, Chris Rice, chose to sit out the first 60-minute practice session in order to work on the No.9 Chevrolet Silverado. Once adjustments were completed, the team took the chassis through inspection once again to double-check their setup before getting out on track in the second session. When the clock started for the final session of the day, Hornaday roared his hotrod to life and hit the mile-and-a-half track for the first time and showed that he had speed. Running single truck laps throughout most of the session, Hornaday ended the second practice 13th after a lap of 30.341 seconds and a top speed of 177.97mph. After focusing most of Thursday's on-track activities on race trim, Hornaday and Rice knew their speed was strong and opted out of making a mock qualifying run.
As the stars faded in the sky of The Lone Star State and the sun rose over Fort Worth, race day arrived with an extra eerie feeling in the air, a more intense feeling of excitement as race day fell on October 31st and Halloween night. Teams prepared for three rounds of knockout qualifying to set the starting line up of the 20th race of the 2014 season with the first 25-minute round determining the fastest 24 of the field. Hornaday Jr. strapped into his Rheem Chevrolet to make sure his veteran presence was known and at the end of the session and only a single lap at top speed, the No.9 team sat well above the cutoff in eighth with a lap of 30.241 seconds. The cooling units were connected to the intake system, and Rice waited for time to expire in order to make a run at the top 12. When the second green flag was dropped for the 10-minute round to cut the field in half, Hornaday found himself in the front of a pack searching for drafting help to pull him across the start-finish line at top speed. Without the company needed, Hornaday posted an impressive single-truck lap, but not one that could compete with trucks under drafting conditions. When time expired, the No.9 would earn a starting spot of 16th for the WinStar World Casino and Resort 350.
Temperatures and sunlight faded and as drivers strapped into their trucks, Rice knew that they had a fast truck and a chance for a top finish with the former champion behind the wheel. When the green flag was displayed, Hornaday began to execute a blue print for success and picked his way forward throughout the opening laps of the event. When the first yellow flag of the night flew on lap 21 of 147, Hornaday hit pit road for his first stop of the night. A solid stop by the Rheem pit crew gained Hornaday three spots on pit road and he lined up 13th after a quick round of changes and four fresh Goodyear Racing tires. By lap 50, Hornaday had placed his Chevrolet inside the top 10 for the first time and was running some of the fastest lap times on the track. Unfortunately, on lap 53, Hornaday relayed to his team, "I think I have a tire going down." Rice immediately brought his driver down pit road to replace all four tires under green and discovered a flat left rear upon inspection from the team's tire manager. Sacrificing a spot inside the top 10, Hornaday fell to 21st on the leader board, but knew he had enough time and ample speed to make his way back to the front.
As green-flag pit stops for the leaders began, Hornaday stayed out to regain valuable track position and after another yellow-flag condition, the No.9 team was listed in 13th and back in the hunt for a top spot at the finish. The team was thankful that Rice called Hornaday in for what should have been his final pit stop of the night under a caution, as they had another tire going down. As the laps wound down, Hornaday showed why he is considered one of the best in the business, picking his way through the field. Hornaday took over seventh place and was knocking on the door of the top five when the final caution of the night was shown extending the event into a green-white-checkered finish. Staying out due to a lack of fresh tires after the early incident had taken the team off of their original game plan, Hornaday restarted the race inside the top five for the final laps of the night. Holding on as the leaders behind him with fresh racing rubber approached, Hornaday crossed the finish line 12th as the yellow was displayed once again on the last lap, ending the event. Overcoming a host of challenges throughout the night, Hornaday and Rice held on for a respectable finish and drove through the tunnel in Fort Worth, Texas with their heads held high.
The next event for the NASCAR Camping World Truck series will be held at Phoenix International Raceway on November 17.
From the Driver's Seat from Ron Hornaday Jr: "We had a great truck at Texas this weekend and I really think if we hadn't had those tire issues during the race, we would have been one of the teams fighting for the win. I have to say thank you to Bob Newberry and Rheem for making these last few races this season possible for me. I have enjoyed working with NTS Motorsports this season and hope we get the opportunity to work together again in the future."
From Atop the Pit Box with Crew Chief Chris Rice: "We really showed a lot of strength this weekend in Texas and the No.9 Rheem crew overcame every obstacle that was thrown their way throughout the weekend. I always like to say "stick to the plan" because we always have a blue print laid out to put ourselves in contention to win, but we had to change our strategy when our left rear went flat early on. Rheem, Bob Newberry, and everyone at NTS Motorsports gave us everything we needed at Texas and we came home with a good finish after a tough night and I am proud of that. I am Looking forward to hitting the track in Phoenix next week!"
NTS Motorsports PR