Hornaday steals Atlanta truck win with fuel strategy

A Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet won Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but it wasn’t the KHI truck that dominated the proceedings.

Ron Hornaday Jr. stole a win with fuel-mileage strategy in the Good Sam Club 200, beating teammate-for-a day Clint Bowyer to the finish line by 1.596 seconds to win his second race of the season and the 49th of his career.

The four-time series champion stopped for fuel on Lap 75 of 130 and immediately began saving gas. Bowyer, who was the class of the field, had to stop for fuel on Lap 112. Kyle Busch ran third, followed by Blake Feese and Ryan Newman. Austin Dillon, Matt Crafton, polesitter Ricky Carmichael, Todd Bodine and James Buescher rounded out the top 10.

KHI won its fourth straight truck race. In the previous three, owner Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag in the No. 2 Chevy.

Hornaday won the race despite damaging the No. 2 soon after the race began.

“At the start of the race somebody checked up, and I went to the right and I got the front fender in,” said Hornaday, who entered the race an uncharacteristic ninth in the series standings. “We just kept on taping it up.

“I told them (the crew), ‘We don’t have the best truck, but we can win by fuel mileage,’ and (crew chief) Jeff (Hensley) made that call right there. … I’ll take ’em any way I can get ’em. That’s cool. Everything’s gone wrong the whole year, so something’s got to go right at least once.”

No other truck in the field was a match for Bowyer’s Chevrolet. By the time the first caution flag flew on Lap 19, after the engine in Cole Whitt’s No. 60 Chevy blew, Bowyer had built a lead of 4.869 seconds.

A side-by-side battle against Busch punctuated the middle portion of the event and carried through a cascade of three cautions in the space of 19 laps. After the third of the three yellows, for Tim Peters’ spin in Turn 4 on Lap 77, Bowyer again pulled away after a restart on Lap 82.

By Lap 110, his lead over Busch had grown to 6.239 seconds, with Newman almost seven seconds back in third. Busch brought his No. 18 Toyota to the pits for fuel and ties on Lap 111, with Bowyer following on Lap 112 to offset any advantage Busch might have gained on new tires.

Though Bowyer led 97 laps, he came about one lap short as he pursued Hornaday after the final pit stop.

“I got beat by a guy who snookered me,” Bowyer said. “He played a better poker hand than I did.”

Johnny Sauter, the points leader entering the race, had a succession of problems that started with side-to-side contact with the No. 8 of Nelson Piquet Jr. Sauter blew a left rear tire and smacked the Turn 2 wall on Lap 58, causing the third caution.

Sauter finished 29th, 22 laps down and handed the series lead to Buescher, whose margin over Sauter is 12 points. Hornaday climbed to fifth in points, 48 behind Buescher.

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