Ron Hornaday was a favorite going into Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway and, after what has proved to be a tough season for the four-time series champion, the former race winner proved he is still worthy of such recognition. Hornaday had his No. 9 AmFmEnergy.com /ARMOUR Foods Chevrolet running as high as second before a broken oil pump belt sent him to the garage late in the 200-lap, 105.2-mile event and relegated the team to a 33rd-place finish.
Joe Denette Motorsports (JDM) welcomed partners AmFmEnergy.com /Wood & Pellet Stoves, Armour Foods and Arthur Krenzel Lett (AKL) Insurance Group on board the No. 9 Silverado for the Kroger 200. The event marked the 19th race on the 22-race NCWTS schedule and marked Hornaday's 319th series start.
In the first of two NCWTS practice sessions on Friday, Hornaday immediately shot to third on the board only reporting that his machine was a little snug off the corner. After making changes to accommodate a new shock package, Hornaday was scored 12th with a lap of 19.998 (94.690mph) when the checkered flag waved on the first practice session.
When the time came for the second and final series practice session on Friday afternoon, Hornaday put the AmFmEnergy.com /ARMOUR Foods No. 9 Chevrolet seventh on the board in his first run, reporting only that the truck was tight through the center and off the corner. Satisfied with his times on old tires, Hornaday told the JDM crew that his Silverado had good balance and was pretty decent. The team made one more run and decided to make a trackbar adjustment before attempting their mock qualifying run which proved to make the No. 9 machine too tight and put them 19th in the final rundown with a lap of 20.000 (94.680 mph).
Hornaday was the 23rd qualifier in the Kroger 200 time trials on Saturday morning. After a short delay for rain, Hornaday posted a fast lap of 19.893 (95.189 mph) securing the 16th starting position, on the outside of the eighth row.
When the green flag dropped on the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, Hornaday immediately set his AmFmEnergy.com /ARMOUR Foods No. 9 Chevrolet into motion and moved up two positions to 14th on the leaderboard. When the first caution of the afternoon flew at lap 21, Hornaday reported to his JDM crew that his No. 9 Silverado was tight on entry. Crew chief Doug Howe chose to keep Hornaday out of the pits during the first caution period and Hornaday restarted from the 12th-position when the field went back green at lap 24.
The second caution of the afternoon flew just five laps later, at lap 29 of 200, when the No. 07 and No. 81 machines of Jeff Agnew and David Starr, respectively, tangled. Hornaday narrowly missed the collision but was able to navigate his No. 9 Chevrolet through unscathed. Again, crew chief Doug Howe kept Hornaday out of the pits under this caution period. Hornaday was scored 11th at lap 35 when the field retook the green flag.
As the field settled into a steady race-pace, Hornaday set his sights on the front of the field and began to pick off positions one-by-one. At lap 41, Hornaday was 9th on the charts and just a few laps later took the 8th-position from Rookie of the Year contender Parker Kligerman. By lap 51, Hornaday had already taken over the sixth position and was knocking on the door of the top-five. Hornaday's only complaint to the JDM crew was that his No. 9 machine was "getting a little free."
After a solid green flag run, Hornaday was up to third when caution number three of the afternoon waved at lap 94 for a spin in turn four by the No. 93 machine of Tim George, Jr. Crew chief Doug Howe chose to call Hornaday to pit road for four tires and fuel. The JDM crew performed just the quick stop they needed and sent Hornaday back out in the second position, just ahead of early race-leader Kevin Harvick.
As the field took the green flag at lap 99, approaching halfway in the 200-lap event, Hornaday fell back to third as the field once again settled into race-pace.
Hornaday ran strong in the top-five until lap 138 when low oil pressure forced him to bring the No. 9 machine to pit road to the attention of his JDM pit crew. While under the hood of the AmFmEnergy.com /ARMOUR Foods Silverado, the crew determined that a broken oil pump belt was the culprit and that the damage was terminal. After spending much of the 200-lap event in the top-five, Hornaday had to take his Chevrolet Silverado to the garage and was credited with a 33rd-place finish.
Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag in the 14th Annual Kroger 200 followed by Nelson Piquet, Jr., Joey Coulter, Matt Crafton and Scott Riggs.
Ron Hornaday Quotes:
"You know, this day ended in disappointment. We had a really good truck and overcame a mid-pack starting position to be a solid contender for this win. The guys did a really good job on pit road and I felt good about this one. When things like this happen, out of your control, you just have to deal with it and move on. It's unfortunate, but today's performance shows that we are moving in the right direction, we just need some things to go in our favor for once. We are not giving up, there are still three races left and one of these days will be ours, just not today."