This pains me to even mention something such as retirement because I’ve been a huge Ron Hornaday Jr. fan even before he became the Camping World Truck Series’ all-time winningest driver. For thinking something like this, I’m probably not going to be invited to any Hornaday get-to-togethers, meetups, parties, or his Christmas card list.
The Californian has more Truck championships than any other driver in NASCAR and the Hall of Fame is probably in Ron Hornaday’s future. In fact his last championship was just four seasons ago in ’09. Ron has shown staying power in the series by winning Truck races before nearly half the kids that drive in the series now were even born.
Fan from the start
I was a fan of Hornaday back in the days when he dominated Saugus Speedway and then later when he was winning Southwest Tour races and championships back in the early ‘90s. As a fellow Southern Californian (he was from Palmdale where a lot of my family was from), I and my family rooted him on wherever he was.
When Dale Earnhardt Sr. (DEI) hired him to drive for his new Truck team, we were some of his biggest supporters in the ‘90s. During that time, Hornaday won two of the first four Truck championships and in the process winning over 40% of all the races. Yeah, the guy was on fire. Ron tried his hand at full-time Busch Series at the turn of the century for DEI and won a couple events and finished fifth overall.
The following year in Winston Cup, Hornaday took a stab at driving for another legend, A.J. Foyt. That ended poorly and though Hornaday bounced around the next few years, he still was able to grab some wins in both Busch and Truck. In ’05, Ron was back in Truck full-time and very happy to get out of the grind. By ’07, he was able to nab another championship, which he did again two years later.
Yeah, that’s where my anguish comes in. I cheer the guy on every race and yet he struggles to stay in the top five. In 2012 and again in 2013, Hornaday was unable to drive to Victory Lane. Some say he drove for a new and inferior team at NTS Motorsports. Yet, in five races this year with a better team, he has just one top five to go along with two finishes outside the Top 10 the past couple of races.
At age 56, Hornaday is far from his peak years as a driver and one has to wonder if the lack of performance this season has opened up an exit for the most distinguished driver in the Truck series. Should he retire?
It’s not unusual to see drivers race past their prime and the chance at winning is no longer possible. Is that where Ron Hornaday is at this point? I’ve been watching him and although someone as skilled and successful as Hornaday never won by laying back, he appears to be pressing – forcing the issue. Is there pressure mounting?
Good team & sponsor, but …
He drives for a good team in Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM), so the quality is there. Some thought he would retire a handful of seasons ago but that championship in ’09 squelched that idea. It has been said that you should retire on top – well, that was his chance – but he didn’t. The scuttlebutt around TSM is the sponsor, Rheem, isn’t happy and that a ride Hornaday thought was for the full year may be on hold.
Might this be an earlier than planned exit for the Palmdale, California, native? Nothing changes as to what the man accomplished during his three decades of NASCAR racing. No Truck driver will probably ever top Ron Hornaday’s numbers and likely he will go down in history as a racing great. Time to retire?
Sources: NASCAR, Racing Reference