Some will find it hard to think about the landscape of the Camping World Truck Series in 2012 without Kevin Harvick Inc. Those who do will find it even harder to think about it without one of its staple drivers, Ron Hornaday.
[media-credit name=”Barry Albert” align=”alignright” width=”226″][/media-credit]The four-time CWTS champion is searching for a ride for next season. Last month team owners Kevin and Delana Harvick announced that Richard Childress had bought out their Nationwide Series program and that they would be closing the doors on the truck operation.
It leaves Nelson Piquet Jr. and the driver with the most wins in CWTS history looking for new homes. Saturday night in Kentucky Hornaday captured the checkered flag for the 50th time in 295 career starts and for the third time in the Bluegrass state. Hornaday did so with a fast truck and not because he was in the right place at the right time like Texas or Atlanta.
“Unbelievable, I know Bruce [Cook, crew chief] ain’t gonna take the credit because he builds fast trucks and everything but he’s going to take the credit tonight,” Hornaday said afterwards. “Coming in to get those four tires, run Austin [Dillon] back down and he had to pit and we had to 15 laps to go.”
Hornaday thanked the crew for adjusting the truck to his driving style. At Kentucky Hornaday wasn’t behind the wheel of his normal No. 33 but the No. 2 to help KHI in the owner’s championship. Things went better than planned for everyone as they led on four different occasions for 42 laps, moving Hornaday within 42 points of the championship lead and putting KHI 41 points over Kyle Busch Motorsports on the owner’s side.
There are five races left in the season.
Perhaps the bigger picture though isn’t the championship. Right now Hornaday needs all the camera time and wins he can get. Knowing he isn’t bringing youth to the table for potential teams or bringing money, he’s hoping his credentials and experience will speak for themselves. He even joked afterwards he needed to find some new friends.
“Hopefully I can find me a job and take him [Cook] with me,” said Hornaday. “So, if you guys got any money, I need three friends with a $1 million apiece and we can start our own race team.”
The fact that Hornaday is searching for a job at all is disturbing for the CWTS. The fact that he hasn’t had anyone calling him is even more disturbing; everyone knows he should be racing and want to say he will be. Hornaday is one of the faces of the series and losing him would hurt. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be the first time.
After Johnny Benson won his first CWTS title in 2008 he was out of a ride halfway through the following season. Sponsorship woes took away one of the great and favorite drivers. Benson hasn’t been back to the series with a full-time ride since.
“I kind of need that right now, a little boost for my career,” said Hornaday. “Hopefully wherever Nelson don’t sign maybe I can get a job at. Everybody’s waiting for Nelson, I guess.”
Meanwhile, Hornaday will focus on winning another championship. In the process hope that by the team the season starts again in Daytona he’ll be there in a driver’s suit and not watching from the sidelines. The CWTS hopes Hornaday will be in the field too.
If not, they’ll continue to hear all about the “sad state” the series is in. Or what some are predicting to be its impending demise. Officials say that’s not going to happen while fans continue to praise the racing and the drivers, even if the stands look bleak week after week.
But that’s what every series and sport is experiencing. The latest victim though, might be one that no one saw coming. Just like Benson, Hornaday is one of the last remaining good ‘ol boys but hopefully unlike Benson, NASCAR won’t lose him too.