Hornaday celebrates 51st birthday with Milwaukee Mile trucks series win

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hornaday celebrates 51st birthday with trucks win

WEST ALLIS, Wis. — After Ron Hornaday Jr. celebrated his 51st birthday by winning Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck series race at the Milwaukee Mile, he opted not to do a victory burnout. Tire-smoking celebrations have become commonplace in recent years, but now they’re a luxury his team just can’t afford.

Welcome to life in NASCAR after General Motors cutbacks.

“We’re saving dimes right now,” Hornaday said.

Burnouts might be a fun way to show off for the crowd, but dumping the clutch and letting the wheels spin wildly also is a good way to damage a driveshaft.

And now that GM has cut back funding to its NASCAR teams across the board, including the Chevrolet team Hornaday drives for, any potential cost-saving measure has to be looked at — even the way drivers celebrate wins.

Hornaday said his team owner, Sprint Cup series star Kevin Harvick and his wife, DeLana, are doing everything they can to keep the team competitive in the wake of GM’s budget cuts.

“I think Kevin and DeLana were ready for this, and we’re all buckling down,” Hornaday said.

And Hornaday said Saturday’s win was a good way for Chevrolet to show its strength.

“Buy a Chevrolet,” crew chief Rick Ren said before leaving a post-race interview session.

Hornaday led 180 of 200 laps in a race that originally was scheduled for Friday night but was postponed until Saturday because of rain.

The win also allowed Hornaday to take the series points lead from Matt Crafton, who finished 16th. Hornaday leaves Milwaukee with a 36-point lead over Crafton in the standings — not that he thinks it matters in midseason.

“I’ll worry about the points with five races to go,” Hornaday said.

Dennis Setzer finished second, also in a Chevrolet, followed by Brian Scott in a Toyota. Scott drove Saturday’s race with a cast on his right wrist after breaking a bone in a crash at Michigan last weekend.

It was the 41st career trucks series victory and second win of the season for Hornaday — and his second career victory in a trucks race at Milwaukee, where he also won in 1997.

Hornaday led comfortably for most of the race before a late caution flag bunched up the field for a restart with eight laps to go. But Hornaday squirted away from Setzer when the green flag dropped, and he wasn’t challenged for the lead the rest of the way.

It’s not the first checkered flag-themed birthday celebration for Hornaday, who also won a trucks series race on his birthday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in 1998. And Hornaday’s big day is just getting started this year; he also is scheduled to race in the Nationwide Series at Milwaukee on Saturday night.

Todd Bodine finished fourth and James Buescher was fifth.

One of Hornaday’s strongest challengers, Mike Skinner, was making a green-flag pit stop when Aric Almirola spun on lap 127 to bring out a yellow flag. It was a tough break for Skinner, as the rest of the leaders were able to make their pit stops under caution.

Skinner eventually lost two laps to the leaders and finished 19th.

Saturday’s race was run without reigning series champion Johnny Benson, who won the previous three trucks races at the Milwaukee Mile.

“With all the laps I followed Johnny Benson around here, I think I finally figured it out,” Hornaday said.

Benson lost his ride earlier this month when the Red Horse Racing team failed to secure sponsorship — then Benson was hospitalized after crashing in a non-NASCAR race in Michigan last weekend. Benson was released from the hospital earlier in the week, but his future in NASCAR remains unclear.

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