LAS VEGAS, Nevada — Ron Hornaday and the No. 33 Copart Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) team came up just short of their first win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday night in the Las Vegas 350. Hornaday led 34 of the 146 laps, but late-race pit strategy denied him his first win on a set of tight tires.
“It was a really good run for the Copart Chevrolet,” said Hornaday after the race. “I felt like our truck was better than where we finished. It is just so tough to make the call in these races with this new pit (road) strategy. Our truck just ended up too tight on that last run to compete with those guys. I’m really happy for Johnny (Sauter) to get his first Truck Series win. It’s really cool to see all these young kids come into our series and make a name for themselves. We have a nice little break coming up here and then we will head to Martinsville (Speedway) and see what we can do with them there.”
Hornaday started the Las Vegas 350 from the fourth position and on the first lap made an evasive move to the outside of pole sitter Johnny Sauter to lead lap one. The first caution of the race waved on lap three and several trucks near the back of the field opted to stop for fuel while the leaders remained on the race track. By lap 22, the second caution of the evening waved, this time bringing the entire field down pit road. Crew chief Rick Ren chose to take four tires and make a slight air-pressure adjustment to help Hornaday’s aero-tight handling condition. The following lap Hornaday came back down pit road for fuel. Ten trucks decided to take on fuel only, dropping Hornaday from the third position prior to the caution to the 12th position for the restart on lap 28.
By lap 31, Hornaday had already moved his way back into the top 10 taking over the eighth position. The third caution of the evening flew on lap 35 for Hornaday’s KHI-teammate rookie Ricky Carmichael who did not survive a battle with Max Papis and Todd Bodine. Fourteen laps later the caution would again wave, this time for debris. The team would bring the No. 33 truck down pit road for fuel only under this caution period, placing them off sequence with several other trucks. Hornaday would come off pit road with the lead and would remain the leader until Todd Bodine challenged on lap 61. Hornaday and Bodine had a clean veteran-to-veteran battle with Hornaday finally prevailing on lap 69. As the race took on a long green-flag run, Sauter with fresher tires began to weave his way back to the front of the field and by lap 89 he was challenging Hornaday for the lead. Knowing that he would have to come to pit road one final time, Hornaday gave way to Sauter. On lap 113, the No. 33 truck came down pit road under green for fuel only. He rejoined the field in the sixth position one second behind Sauter. As pit stops cycled through the field, Hornaday found himself in the third position behind Sauter and Bodine.
A caution on lap 118 brought the leaders to pit road for the final time. The No. 33 truck took on four fresh tires while several of the front-running trucks played different pit strategies; Sauter took only two tires, while his ThorSport Racing teammate, Matt Crafton, stayed out on the race track. With only 25 laps remaining Hornaday restarted the race in the sixth position. A few laps later, Hornaday radioed Ren that the truck was way too tight to be able to challenge the leaders for a win. Hornaday took the checkers in the sixth position, his 16th top-10 finish of 2009. Sauter went on to win his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race followed by teammate Crafton, Jason White, Todd Bodine and Timothy Peters. Hornaday remains the point’s leader over Crafton by 197 points with five races remaining in the 2009 season.
September 26, 2009
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Race: 20 of 25
Driver: Ron Hornaday
Truck Series Point Standings: 1st (+197)
Race length: 146 Laps/ 219 Miles
Track layout: 1.5-mile
Shape: D-shaped oval
Number of Race Cautions: 5 for 22 laps
Next on the Schedule for the No. 33:
Date: October 24, 2009
Track: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway
Event Name: Kroger 200
Driver: Ron Hornaday
Sponsor: Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW)
Broadcast Time: SPEED 12:30 p.m., EST MRN 12:30 p.m., EST