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Hornaday looks to get off 2012 schneid at Martinsville

October 26, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Ron Hornaday has had three DNFs in the past five races, including back-to-back crashes at Atlanta (with flipped hood) and Iowa. (Getty)

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Ron Hornaday is on unfamiliar turf in more ways than one.

With young guns dominating the Camping World Truck circuit, the winningest series driver is treading precariously close to a winless season, something he's not experienced in his previous 12 full-time campaigns.

Ron Hornaday

Full-time Truck seasons: With DEI (1995-99)
YearSt.WT-5T-10Rank
199624418231
199726713175
199827616221
19992527167
YearSt.WT-5T-10Rank
20062528127
200725413221
200825614182
200925615201
201025211137
201125413174
YearSt.WT-5T-10Rank

But at 54, Hornaday, who captured his first of four Truck Series titles in 1996, also finds himself doing more than ever, proving he's a long way from the rocking chair.

"I didn't sign up for it," says Hornaday, pulling on his firesuit on Friday and maintaining his sense of humor in his first season driving for Joe Denette Motorsports after winning 25 races and two titles in the previous seven seasons with Kevin Harvick as Truck owner.

"Kevin kind of spoiled me in a way. With him it was: You do your job, the crew chief does his job, so we don't need you coming up here [to the shop]. I probably forgot more than what I've learned in the last four years at Harvick."

Harvick's merger with Richard Childress Racing this season left Hornaday without a ride until Denette came calling with the chance to drive for a start-up team, founded with funds from a lottery jackpot win in 2009.

"All Joe wants is a trophy and we're trying hard," says Hornaday, who has six top-10s in 18 starts but nothing higher than an eighth-place finish in the past five races. "That's probably the reason we've put ourselves in some predicaments -- trying too hard.

"[It's the] new-team blues. We just can't stop the stuff that's been happening. All of a sudden we went to two teams and in the first six races we wrecked seven trucks. That put us behind. But the guys are working hard at the shop."

Hornaday knows that the very nature of short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway, where Saturday's Kroger 200 takes place, could play in his favor. He has 13 top-10s in 20 Martinsville starts and, among veteran drivers, only Harvick has a better Driver Rating.

"When the Truck Series started, this was the only kind of track we went to -- a mile and under," recalls Hornaday, who drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in the first Truck race at Martinsville in 1995 and was 38 when he captured his first title the next season.

But he also knows that the difference between winning and being an also-ran has never been closer.

"Nowadays, everywhere you go, you have to have the equipment underneath you," he says. "The equipment has gotten so much closer. With Kevin Harvick leaving, that opened up three trucks to go to these younger kids, and RCR had got three great trucks out there."

The changing of the guard never has been more evident in the Truck Series world. On Friday, when NASCAR trotted out the top four contenders for this year's championship, three were 22 years old or younger.

"You can go to a guy like Hornaday or [Todd] Bodine and get advice from them -- something I've done a lot in the past," says Turner Motorsports' James Buescher, 22, who trails 20-year-old RCR driver Ty Dillon by one point in the standings. "I feel like I've learned a lot in the last couple years in Trucks."

Parker Kiligerman, four points behind Red Horse Toyota teammate Timothy Peters for third in the standings, also appreciates what a little veteran advice can do.

"My teammate, Todd Bodine, for the last year and a half, has been a big mentor of mine -- a go-to guy for me, giving me tons of advice, on and off the track. You have to take what you can if those guys are willing to help you."

Hornaday might not be in helping mode Saturday.

"I know we're going to make somebody mad," he says of his intent to get after it and record the elusive victory that will keep intact his streak of at least one victory in each of his full CWTS seasons.

* Weekend Preview: Trucks ready for the home stretch | Practice 1 | Practice 2

After Martinsville, races at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami remain on the CWTS schedule.

"You can say this is the worst year of my racing career," says Hornaday, who owns 51 Truck victories. "But I guess you've got to have that to make everybody humble.

"I know all the guys are pumped up and, if they stay up with what they're doing and I stay up on what I'm doing, we should be able to get that win by the end of the year."

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