Ron Hornaday Jr. will make history next week when he is enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as the first inductee to represent the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
That’s one important record — and the four-time series champion thought he’d nailed down another.
“I thought, ‘It’s pretty cool to be the first one in there. It’s going to be really great because I’m going to have two records in the Hall of Fame, being the youngest,’ ” Hornaday said on a teleconference on Wednesday morning. “But Mark Martin is three years younger than I am, so I only got the Truck Series. Kicked me in the butt.”
It’s true. Well, sort of — the age gap is a little closer than Hornaday gives himself credit for, as Martin, a 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, is roughly six months younger than the elder statesman.
Still, being the first inductee to represent a whole series is something to hang his hat on.
And Martin had some keen advice for his closely aged pal.
“You don’t understand what the Hall of Fame is all about (at first),” Hornaday said. “When I got (voted in) that night, they actually pulled the ballot, said I was in, Mark Martin grabbed me aside said, ‘This don’t mean anything right now. Give it about six months, where the things you’ve done in racing, it will hit you of who you helped, how you handled yourself. It’s not all about all the races you won and all that stuff, it’s about all the people’s hearts you touched, who worked on your race cars, to go to dinner with your sponsors, meet the different people you meet.’
“It’s really come around. I can really see the other end of the light where Mark was talking about where everybody is reaching out, the awesome letters I’m getting from all my sponsors through the years I’ve done and stuff. It’s really bringing back memories. It’s been really darn cool.”
Hornaday, a 51-time winner in the Truck Series, was a mainstay in that tour for parts of three decades. After a few starts at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level from 1991-94, he embarked on his first NASCAR national series full-time season in the series’ inaugural campaign of 1995, winning a whopping six races en route to a third-place finish for Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s No. 16 Chevrolet.
Four more wins followed a year later, and a title with it. He’d go on to win three more championships and 41 more races before hanging up the fire suit following his final full-time season in 2014 and a one-off Monster Energy Series start at Atlanta in 2015.
While the Truck Series certainly wouldn’t be what it is in 2018 without Hornaday’s guidance — and, more importantly, presence — he knows he has plenty of gratitude to dish out to those who’ve helped him along the way, just as Martin foretold.
“I hope I can represent the Truck Series like they put my career on the map, what they’ve done for my whole family,” Hornaday said.
“Because definitely I owe everything to NASCAR and the France family for starting the Truck Series, and that phone call from Earnhardt of giving me an opportunity to make it big‑time.”