Ron Hornaday Jr. named one of NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers

SPARTA, KY - OCTOBER 01: Ron Hornaday Jr. driver of the #2 Hollywood Casino Chevrolet celebrates winning his 50th race after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kentucky 225 on October 1, 2011 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR)

On Tuesday, Ron Hornaday Jr., four-time Truck Series champion, was named one of the 75 greatest drivers in NASCAR, continuing the storied legacy of this Truck Series great.

A second-generation racer, Ron Hornaday Jr. was born in Palmdale, California on June 20th, 1958. He is the son of Ron Hornaday Sr, who raced late models around the west coast area and made a single NASCAR start in 1955. Racing ran in the family and Hornaday Jr. caught the bug. He began racing go-karts and motorcycles before he would make his first stock car start at Saugus Speedway, one of his local tracks. In 1992, he would have a breakout year, winning his first title in the SRL Southwest Tour and making his first Winston Cup Series starts at Sonoma and Phoenix. He won the SRL title again in 1993, catching the attention of none other than Dale Earnhardt Sr.

The Super Truck Series:

Dale Earnhardt Incorporated signed Hornaday Jr. to drive their #16 Chevy in a new series NASCAR was starting, the Craftsman Super Truck Series. In the inaugural  1995 season, DEI and Hornaday Jr won 6 races with ten top-five finishes, earning a third place in the championship. 1996, with a new partner in NAPA Auto Parts, DEI and Hornaday brought home the title, winning four races and eighteen top-five finishes. He finished the 1997 fifth in the championship standings. In 1998, Hornaday started off hot, winning the season opener at Disney World Speedway. He scored wins at Phoenix, Bristol, Nazareth, Pikes Peak, and Memphis, earning himself and DEI their second titles. Hornaday finished 7th in the points in 1999, his last season in the Super Truck Series as he moved up to the Busch Series for 2000.

Busch Series:

Moving up to the Busch Series (now the Xfinity Series) driving what was formerly Dale Earnhardt Jr’s ride for 2000, Hornaday scored 2 wins at Nazareth and Indy Raceway Park. Alongside six top fives, he earned a fifth place championship points finish. Hornaday jumped teams for 2001 and 2002, joining Hendrick Motorsports for the 2002 season. It was not the result we would have expected, finishing the season eighteenth in points. He made the move to Richard Childress Racing in 2003, winning at Nazareth and scoring 17 top-ten finishes. In 2004, still with RCR, he won at the Milwaukee Mile and scored 16 top tens. He finished 3rd in 2003 and then 4th in 2004 in the championship standings, incredible consistency out of Hornaday.

Back in the Trucks:

Clint Bowyer replaced Hornaday for 2005 at RCR in the #2 Chevy, but Hornaday had plans to return to the Truck Series. Kevin Harvick Incorporated fielded the #6 Silverado in the Craftsman Truck Series and signed Hornaday. He won at Atlanta and finished inside the top five seven times. Next in 2006, the truck switched numbers, becoming the #33, as the #6 went to Roush Racing and Mark Martin. He won at Mansfield and Kentucky and scored eight top-fives. Championship number three came in 2007, along with four wins at Charlotte, Dover, Indy Raceway Park, and the pole and the win at New Hampshire.

Following his third championship, Hornaday went on a roll. 2008 saw him win six races and finish 2nd in the championship. In 2009, he won championship number four with six wins and fifteen top tens. His 2010 season was a championship slump, finishing 7th in the points. 2011, Hornaday started strong, but lots of crashes and DNFs kept him from the points lead. He still scored wins at Texas, Atlanta, and Kentucky. He sat on the pole and won at Vegas while in the middle of a points battle Austin Dillion.

What most people know of Ron Hornaday is what happened at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011. On lap 14 of the 2011 Winstar 350K, Hornaday and Kyle Busch were running side by side when the #33 got loose. Both drivers made contact with the wall. This infuriated Busch, who proceeded to turn Hornaday into the wall, wrecking the two of them. Any hopes of championship number five went up in smoke.

Hornaday finished 2011 fourth in the championship standings. He retired from the Truck Series in 2014. In 2015, he would attempt five Cup Series starts, only being able to qualify at Atlanta, where he started 34th and finished 42nd.

Lasting Legacy:

Ron Hornaday, while known for his 51 Truck Series wins, is lesser known for how he helped some of NASCAR’s greatest drivers get their feet settled in North Carolina. He offered up his couch for a SoCal driver named Jimmie Johnson. He spent 6 months at the Hornaday’s before Ron found Johnson a home he could afford. Hornaday did the same for Kevin Harvick, another Southern California driver, and Ross Chastain. In 2017, he was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, becoming the first truck series driver to earn a spot in the hall.

Ron Hornaday had an incredible career driving for some of the biggest names in the sport: Earnhardt, Hendrick, Childress, and Harvick. His truck series career is matched only by Kyle Busch. A great name to join the 75 greatest drivers in NASCAR’s 75-year history.

Featured Image Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR