Hornaday takes title, Harvick wins race

Updated: November 14, 2009, 2:21 PM ET
Associated Press

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- The record books will list Ron Hornaday as the oldest champion in NASCAR history. But behind the wheel of one of Kevin Harvick's trucks, he feels like a kid again.

The 51-year-old Hornaday won a record fourth Trucks Series championship by outrunning Matt Crafton on Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway. Hornaday wrapped it up by finishing fourth to Crafton's eighth.

[+] EnlargeRon Hornaday Jr
Rusty Jarrett/Getty ImagesRon Hornaday celebrates Friday at Phoenix raceway, after his NASCAR-record fourth title in the Trucks Series.

"When you drive Kevin and (wife) Delana's equipment, you feel like you are 18," Hornaday said. "You feel young. The trucks they give me make me feel like a hero."

Harvick, the team owner, won Friday night's race and celebrated with Hornaday with simultaneous burnouts along the frontstretch.

"To see Hornaday lock up the championship and to win the race, I don't know if you can script it much better," Harvick said.

But the job is not finished for Hornaday or Kevin Harvick Inc.

Although the driver championship is locked up, the owners' title is still up for grabs headed into next weekend's finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Billy Ballew trails Delana Harvick by 60 points in the owners standings, and Ballew driver Kyle Busch wants to make it a split championship.

Hornaday plans to foil that plan.

"It's not over by far," Hornaday said. "We're racing Kyle Busch for owners' points and that's truly the goal."

Busch, who finished second to Harvick to snap his streak of five wins in the last five races he's entered, wasn't overly confident about pushing Ballew past the Harvicks with one race remaining.

"It's going to be hard to do," acknowledged Busch, who drives for Ballew for free. "They've got the drivers championship locked up, so if they go out there and try to win the race and are successful at that, then we can't catch them."

Hornaday said he raced conservatively Friday night to nurse his 197-point lead over Crafton, but still had to overcome an early pit road penalty when his team began fueling his truck before the catch-can was in place.

"I was sweating real bad," Hornaday admitted. "To come home in the top-five, that's what we needed to do."

A series of cautions helped him get back ahead of Crafton when he beat him off pit road following a yellow flag, and he held on over two more late cautions and a two-lap sprint to the finish. Hornaday also won the championship in 1996 and 1998, and finished second last season by seven points to Johnny Benson.

It was his first championship, though, with Harvick, a longtime friend dating to their early days of West Coast racing. Hornaday eventually moved to North Carolina for a career in NASCAR, and opened his home to Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and scores of other fledgling racers as they followed him across the country.

All took turns sleeping on the couch, and Harvick considers their partnership today a payback of sorts.

"What you see is what you get with Ron and (wife) Lindy," Harvick said. "One big family. And if you want to be a part of it, come on over."

Delana Harvick, the listed owner of the truck, joked about how much KHI owes Hornaday.

"I told him back in 2007, he had a job forever," she said. "I didn't tell him he'd get paid forever, but as long as he keeps winning championships, we'll figure it out."

Harvick credits Hornaday for helping turn KHI into a championship organization. KHI has won 30 races in Trucks and Nationwide since its 2002 inaugural win in the Trucks Series.

"In 2005 we put Ron in the truck and we didn't really have our stuff together," Harvick said. "We had what we needed from the driver standpoint, and in 2007 we built a team that could keep up with the driver."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press