Hornaday atop points, Sprague surging for Kevin Harvick Inc.

Updated: June 12, 2008, 10:26 AM ET

AP Photo/Randy Holt

Ron Hornaday, left, fended off Kyle Busch to win the truck race Friday at Texas Motor Speedway.

KHI Living Up To Hype With Hornaday, Sprague

Ron Hornaday and Jack Sprague were quite racy in the early going Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, running side by side and taking turns leading.

It was a few moments in the heat of battle between two of the Craftsman Truck Series' all-time greats, yet it also might have been a glimpse into where the rest of this Craftsman Truck season is heading.

The Kevin Harvick Inc. teammates are starting to show results worthy of the preseason hype accompanying the pairing of the series' only three-time champions, finishing in the top four in three of the past five races. Defending champion Hornaday won at Texas and April 26 at Kansas, with Sprague fourth and second, respectively. Two weeks ago at Dover, Sprague finished second and Hornaday third.

Going into Saturday's race at Michigan, Hornaday is back atop the points standings and Sprague is tied for fifth, up from 13th three weeks ago.

"A couple guys that have got it figured out is Harvick's group," said Bill Davis Racing's Mike Skinner, who was second in points to Hornaday last year. "They've got their balance real good, they've adapted to these new [engine] rules, they're still on their game."

Their game was fine last year with Hornaday winning four races and a title, but KHI saw an opportunity to get more stability in its second team, the No. 2 Chevrolet shared by Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and others in recent years. Hiring Sprague was an easy choice. Building a team around him was the bigger challenge.

It has come together more quickly than expected.

"I'm ecstatic. When we started the year off I was like, 'Uh-oh, this is going to take a little time,'" said Sprague, who finished 19th and 22nd in the season's first two events but has had two finishes outside the top seven in the seven races since. "But KHI, Kevin and DeLana [Harvick, Kevin's wife], they've done such a great job assembling this team.

"We've made some changes, little things here and there, but man, we've had a shot to win three or four of these things. With a little bit of different circumstances we would have. The total package is there, I just want a trophy really bad."

To do that, Sprague likely will have to get around his teammate. Hornaday has led a lap in every race and the most laps in three, and those bonus points have accounted for nearly the entire gap in points. Sprague actually owns the better average finish, his is 11.1 compared with Hornaday's 11.4.

"If I could pinpoint it, I'd tell you, but I think it's just the team's working another year together and everyone's jelling," Hornaday said.

It's slightly more than that. Last year's success has carried over to this year. Engine-intake regulations have added parity to the series, so KHI's work in 2007 looms even greater.

Toyota had the horsepower advantage a year ago, so KHI looked for ways its Chevrolets could be better elsewhere.

"We figured out if we can't beat them down the straightaways, we'll have to beat them through the corners," said Rick Ren, Hornaday's crew chief and a former BDR chief for Johnny Benson. "We worked hard on our aero program, chassis program, tires, air pressures, shocks, all the details. Now, with the leveling of the playing field [engine-wise], all the things we learned last year are really in our favor now. Having been with Toyota, I knew what I was up against."

All that knowledge is shared within KHI, and the end result could be a first teammate tussle for the title. Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch finished 1-2 as teammates for Jack Roush in 2000, but Biffle won the title by 230 points, and Busch didn't put him in any danger late in the season. Skinner and Benson were second and third in points last year as BDR mates, but the title fight was always Hornaday's and Skinner's to settle.

A better parallel may be last year's Chase for the Cup between Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, who combined for six wins in the playoff and were head and shoulders above the field.

"It's way too early to speculate if that can happen, but it would be cool if it did," Sprague said. "I'm focused on getting all the points I can get and winning a race for Kevin and DeLana -- the 2 truck has never won a race. But I know that to win, we're going to have to outrun [Hornaday]. They're spot-on every week."

Though it may be early, signs like the 2 and 33 side by side for the lead are tough to ignore.

"Kevin hired me probably for a little bit of the entertainment factor to see us two doing stuff like that," Sprague said, laughing. "But if I was him I would have been extremely proud of what I was watching."

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.

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JTG Racing Folds No. 20 Truck Team

JTG Racing shut down its truck operation last week before the Texas race, laying off nine employees from its Harrisburg, N.C., shop and putting driver Scott Lagasse Jr. on the sideline.

Lagasse was 28th in series points after eight races in the No. 20 Ford, last among full-time drivers. His high finish was 19th in the second race at California.

"It's the culmination of a few weeks where we've been struggling on performance, the economy's tough for the sponsors and teams, and really as a multicar team racing in multiple divisions, we're running as a driver-development program," JTG Racing owner Tad Geschickter said.

"The driver felt there were teams where he'd get better equipment, we felt that he maybe didn't get into our driver-development program as well as we'd hoped, and the sponsor felt he could have better return from his investment in other forms of marketing, so it's kind of a three-headed decision."

JTG Racing fielded trucks the previous two years in conjunction with the Wood Brothers before splitting off on its own for 2008. It will continue to field Nationwide cars for Kelly Bires and Marcos Ambrose.

"I don't think you've seen the last of the 20 truck, but certainly we need to go back to the drawing board and get our sponsorship put together for it," Geschickter said.

Compton's Crew Chief Fined

Stacy Compton

Compton

Bryant Frazier, crew chief for the No. 4 Dodge of Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia driven by Stacy Compton, was fined $2,000 and placed on probation through the end of the year for an infraction discovered in prerace inspection at Texas. The Dodge had a nonconforming rear axle housing offset.

Compton is 20th in points and recorded his first DNF of the season at Texas, dropping out after 76 of 172 laps and finishing 30th with transmission issues.

Spare Parts

The Texas race Friday night was the fifth consecutive truck race on Speed to post higher ratings than it did in 2007. The Nielsen rating was .94 (677,000 households), up 40 percent from last year's .67 (477,000 households). … Justin Marks' pole at Texas was the first rookie pole since Erik Darnell in 2006 at Nashville. Marc Mitchell was the top rookie in the race, finishing a career-best 12th in the Billy Ballew Motorsports No. 15. … Travis Kvapil won last year at Michigan but will not defend his title, as Bobby East will make his third start of the season in the No. 09 Roush Fenway Ford. East finished a eighth at Texas, his best finish in 26 career starts. … Jack Roush will perform the flyover before Saturday's race, piloting his own P-51 plane. He'll land in Ypsilanti, Mich., and take a helicopter back to the track to watch his three teams race.

Standings