Ron Hornaday Jr. of Palmdale decided to hit the road for this year's NASCAR Southwest Tour, but he did not expect the road to hit back.
Hornaday, in his inaugural season on the 19-race, $470,000 circuit, has found life off the track anything but glamorous. Sinking nearly every dollar into his Pontiac stock car, Hornaday has spent many evenings sleeping in his truck rather than making a hotel pit stop.
"We're running a low-budget operation," he said. "You rough it the first night, and then the second night you race well and it pays off."
His sacrifices have paid off--sort of. Hornaday, last season's Modified Division champion at Saugus Speedway, has one tour victory and seven top-five finishes. Entering tonight's Coors Extra Gold 100 at Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Hornaday ranks fifth in the points standings.
But what Hornaday is most concerned with is becoming the tour's rookie of the year. With four races remaining, he trails Ken Pedersen of Sausalito by two points in the rookie points standings. Had Hornaday not missed five races, he undoubtedly would be the leader among newcomers.
Being rookie of the year is nothing new to Hornaday. He was Saugus' Sportsman Rookie of the Year in 1979 and the Modified Rookie of the Year in 1981.
"It's really important," he said. "It looks good for the sponsors."
Which is what Hornaday \o7 really \f7 needs. Although he has won $11,963 on the tour, ranking him fifth in earnings, he estimates that he has broken even.
"That's about all you can ask for on something like this," Hornaday said. "Breaking even and having a lot of fun."
Quick exit: Roman Calczynski of Sepulveda missed a golden opportunity to distance himself from the Southwest Tour competition when engine failure forced him from the race Aug. 15 at Silver State Raceway in Carson City, Nev.
Calczynski, the tour's only three-time champion and current points leader, led the 25-mile race for 85 laps before dropping out on Lap 87 of the 100-lap, $19,423 race. After starting second, Calczynski finished 12th.
Only 216 points separate the top five drivers--Calczynski (2,073), Troy Beebe of Modesto (2,048), Mike Chase of Bakersfield (2,010), Pedersen (1,931) and Hornaday (1,857). Calczynski is still the tour's top money winner with $18,379.
Gentlemen, start your lawn mowers: Glen Steurer has better things to do these days than race. Like yard work.
"Everybody has a yard to do, right?," said Steurer, 34, a resident of Simi Valley. "Well, I've been letting my yard get behind."
At least Steurer's gardening--unlike the NASCAR Winston West Series--is something he can catch up on.
With only one series race remaining, Steurer has been eliminated from the championship race.
Roy Smith of Victoria, B. C., clinched the championship with a victory Aug. 6 at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield. Steurer, who is 12th in the points standings, finished a disappointing 17th at Bakersfield after starting ninth.
It is not where Steurer finished, but how he finished that has him sharpening his hedge clippers.
Holding second place with 30 laps remaining, Steurer's car became entangled with NASCAR veteran Rusty Wallace's vehicle and spun into the wall--and out of the race--at 120 m.p.h.
Steurer estimates the damage at $3,000 in parts alone. But he's not ready to take a crowbar to the badly damaged body.
"It sits as is for about another week or two," Steurer said. "But we're going to keep at it. We don't want to quit yet."
Motocross: Jeff Leisk of Agoura placed sixth in the final standings of the American Motorcyclist Assn. Supercross 250cc series, 100 points behind champion Rick Johnson of El Cajon.
Erik Kehoe of Granada Hills finished seventh (123) and Johnny O'Mara of Simi Valley finished eighth (100).