Ron Hornaday Jr. of Palmdale, speeding toward an unprecedented second consecutive NASCAR Southwest Tour championship, will shift into a higher gear this weekend for the biggest race of his life.
Hornaday is scheduled to drive Sunday in the second NASCAR Winston Cup race of the season at Michigan International Speedway near Detroit.
For Hornaday, 34, a former Modified division champion at Saugus Speedway and now one of the most successful stock-car drivers on the West Coast, joining the Winston Cup regulars marks a milestone in an already spiraling career.
Promoters are anticipating a crowd in excess of 100,000 for the 400-mile race on the high-banked, two-mile oval.
"This is probably the biggest thing that ever happened to me," Hornaday said. "It'll be the longest race of my career and probably the fastest. It's a one-shot deal, but hopefully it will lead to something."
Hornaday, taking advantage of a break in the Southwest Tour schedule, will drive a 1993 Ford Thunderbird owned by Bill Stroppe of City of Industry, a friend and and longtime off-road race-car owner who more recently has begun to field entries in stock-car events.
"They called me at 6:30 Monday morning and asked me to drive it and I said OK," Hornaday said. "I told him if he sends me a couple of plane tickets, we'll discuss it when we get there. I just want to run with the guys, get some experience and, hopefully, finish the race."
Over the past two seasons, Hornaday has dominated the Southwest Tour, winning eight of the past 29 main events. Hornaday, currently the tour's points leader, has won five of 12 races this season.
Last season, Hornaday won three main events en route to winning his first tour championship. Hornaday's 17 career victories rank him second to Mike Chase of Bakersfield (19).