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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | MOTOR SPORTS

There's No Generation Gap in the Hornaday Family

October 25, 2000|DARIN ESPER

There will be a Hornaday competing in the Motorola 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck series race Saturday at California Speedway in Fontana, even though Ron Hornaday Jr., former Palmdale resident, will compete Sunday in a NASCAR Busch Grand National Division series race in Memphis.

Ronnie Hornaday III, 21, who began his career in 1995 racing late model stock cars at Kern County Raceway, will race in California for the first time since he moved to Mooresville, N.C., during his sophomore year at Highland High.

The entry is owned by his mother, Lindy Hornaday, with several of the crew members who helped his father to the second of his two Craftsman Truck series championships in an entry owned by seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

Veteran crew chief Fred Graves, who left Dale Earnhardt Inc. midway through the 1999 season, has helped develop and build the truck and will serve as crew chief for the race. Two other members of the 1998 championship crew, transmission specialist Gordy Arbitter and tire specialist Ron Graves--the son of Fred--have signed to help with Hornaday III's homecoming.

"With Fred Graves, I've set a goal higher than if I was doing this by myself," Hornaday III said. "I want to qualify in the top 25 and finish in the top 10, and go out and prove I'm not just some guy whose dad's a racer. I want to show I'm capable of it, prove I can do it and make my own name."

Hornaday III uses the name "Ronnie" professionally and is called "Three" by his friends and family to avoid confusion with his father and grandfather, Ron Hornaday Sr., two-time NASCAR Winston West champion.

"It's big shoes to fill, but not really pressure for me," said Hornaday III, who attended most of his father's races after seeing his first when he was three months old. He didn't become interested in driving until the first time he was in the pits for a race at 14 years old.

"It's more of a benefit because I always have someone to talk to. They've all done the same things and I've been able to learn quicker this way because there's always someone there to help me out."

Hornaday Jr. moved to North Carolina in 1994, when he was hired by Earnhardt to drive in the Craftsman Truck series. Hornaday III stayed behind with his grandfather.

At the time, Hornaday Jr. owned Victory Circle race cars in Palmdale, and he left the parts for a complete street stock car behind for his son, telling him to learn to assemble the car if he wanted to race.

Hornaday III built the car and raced under his grandfather's tutelage. He led the points standings until the final race, when a blown engine cost him the championship.

When Hornaday III moved east to join his immediate family, he went to work as a mechanic with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, working on the late model stock car driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

"We're still pretty good friends, although I don't see him as much now that he has moved up," Hornaday III said. "In late models, he taught me everything you need to know.

"The biggest thing he taught me was how to be a third generation driver. He helped me out with how you need to act, how to be nice to people and let everyone get to know you so they don't think you're some spoiled brat with a famous father."

Hornaday III worked as a welder on DEI's Craftsman truck in 1997, then began campaigning a late model at Caraway Speedway in 1998 when Earnhardt Jr. moved up to the Busch series.

In 1999, Hornaday III drove against his father in five Craftsman truck races, beating him in four. The family sold the two trucks after the season with plans for Hornaday III to compete in the Automobile Racing Club of America stock car series, but they were unable to land suitable sponsorship.

The family recently began construction of a 10,000-square-foot shop with the expectation that Hornaday III will race the entire 2001 Craftsman Truck series. They are attempting to secure sponsorship, and Hornaday III believes a strong showing Saturday will tip the scales.

Hornaday III, who failed to qualify for the one Craftsman Truck series race he entered, Aug. 3 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, is backed Saturday by several of his father's friends.

Forrest Lucas of Riverside, a former Ventura Raceway regular, is providing primary sponsorship through his company, Lucas Oil Products.

Mechanix Wear has sponsored Hornaday III since his career began through the efforts of Larry Nastin, who knew Hornaday Jr. when he was winning two championships on the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour.

Gus Davis of Gus' Tools and Gary Martin of Fluidyne Radiators are family friends who have been with Hornaday III since 1998.

Hornaday III said competing in front of old friends should be a big help, and he plans to stay in town after the race catching up with people he hasn't seen in six years, before attending a Busch series race in Phoenix the next weekend, where his father is expected to announce his plans for competing in Winston Cup next year.

Hornaday III's mother and grandfather will be in attendance Saturday.

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