Unfortunately, he also found himself chasing Kyle Busch.
Busch completed a furious dash to the lead on lap 124 and Hornaday dug an early hole he couldn’t climb out of as Busch won the O’Reilly 200 and snapped Hornaday’s string of five consecutive Camping World Truck Series wins. Hornaday settled for a third-place finish behind Matt Crafton.
“For some reason, I’ve really taken to the new surface,” Busch said. “We knew we were going to come here with a fast truck, but it was exciting to be able to capitalize here tonight.”
As for Hornaday, he was happy with the points he earned for a top-five finish and relieved to finally put talk of the streak to bed.
“I’m kind of glad this is over so you guys can quit talking about it and I can go back to racing,” Hornaday said. “Kyle was just so dominant up front. To come out of Bristol with a top five and with a truck that was clean, that’s saying something.”
As dominant as Busch’s No. 51 Toyota was, the turning point of the race came during Busch’s lone pit stop on lap 36. After using the high line to go from sixth at the start of the race to the lead on lap 32, Busch came to the pits for four tires on lap 36.
Series rules dictate that drivers can only get fuel or tires, but not both, during any given pit stop. Busch beat the system by ducking right back onto pit road on lap 37 to top off his tank, allowing him to restart 11th when the green flag came out on lap 41.
“Pit stop strategy — I screwed myself there,” Hornaday said. “The truck in front of me was too close and I didn’t see (Kyle) duck back in. We’ll be ready next time we come back to Bristol, that’s for sure.”
While Busch restarted 11th, Hornaday and teammate Ryan Newman, who waited an extra lap to pit again, were mired way back in the field.
By the midway point on lap 100, Hornaday was in seventh place, over five seconds behind race leader Jason White. Meanwhile, Busch was closing in on White’s rear tailgate looking to take the race lead.
White found himself in a side-by-side battle with Busch on lap 116 as the two tried to weave through slower traffic.
“Jason White, man, he was having a moment there,” Busch said. “It was a battle for sure, He was tough and it was a lot of fun.”
Busch finally completed the pass coming out of turn 4 on lap 124. Crafton tried to challenge Busch down the stretch but had no luck catching the No. 51. According to Crafton, his chances were dashed when the caution waved on lap 172 when Norm Benning’s truck went for a spin in turn 4.
Crafton said his No. 88 machine was better on long runs. If the race would have stayed green, Crafton is pretty sure he would have caught Busch before the checkers waved.
“If we would have stayed green, yes without a doubt,” Crafton said. “I thought we were better than them on long run. I hated to see the yellow to come out with 30 to go — that’s not what we needed.”
Bristol native Nate Monteith found some excitement on lap 51 when his truck went spinning down the front straightaway. Monteith did an excellent job keeping it out of the inside wall and went on to score a 26th-place finish.
Hornaday’s advantage over Crafton was left virtually unchanged after both drivers had a good run. Hornaday now holds a 211-point lead over Crafton while Mike Skinner sits in third, 305 points back.
Skinner grabbed the lead at the start of the race from Newman, the pole sitter. Skinner led the first 31 laps before Busch got around him, but a speeding penalty on the first round of pit stops took Skinner out of contention. His luck didn’t get any better as Skinner ran into trouble and finished 20th.
Meanwhile, Busch is hoping that his Wednesday night win carries over to the rest of the weekend. He’ll be looking to increase his points lead in Friday’s Nationwide race before continuing his battle to get back into Chase contention in Saturday night’s Sharpie 500.
“I think the win does help because it just sets the tone for the weekend,” Busch said. “I’ve just been frustrated lately thinking it’s just me that can’t win races. It shows me that I can still do it. We’ve been getting better on the cup side. I think we have the opportunity to win the next three (Cup races).”
Read about Ryan Newman’s attempt to be the first driver to run all four NASCAR races in one weekend at www.timesnews.net.