Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Ron Hornaday Jr. at Iowa Speedway in 2013. While he is running with a new Sprint Cup team in 2015, Hornaday and The Motorsports Group should not be overlooked, our Dominic Aragon writes.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
When it was announced Ron Hornaday Jr. would pilot the No. 30 Chevrolet for The Motorsports Group in 2015, the news was something that came out of left field.
Hornaday, arguably the Richard Petty of the Camping World Truck Series, is attempting his first full-time season since 2001. The numbers are definitely not on his side.
At 56-years-old, Hornaday will be the oldest driver attempting to make the Daytona 500 by almost nine months over veteran Mike Wallace. Only 11 drivers have won at the age of 50 or older, with Harry Gant the oldest in 1992.
What about from an endurance standpoint? Hornaday, a staple in the Truck Series since its inception in 1995, will be facing longer races in Cup. With Truck Series running races at about half the distances of the Cup Series, one can wonder if performance will suffer because of the longer distances.
After talking with the source that helped us break the story on The Racing Experts, they explained that Hornaday wouldn't have made the move had it not been financially feasible.
While we were used to seeing Curtis Key's race team run mostly towards the rear of the Xfinity field, be prepared to see the team possibly run substantially better, and all in NASCAR's premiere series.
Key is all in. According to the source, with somewhat deep pockets, Key could pour upwards of $8 million into his single-car operation in 2015. To put that in perspective, a race-ready Sprint Cup race car, according to 2010 figures, could be assembled for about $200 thousand.
Key wouldn't be making the jump to the top form of stock car racing if he didn't think he could run somewhat competitively. He said he wants first-year team to finish inside the top-30 in points this season.
The hire of veteran crew chief Pat Tryson shows the commitment of Key to his organization. Tryson, who has worked with the likes of Mark Martin and Kurt Busch, has helped lead three drivers to eight wins as a crew chief in the Cup Series. Tryson most recently worked with BK Racing and David Reuitmann in 2013.
While social media can be critical, especially of an upstart team, don’t rule out Hornaday on making the Daytona 500 and running decently with the organization’s single-car team.
Although it hasn’t been announced, it could be possible to see Richard Childress try and help Hornaday and his new team. I feel like there might be unfinished business between the two.
Hornaday, as you might recall, ran his last Cup race in 2003 for Richard Childress Racing, and won all four Truck championships with an RCR-affiliated ride. When Kevin Harvick Incorporated shut down at the end of 2011, forcing Hornaday out of a ride, the driver ran in less-than competitive trucks the next two years.
Maybe sometime during the 2015 season, we will hear of TMG using RCR engines and chassis or even the formation of an alliance, because of Hornaday’s unfathomable loyalty to Chevrolet and long-time friend Richard Childress.
While full-time sponsorship has yet to be determined for the Sprint Cup Series’ newest full-time organization, Smoky Mountain Herbal Snuff, a Hornaday-backing company, will sponsor the team for its Daytona 500 efforts and Talladega in May.
But the season could all ride on Speedweeks. With no owner points to fall back on, Hornaday will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 and qualify on speed for the preceding two events in order to try and be high enough in points to earn provisionals.
While Key was originally eyeing past champion Bobby Labonte to pilot his ride, he kept true to his vow; to hire a veteran driver with knowledge and experience.
This isn’t a team that will likely make the Chase in their first season, or possibly score a top-ten finish, but as a first year organization, TMG and Hornaday will produce results and run better on-track than most fans are expecting.