Ron Hornaday, Jr., No. 33 Longhorn Silverado and Matt Crafton, No. 88 Menards Silverado met with members of the media at Auto Club Speedway and discussed racing in their home state of California, the competition in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the new rules package for the series and more topics. Full transcript:
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RACE IN CALIFORNIA AND WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN HERE?
Crafton: “I love coming to race in California, but it hasn’t liked me—this race track hasn’t. We have honestly the best truck I’ve ever had here yesterday. It rolled off the trailer and the second lap on the track was its fastest lap. Throughout the whole day it was awesome. It would mean a lot to run good here. I think sixth is my best finish and I’ve been here eight or nine times so not too good really. I think we’ll improve on that tomorrow.”
Hornaday: “It’s one of these race tracks that’s on my resume that I want a win at. We’ve brought one of our best trucks and one that I like. I’ve won a lot of races with it. We’re really looking forward to it. A little extra pressure with Camping World on the side and them being the major sponsor for the Camping World Truck Series. It’s a little slicker than we thought it was going to be. Tires are a little different than what I was expecting so it’s a whole different set up and a whole different shock package. At the end of 100 laps we’ll see what we’ve got for everybody.”
WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE NEW PIT ROAD RULES?
Hornaday: “The only way I look at it and what’s bad is coming down pit road more than once and its more opportunity to hit a pit crew member and everybody’s on a different agenda. Some guys put tires on, some guys put fuel on. You just have to pay attention a lot more. You’re not going to win and lose the race on pit road, but you’re definitely going to lose a lot of spots there. We just have to pay attention to all the guys over the wall. I thought it was actually great. I was in the truck series and Mike (Skinner) was too when we had halfway breaks, we’ve had two-tire stops before. We’ll see and this is a race track where we’ll know who’s going to try to put fuel in only and try to go on tires. Daytona was a place where you’re going to have to put tires on and maybe this track too. We’ll see—we’ll just have to play it out and I think NASCAR’s doing a great job with what we’ve got to do with our economy now. Saving any money at all is a big help. We’ll see how it plays out tomorrow.”
“I applaud everyone at Daytona. I watched those two guys stay out and they were leading the pack when the green flag dropped. They dropped low because they knew Todd (Bodine) and I were coming. It’s just going to have to be everybody working together out there and we’re going to have to know what agenda everybody is on.
“If a guy tries to stay out on tires then you’re going to have to know that he’s not going to go into that corner wide open like Matt (Crafton) or Mike (Skinner) will. Just coming I the pits—are you going to take fuel first and then take tires? Are you going to take tires and hopefully you don’t skid your tires coming in the pits. Its all up to us drivers basically and the crew chiefs going to make the call and we just have to do whatever he says.”
Crafton: “I like part of it—coming down pit road twice is definitely an issue. My biggest problem with it is that all of them are quickie yellows so you’ve got 36 trucks coming down and like Ron (Hornaday, Jr.) said earlier, everybody is on a different agenda and you’ve got 36 guys whether they are three laps down, five laps down—you’ve got a lot of trucks at some of these places that there are going to be 12 to 15 trucks on the lead lap so you’ll have a lot of different stuff going on. A lot of people short-pitting, guys trying to get track position and coming from the back. I think you’re going to see a lot of accidents on that quickie yellow deal.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY AND THE CHARACTERISTICS OF IT?
Hornaday: “Each year we come back it changes—just the weather. I remember the first time we came out here and it was so wide, we were four or five wide and just holding it wide open. Now with the change of what NASCAR has done with the restrictor plate, it just makes for better racing. We are going down the straightaway slower, but we’re definitely going through the corners faster. It’s showing when we come here this weekend. It’s getting slicker on the bottom, tried the middle of the track and its getting a lot rougher down the back straightaway. You’re going to actually have to have a handling race truck—its back in the driver’s hands again and this is what NASCAR wanted and they’ve got it. It’s going to be a fun race. It’s still going to be three and four wide, but I don’t want to be the guy in the middle tomorrow.”
Crafton: “It’s definitely a handling race track. I was talking to me teammate, Johnny Sauter about it and he’s never run a truck here. Texas and a lot of these places that we run, handling is an issue, but its not that much of an issue because the race track’s got more grip and the tires seem to be a little different there. This place doesn’t have the banking so handling is huge here compared to a place like Texas in the truck. Not saying that Texas isn’t a handling race track as well, but I think it pays off more here to have better handling in your truck.”
HOW HAS YOUR MOMENTUM BUILT UP GOING INTO THIS SEASON?
Crafton: “The biggest thing is just all the guys working together. I’ve had the same group of guys for a while and we’ve made changes and I have a brand new truck here. They’ve just been building new stuff.
“Each year they just keep building and the owner, Duke and Rhonda Thorson just keep giving us more to work with. It’s a brand new truck here and last year we probably had three different brand new trucks that we brought out. That’s some of the biggest things that we’ve done in the last couple years.”
WHAT IS THE PIT STOP STRATEGY LIKE NOW COMPARED TO THE OLD DAYS OF THE TRUCK SERIES?
Hornaday: “I kind of liked the halfway break because the adrenalin quit and you could get out and go to the bathroom and all that stuff and now I told them that if they do a halfway break they will have to make it 15 minutes because I’m getting older to get out of the truck and go do that.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SENSE OF PRIDE IN YOUR SERIES?
Crafton: “Anybody that is a true race fan and anybody that watched racing—its awesome to be a part of the best racing in NASCAR without a doubt is the Camping World Truck Series. I love to be a part of that. I go back on Monday and watch the races and we put on an awesome show. We lean on each other and we’re going to yell at each other and curse at Ron (Hornaday, Jr.) for him hitting me, but at the end of the day we’re all buddies. I love racing in it.”
Hornaday: “You look back in 1995 when NASCAR had a 10-year plan with the truck series and in the first year, Mike (Skinner) and I can vouch for it, we passed it. Just the crowds we had, the truck racing we put on, what we wanted to do to make a name for ourselves to move on to a different series and look, we’re both back here. That says a lot for the sport. Kevin Harvick just can’t wait to get into a truck, he loves running the trucks—Jimmie Johnson wants to drive one now. There’s a lot of people that see the truck racing puts on a good show and they don’t understand that when we get in the truck and the green flag drops—its wide open from the first lap to the last lap and it’s a short enough race where we’re hanging on. The young kids—it gives them a good chance to learn about radial tires—we’ve got some awesome rookies over here that are in some great equipment that are putting on good shows. I’m looking forward to it and I’m really proud of what the trucks look like here. It’s one of our biggest fields we have ever had here at California and it just says a lot for what the truck series brings to the table of the sport.”
IS IT AFFORDABLE TO COME TO CALIFORNIA THE WEEK AFTER DAYTONA AND RETURNING LATER FOR PHOENIX?
Hornaday: “I think we used to come out here for four races and we would try to stay out here and it basically cost more money to do that. The way the flights are nowadays, you get a group rate and you get pretty good—I think a couple hundred bucks to get the guys back and forth instead of trying to rent a room and put them up for a couple weeks.
“We used to run Monroe (Wash.), Vegas, Portland (Oreg.) and all them races and stay out here for three or four weeks. I’m not into the money aspect of it and I don’t know what they spend or even what it costs to run a truck. I’m just happy to drive one at my age and still having fun. My kids are grown up now and I can chase my dream and hopefully the fans just enjoy watching us. Anybody and everybody I talk to and I don’t care if I’m standing next to Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson or somebody and they say that truck race is better than any other race we see. That’s why we’re going to see some of these guys come out and do that. I know Kevin (Harvick) has some truck races for some Cup drivers to come in. I’m just thankful to even have a series like this where these kids can come in here and show their talent—Mike (Skinner) and I can take a trophy home once and a while and put it on our mantle. We’re going to keep talking about economy the rest of our lives—its just how its going to be. You just have to overlook it and I think NASCAR is doing what we have to do to keep this affordable and try to go racing.”
“If you did it in four or five races in a row then you’re not going to get the fans. If you spread it out and they get the taste and that’s what NASCAR’s all about with the different venues and tracks we’re going to now instead of the short tracks that we used to go to and everything. Mike (Skinner) did his homework—that’s cool.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE EMOTIONS OF SEEING PEOPLE WHO KNEW YOU WHEN YOU WERE STARTING OUT?
Hornaday: “This is what is so cool about it is seeing your friends and family and everybody you went to school with and things like that. I don’t even want to bring it up, but I went to Irwindale (Speedway) a couple weeks ago—showed my butt, but got to see a lot of guys that raced against my father and it was a couple days after my father had passed so just to see all the guys down there. Then just to see the faces that you went to school with, they worked on your Winston West car, your Southwest Tour car out here—it brings a lot back and some of the memories you don’t want to listen to, but a lot of them you do. It makes you drive that much harder in front of your friends and family and everything else. You want to put on a good show and this is a race I’ve never won so we’re going to do what we’ve got to do to do it.”
DO YOU SEE THE ECONOMY AS A CHANCE FOR OTHERS TO GET INTO THE SPORT?
Hornaday: “I think a lot of what helped was the non-testing. When you take the Hendricks and the Roush’s and they’re testing so many times and they probably still are on the short tracks and stuff, but they can’t go to the tracks we’re racing at—it helps a Tommy Baldwin situation where he’s been around racing long enough that he knows what to do and he can build a car. The car is pretty basic and they just have to have a good driver and a good crew to keep these things sound. It’s opened the door a lot.
“When my son started racing and the truck count was short, we used to start 43 trucks when the trucks started and now we’re down to 36, but we still put on a good show. There was an opportunity for my kid to get in it and it didn’t last, but its still probably a perfect time for people to get in it.”
Crafton: “I was talking to my team owner about it and the opportunity. He said it had got to where the Cup teams and truck teams were spending way too much money. They had run so many people out of this because they had spent so much money and the little guy couldn’t come in and compete. Now Tommy Baldwin can come in and compete in the Sprint Cup. Then you have a lot of teams over here in the truck series that can come in here and compete where three or four years ago, you could have come over and made the race, but you’re not going to be that competitive.”
WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE TO HAVE ANOTHER SHORT TRACK TO RACE AT IN KERN COUNTY?
Hornaday: “I don’t think its just a money situation, I think its how they are going about building it—it would be really cool. I heard the facility is nice, its not too far away from being done, but its tough to open anything anymore. Especially with the economy and stuff so we’ll see.”
Crafton: “It’s an awesome race track—I drove by there about a month ago and it would be an awesome place to race. That race track is awesome and 30 minutes from here is one of my favorite race tracks to race at—Irwindale. I think that is the best race track for racing out there and I would love to see the trucks go there.”
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