SPARTA — In the end, Mike Skinner decided to take the high road. As a result, Ron Hornaday Jr. reminded his rival that no good deed goes unpunished — at least where the racetrack is concerned.
Hornaday, the three-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, rattled off his third straight win and his fourth victory this year when he held off a charge from Skinner during the final four laps to capture Saturday night's Built Ford Tough 225 at Kentucky Speedway.
These days, it appears one would have to wreck Hornaday to keep him out of Victory Lane. When Skinner resisted the urge to do so on the final lap, Hornaday proceeded to pad his overall lead in the Truck Series standings.
When the 150-lap event restarted on Lap 146 after a spin by rookie Tayler Malsam, Hornaday — who passed Aric Almirola for the lead on Lap 132 — found himself with a mirror-full of Skinner closing in on the high side.
Skinner made a run up high coming off Turn 3 on the final lap, but Hornaday moved up to block the effort en route to earning the 43rd series win of his career.
"He got such a run off of Turn 3, I was waiting to turn sideways," said Hornaday, who came into the race off consecutive wins at Memphis and Milwaukee. "But it didn't happen; we respect each other on the track."
"I could have hit Ron. I probably owe him one, but I didn't want to take the low road," added Skinner. "But I really thought I could pass him on the outside. That's why I didn't run into him."
Hornaday becomes the first two-time winner of the race at Kentucky, having previously captured the event in 2006. While he holds a 96-point lead over Matt Crafton, his team probably will be penalized for a rear-end housing confiscated Friday by NASCAR officials.
Despite earning the pole with his qualifying run earlier in the evening, Hornaday said, his No. 33 Chevrolet was destined for a top-5 finish at best.
After battling through some ill-handling and a bad set of tires after one stop, Hornaday's team took some swings with the adjustments that got them up to third by Lap 126 after falling to 10th at Lap 100.
"It took all day, but we got the truck right," Hornaday said. "On that last stop, we put four tires on and made some hellacious adjustments. I would have been happy to come out of here top 5, but these guys kept pumping me up and the radio."
Skinner quietly charged through the field all night after starting 19th and got the benefit of a few late-race wrecks to bring him within striking distance in the final laps.
"I'm frustrated, but not as frustrated as I was when I was running sixth," said Skinner, third in the points standings. "We were just able to keep the fenders on, and some other guys had problems that allowed us to take a fifth-place truck and run second."
Crafton overcame a pit-road penalty to finish third. Timothy Peters and Almirola rounded out the top five.
Former race winner Todd Bodine was running second on the final restart but dropped out of contention with a possible engine problem.
On a night when veteran experience reigned, a couple of rookies had stellar runs ruined by late-race misfortune.
Malsam was a top-5 fixture most of the evening and was running third with seven laps to go when he spun on the front stretch after having a tire go down. He wound up 13th.
Brian Ickler had been contending for the win in the final 25 laps when he was penalized for an illegal pass on a restart, then got caught up in a wreck on Lap 135 when he slammed into Terry Cook, who made contact with the wall down the backstretch and slid down the track.
"I had to win today or else you all would say 'This old fart can't beat these kids anymore,' " Hornaday joked. "I don't think we had the truck to beat, but the yellows came out in our favor. It's pretty exciting three in a row."