Ron Hornaday is hardly in the midst of what anyone would term a disappointing season — anyone, that is, except for maybe Hornaday himself.
The four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion has been his usual model of consistency in 2010, rattling off nine top-five finishes this year, including third-place runs in his past three races.
Those familiar with the 52-year-old Hornaday, however, know the main reason he is still behind the wheel: Hornaday races to win. Period. Which is why his current season, solid as it may be, isn't up to his standards.
Hornaday arrives at Kentucky Speedway as the defending race winner for Friday night's Built Ford Tough 225 Truck Series race but, to his dismay, the veteran driver isn't carrying the same kind of momentum he brought to Sparta a year ago.
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Hornaday's triumph in the 150-lap shootout last season marked the third in what would become a five-race winning streak as he ended up securing his fourth series championship.
Though he heads into the 18th race of this year fifth in points, Hornaday has struggled to find the form that made his No. 33 Chevy such a dominant force 12 months ago.
He owns a record 46 career Truck Series wins, but only one of those victories is from this year, that coming at Indianapolis on July 23.
"Sometimes you have years where you don't do anything right and years where everything just falls into your hands," said Hornaday, who won six races in 2009 while posting 15 top-five runs. "We can't say it's been one little thing is the whole problem this year. We've had our share of bad luck, but these guys they're putting their heads down and they keep digging."
Maintaining championship form is a challenge for any team, especially when one has undergone the shifts Hornaday's squad has.
It's been a revolving door at the crew-chief position for the No. 33 team as Rick Ren, who guided Hornaday to his past two championships, left to become the competition director at Kyle Busch Motorsports and his replacement, Dave Fuge, departed following a 27th-place finish in the season opener at Daytona.
Though Ernie Cope was at the helm when Hornaday won at O'Reilly Raceway Park in July, Kevin Buskirk took over the crew-chief position beginning with the Pocono race on July 31.
"Basically it's a whole new team. We have a new crew chief and everything," Hornaday said. "He and I are still learning each other, but we're learning more each week. We have had solid finishes at the 1.5-mile tracks this year and we are bringing the same truck (to Kentucky) we ran last week at Chicago, which is a really good piece."
The 328 points that separate Hornaday from leader Todd Bodine aren't likely to be made up in this last half of the year. But if ever there were a track to start turning things around, Kentucky Speedway might be it as Hornaday holds the distinction of being the only Truck Series driver to have two wins (2006 and 2009) at the 1.5-mile speedway.
Even if aspirations for a fifth title don't materialize this season, Hornaday's main priority is to get back to doing what he has become accustomed to.
"You know, I'm not going to go out there and just ride around for a paycheck. We're going to go out there and win races," he said. "When we're out there and finishing sixth and stuff like that, there is no excuse for it.
"I have no idea when I'm going to retire or if I even want to retire. I don't know what else I can do, I just enjoy racing."