Sauter-Hornaday Struggles Recall Earlier NCWTS Rivalry
You might call it rivalry redux.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ tough driver, tough trucks reputation, in large part, was built on Jack Sprague vs. Ron Hornaday Jr., a pair of hard-nosed competitors who won a combined four championships and 35 races between 1996-99.
Did they like each other? Maybe off the track but when the engines fired there was certainly a rivalry-like intensity between the two.
So here we go again – this time with Hornaday and Johnny Sauter. Both are hard-nosed, no quarter asked or given racers and over the past two seasons they’ve always seemed to find each other on the track.
They’ve traded paint and bumpers as well as harsh words and ill feelings.
And, following Hornaday’s June 10 victory at Texas Motor Speedway – at Sauter’s expense – the action likely will continue to boil when the schedule resumes July 7 at Kentucky Speedway. Sauter blocked Hornaday on the race’s final restart drawing a penalty that left the Wisconsin driver with a 22nd-place finish instead of a likely second victory of 2011.
Sauter, who had his rival down by 56 points (and in sixth place) saw the margin shrink to 33 as Hornaday, seeking a fifth title, climbed to third. The two appear evenly matched, especially in qualifying, putting them head to head when the green flag drops.
Keselowski, Kligerman Returning Dodge To Contending Status
It’s been tough sledding for Dodge since Ted Musgrave won its final driver championship in 2005, ending a five-year run during which the truck builder won three manufacturers’ championships and 50 races. A Dodge has gone to Victory Lane just once – Dennis Setzer in 2008 at Mansfield, Ohio – in the subsequent five-plus seasons.
That drought could be ended by team owner Brad Keselowski and driver Parker Kligerman. It might not yet be a renaissance but Kligerman finished a solid second June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway, matching his team owner’s runner up performance last summer at Gateway International Raceway.
Kligerman has posted seven top-15 finishes in 2011, three among the top 10.
Current Sunoco Rookie Contenders Competing Like Veterans
Led by Cole Whitt, who currently ranks second in NASCAR Camping World Truck standings, this year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year class shapes up as one of the strongest top-to-bottom in series history. Five drivers – Whitt, Kligerman, Miguel Paludo, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Joey Coulter – have posted at least one top-five finish in the first nine races.
• Kligerman became the latest to claim a top five, at Texas Motor Speedway.
• Coulter was fifth in Texas, to match his series-best finish scored the previous week at Kansas Speedway.
• Three Sunoco rookie contenders rank in the top 10 overall after nine races: Whitt (second), Kligerman (eighth) and Coulter (ninth). Whitt is the rookie points leader by 22 over Coulter.
The number of rookies with a top-five finish compares with arguably the top freshman class in series history. In 1997 five rookies scoring at least one top-five finish ranked among the final series top 20. Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin and Tony Raines each won races during their rookie season. The other three contenders – Stacy Compton, Rick Crawford and Boris Said – later became series winners.
Hornaday’s 48th victory includes 13 wins past the age of 50, matching Joe Ruttman’s series record for the senior citizen set. Hornaday now has won in seven consecutive seasons, 13 overall. Hornaday’s finish marked his 198th top 10. … A Kevin Harvick Inc. truck won for the second consecutive week and 35th time in NCWTS competition. KHI needs one more win to catch Ultra Motorsports for No. 2 all time. … Kligerman (second), David Mayhew (third), Ryan Sieg (seventh) and Johanna Long (11th) posted career-best series finishes in Texas.