Hall of Fame preview: Mark Martin amongst contenders
RELATED: Meet 2017's nominees " Live stream of reveal, 5 p.m. ET Mark Martin will be one of 20 people considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the Voting Panel convenes in Charlotte on Wednesday to determine the 2017 class. (TV coverage: NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET) Three of those on the ballot are former premier series champions -- Red Byron, NASCAR's first Strictly Stock champion in 1949; Benny Parsons, the 1973 winner who went on to enjoy a successful second career in the broadcast booth; and Alan Kulwicki, killed in a plane crash just four-and-a-half months after capturing the 1992 crown. There was no championship trophy for Martin, who retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season. But that doesn't diminish the accomplishments the Batesville, Arkansas, native garnered during a career that spanned more than three decades. Martin, 57, won 40 times in the premier series, with victories coming at 21 different tracks. He finished 10th or better 453 times, in more than half of his 882 career starts. He also won 56 poles. RELATED: Live stream, 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday In the battle for the championship, Martin placed second five times, a mark he shares with current Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, and he scored 17 top-10 points finishes during his career. "It makes me proud I was able to be as successful as I was and grateful for the opportunities I had," Martin told Little Rock, Arkansas, radio station KABZ-FM recently. "To be real honest I didn't enjoy a … significant part of my career because I was trying so hard to get that championship because I wanted it, and even more than that, the people who supported me wanted it for me so badly. I saw time running out. "I spent too much of my time focused on that and not enjoying the opportunities I had. Today, when I look back on it I wish I hadn't done that." Martin lost the 1990 title by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt and finished second to the Richard Childress Racing driver again four years later. Other runner-up finishes through the years came against Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . "My life would not be different one bit had I won one of those or not," Martin said. "I had a great career. … I don't think it would have changed a thing in my life had I won one of those trophies. I was very close. I got beat by only four of the greatest of all time in NASCAR in my opinion. … "I'm not embarrassed." Earnhardt was one of five members inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Gordon, a four-time series champion with 93 career victories, retired from driving at the end of 2015 and won't be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until 2018 and possible induction until '19. Stewart, winner of three premier series titles and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will cease to compete full time in the series following the 2016 season. Johnson is a six-time champion and boasts 77 career wins, including two thus far this season. In addition to his premier series exploits, Martin held the XFINITY Series record for career wins for 14 years and is also a seven-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. It is his second consecutive appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. First-year nominees for the 2017 ballot are former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., team co-owner Jack Roush, driver Ricky Rudd, noted crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson and broadcaster Ken Squier. Rounding out the list of nominees are Buddy Baker, Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates. Also to be determined by the Voting Panel is the 2017 recipient of the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. The five nominees are Martinsville Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, driver Janet Guthrie, team owner Raymond Parks, former RJ Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves and Squier. The Voting Panel is scheduled to begin the selection process Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Charlotte Convention Center. The announcement of those chosen will take place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR.com will also live stream the event: You can watch it live here.
Ron Hornaday Jr . picks up sponsorship for two races
Four-time Truck Series champion will be back in action at Las Vegas and Texas NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Ron Hornaday Jr . will return to competition later this year in a deal put together by sponsor Rheem and NTS Motorsports with technical support from Richard Childress Racing . In a release posted on its web site, Rheem said the Atlanta, Georgia, based company would sponsor an entry for Hornaday for two of the final seven races in the series –- the Sept. 27 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as well as the Oct. 31 event at Texas Motor Speedway . According to the company, Rheem "has been working to find the best available truck equipment, crew and technical expertise in an effort to return Hornaday to the truck series before the end of the 2014 season." Hornaday , with funding provided in part by Rheem, was fourth in points when Turner Scott Motorsports officials ceased operations for the No. 30 team earlier this month. He did not compete at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park , dropping to sixth in points, and is not in Saturday night's Lucas Oil 225 at Chicagoland Speedway . NTS currently fields two Truck Series teams with Brennan Newberry and Gray Gaulding as the primary drivers for those teams and the organization has also had Michael Annett, Austin Dillon , John King , Justin Lofton , Chase Pistone and Jason White drive trucks for them this year. It is expected that the Hornaday team will be in addition to those two teams. "Rheem is pleased to play a part in bringing Ron Hornaday back to where he belongs … racing trucks to win and bringing excitement and enjoyment to Camping World Truck Series fans," Ed Raniszeski, managing director for Rheem Motorsports, said. "None of this would have been possible without the solid support of NTS Motorsports and RCR. "We all welcome Ron back and can't wait to see him back in the saddle." Hornaday is a four-time series champion, winning Truck Series titles in 1996, '98, 2007 and '09. He has 51 career wins in the series. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ron Hornaday Jr . picks up Daytona 500 sponsor
Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff reteams with four-time Truck Series champ Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Moment Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement to sponsor Ron Hornaday Jr . in the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 22, 1 p.m. ET, FOX). Hornaday , 56, is returning to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the first time since the 2003 season finale. The four-time champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is scheduled to be the primary driver of The Motorsports Group's No. 30 Chevrolet this season. The Curtis Key-owned team announced earlier Tuesday that veteran wrench Pat Tryson will serve as crew chief. Tryson has eight victories as a crew chief in NASCAR's premier series, the most recent coming with Kurt Busch in 2009 during his tenure with Team Penske . The sponsorship deal marks a reunion for Hornaday and Smokey Mountain. The tobacco-free smokeless brand backed his Truck Series efforts in 2012 and 2013, and most recently adorned ThorSport Racing's No. 98 as a primary sponsor for Johnny Sauter in six races last season. "It's an honor to have Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff back on board with me in 2015," Hornaday said in a release provided by the team. "Dave (Savoca, company president) and everyone at Smokey Mountain have always been huge supporters of mine and even after our partnership ended in 2013, we continued to stay in touch. To be able to represent their brand as I attempt to make the Daytona 500 is a dream come true for not only Smokey Mountain as a brand, but for me as a driver." Hornaday ranks as the all-time wins leader in the Camping World Truck Series with 51 victories. His only top-10 finish in the Sprint Cup Series was a ninth-place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2001, his only full season at NASCAR's top level, when he drove for car owner A.J. Foyt. As a driver with a start-up Sprint Cup team, Hornaday will be required to qualify for the Daytona 500 (Feb. 22, 1 p.m. ET, FOX) on his speed in Coors Light Pole Qualifying or through his performance in the Budweiser Duel qualifying races. "Everyone at TMG has been working so hard during the offseason to get ready for 2015," Hornaday said. "I know it's a long shot, but I feel confident in what Curtis has put together. I honestly feel like we have a solid shot at making this race. It takes partners like Smokey Mountain to make this work and I'm going to give it everything I've got." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ron Hornaday Jr . eager for return to track
Loss of ride sidelined veteran for past three events Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., idle for the last three races, will return to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Hornaday is scheduled to drive the No. 9 Chevrolet for NTS Motorsports in Saturday night's Rhino Linings 350 (10 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). The 56-year-old veteran drove the No. 9 for Joe Denette Motorsports in 2012, then continued in the truck the following year when Denette's team merged with truck owner Bob Newberry's to form NTS. Hornaday was forced to the sidelines after last month's race at Bristol Motor Speedway when Turner Scott Motorsports dialed back its operation from three full-time trucks to two. He returns to the series with a streak of three top-fives in his last four races. "I want to say thanks to Bob Newberry and Rheem for working together to give me this great opportunity to get back behind the wheel of a NCWTS Silverado," said Hornaday , who still ranks 10th in series standings despite missing three races. "I'm looking forward to racing in Las Vegas, as we have a lot of family and friends on the West Coast that will be there." Hornaday has a history of success at the 1.5-mile track outside Sin City. He prevailed at Vegas from the Keystone Light Pole in 2011 while driving for team owner Kevin Harvick , and he finished sixth after leading 23 laps his last time out at LVMS last season. Ryan McKinney will serve as crew chief for Hornaday's efforts this weekend. Four drivers -- Justin Lofton , Brennan Newberry , Chase Pistone and Jason White -- have taken turns behind the wheel of the NTS No. 9 this season. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Press Pass: Ron Hornaday Jr
Ron Hornaday Jr talks about how happy he is jsut to bring his truck home clean with a 3rd place finish and how tough it was to draft tonight.
Veteran Crafton plays mentor role to up-and-coming rookies
CONCORD, N.C. -- Being a two-time champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has its share of perks for Matt Crafton . But besides the laurels, there's also a certain amount of responsibility, one that involves helping the next generation of drivers learn their way. For the third straight season, Crafton has helped preside over the series' rookie orientation meetings, joining series director Elton Sawyer in providing insights for the truck tour's new crop of talent. In recent years, the duty has fallen to the reigning series champion, which Crafton achieved with consecutive titles in 2013 and 2014. But with last year's champ, Erik Jones , shifting to the NASCAR XFINITY Series full-time this season, Crafton was asked back. "If it's something where I feel I can help the rookies and possibly make it better racing, that's what it's all about," said Crafton, who's back on top as the series' points leader after last weekend's victory at Dover International Speedway . "I remember being a rookie and going to some of these places and not having a damn clue what I was doing or what to expect on some new race tracks, so if you can give them a little bit of insight as a group and then I always tell them at the end, if you ever have any questions, they're always free to ask me whatever they need to ask me in the trailer afterward. It's part of it." It's been 15 years since the 39-year-old Crafton was a truck series newbie, almost as long as the lifespan of some members of this year's rookie crop. When Crafton was on the other side of the first-year drivers' orientation, he learned from a rotation of the series' pioneers -- Ron Hornaday Jr ., Mike Skinner, Todd Bodine . Times may have changed over the course of Crafton's career, with the driver roster seemingly skewing younger. But it's also tilted to an even more ambitious and talented class in one of NASCAR's most competitive divisions. "Just to think they're racing in the Camping World Truck Series at 16 years old like they can do, it's nuts," Crafton says. "It's just crazy the amount of pressure that's on these kids. The thing is, they're in great, great equipment. I can honestly say, everybody always says each and every week that, 'oh, there's such a great group of rookies out there.' There's been a great group of rookies a lot of years in the Camping World Truck Series since I've been here, but not all of them have always been in great equipment." On this damp Thursday morning, Sawyer and Crafton hold court in the suites over Charlotte Motor Speedway 's pit road. A group of 15 young drivers -- some true rookies and some who were preparing for their first start on the 1.5-mile track -- circled around, awaiting direction over the racket of the Air Titans drying the pavement. Before diving into a discussion about race procedure, Sawyer singled out John Hunter Nemechek , attending his last required rookie meeting at Charlotte -- the last track missing from his truck series portfolio. "I thought Elton was going to bring me a cake this week, a certificate or something for graduating," the 18-year-old Nemechek joked later. "He said he forgot, so I may have to get a cake in to him that says 'Race Director' or something on it." Sawyer emphasized the high notes from the crew chief's handout, providing watch-outs about gamesmanship on restarts and other procedures. But he also ceded plenty of time to Crafton, who answered a question from ThorSport Racing teammate Rico Abreu about the blend zone off pit road and how hard he could hustle back onto the race track. The inquiry led to a detailed description from Crafton about one of the most finicky tracks on the circuit. In vivid terms, Crafton explained the speedway's character, how much the groove widens in time, how delicate side-by-side racing can be, and what he called the "gnarliest" transition as trucks dive into the Turn 1 banking. "When we go to a new race track, it's just learning the basics of the things that we need to look out for, especially here," says 18-year-old rookie William Byron, who became the series' newest first-time winner two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway . "He's talking about the transitions and just things to watch out for in the race. It's good to have a broad perspective of what it's going to be like racing here. It gets you a little bit more comfortable." Even Nemechek, already a two-time truck series winner on intermediate-sized tracks, has seen the benefits. "It was a good experience. They all helped every time you went," Nemechek says. "… Any veteran that you can get and talk to and listen to that you know is going to shoot you somewhat straight when you come to a new place, it can only help you -- from race trends to how to get on and off pit road to the characteristics of the race track." Crafton's 366 career starts -- an all-time series best -- count as an encyclopedic amount of experience, and the back-to-back titles speak to his success. But the longtime veteran says he still finds time to pick up on things from the cub drivers with single-digit starts on their record. What does he learn? "Some of these kids nowadays, they just know more than we do," Crafton says with a playfully satirical grin. "I have a daughter who's 3 and she already knows more than me."
Sauter, Hornaday and Piquet Jr . crash
Johnny Sauter, Ron Hornaday and Nelson Piquet Jr . get together in Turn 3 and draw the fourth caution of the night.
Ron Hornaday Jr .
Nominee for the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Ron Hornaday returns to his racing roots
RELATED: Hornaday among NASCAR's 2017 Hall of Fame nominees MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Ron Hornaday is currently not competing in NASCAR, but the four-time champion appears to be as busy as ever. And racing remains his focus. Hornaday , winner of a series-best 51 victories in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series, is more hands-on these days, building dirt Modifieds for grandson Slater McCray and teammate Billy Workman Jr . as well as several other competitors. There are those who kick up the dust and ride the cushion on local tracks in the Carolinas, Kentucky, Indiana and various other venues who put their faith in a Hornaday -built entry. Given their success, it seems that trust has been well placed. A recent Saturday night outing at Fayetteville Motor Speedway indicated as much -- the top three in the Open Wheel Modified division were built by Hornaday Race Cars. "Back to building dirt cars and having fun again," Hornaday said recently from his race shop, surrounded by cars in various states of progress. "Back to doing a little bit of everything, I guess."
Burton's rookie mistake costly for Hornaday Jr .
Rookie Jeb Burton puts veteran Ron Hornaday Jr . into the wall at Martinsville.