Ron Hornaday Jr. notched up his landmark 50th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in 295 races on Saturday night at a chilly Kentucky Speedway, holding off Austin Dillon to the chequered flag by 0.438s.
"Austin is an up-and-coming star, and at age 53, I beat him," said Hornaday, rejoicing in the triumph of age and experience over youth.
The 21-year-old Dillon had swept the practice and qualifying sessions and looked the man to beat on Saturday evening, but Brian Ickler got the better start and claimed the initial lead, and then after a caution for an accident for Josh Richards in turn 1 on lap 5 it was over to Hornaday to take charge.
A second caution came out on lap 22 for an accident involving Ryan Sieg in turn 3 which allowed for pit stops, allowing Truck rookie and former F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to run at the front for the next 20 laps when the third caution came out for a wreck by Clay Greenfield. Timothy Peters took up the lead, but the caution was back out on lap 51 when an accident saw Miguel Paludo spin out and crunch Parker Kligerman against the wall, the two cars then falling into the path of Max Papis who was unable to avoid making contact with them.
Hornaday took the lead at the restart until the next caution for a spin by John King, after which the lead bounced around between Johnny Sauter, Piquet, Dillon and Buescher during two further cautions for spins by Ross Chastain (lap 80) and Brendan Gaughan (lap 87) before finally Dillon took a proper grip on things and led from lap 93 until lap 120.
With the race approaching its climax and cycling through one more round of pit stops the lead changed hands to Hornaday, Piquet and then Todd Bodine on lap 139, with Hornaday opting for four tyres when it was his turn to come in for his final refuelling stop.
Hornaday then led the final 11 laps of the race (for a grand total of 42 out of the 150 during the evening) once Bodine gave up the lead for his final pit stop of the evening. Dillon did his best to try and charge him down but didn't quite have enough to do it before the chequered flag proclaimed the veteran to be the winner.
"We gave 'em hell at the end, but the old man whipped my tail," conceded Dillon good-naturedly afterwards. "I gave it everything I had on those last laps."
"It will mean a lot when I sit on the front porch in the rocking chair with my grandkids and I can tell them that I won 50 races," said a jubilant Hornaday about his landmark achievement.
With Cup and Nationwide races being held at Dover International Speedway compared with the Truck Series' role this week as support event to the IZOD IndyCar Kentucky Indy 300 race instead, the field was missing the usual scattering of star names from the senior two series, allowing the Truck regulars free reign over the top positions. Hornaday and Dillon were followed home by James Buescher, Nelson Piquet Jr. Brian Ickler and Ricky Carmichael.
"We took on right-side tires on the last two green-flag stops, but it wasn't good enough to hold off the #2 and the #3," said Buescher, who had to settle for a decent points haul rather than the win.
There was also an 18th place for Austin Dillon's brother Ty despite running out of fuel twice. 19-year-old Ty Dillon was débuting in his first national-level NASCAR race: "It was awesome, a blast," he said after making his bow. "We came here to learn, and I felt like they all knew we were here." The two brothers are grandsons of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress.
The results mean no change in the top five positions in the standings, with Austin Dillon still out in the lead on 704pts, 42pts ahead of Ron Hornaday in fifth. Buescher, Sauter and Peters take up the intervening positions, while Joey Coulter climbs to sixth and Cole Whitt to seventh at the expense of Matt Crafton, after the #88 was only able to finish in 23rd place this week.
Full race results and qualifying
and practice times.