NASCAR & Auto Racing

Pairing to rival best on Truck circuit

It appears the future of the NASCAR Truck Series is going to be guided by its past.

If that's the case, the series should be in for a wild ride during 2008.

Last season's down-to-the-wire title battle between former champions Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday has set the stage for an even bigger flashback.

Hornaday, who won his third series title last season while driving for Kevin Harvick Inc., has added a teammate -- former rival Jack Sprague, also a three-time series champion.

"With Ron and Jack both at KHI, it is our version of a dream team," said Dayne Pierantoni, GM Racing's Trucks Series program manager. All six of Hornaday and Sprague's championships have come while driving Chevrolets.

"Having two three-time champions as teammates sets up a perfect scenario for success. They are both tough competitors and will push each other in a positive way," Pierantoni said.

Hornaday and Sprague have experience in NASCAR's top three series -- Cup, Nationwide and Trucks. Both had full-time rides during the Truck Series' inaugural season, 1995.

Skinner won the first title. Hornaday, then driving for Dale Earnhardt Inc., beat Sprague, then driving for Hendrick Motorsports, in 1996 for his first title. The next year, Sprague won his first championship.

Over the years, each tried other series, but they continued to run into each other -- literally and figuratively -- in Trucks.

"Every time I got a chance to do it, I just ran into the side of him," Hornaday said. "Finally Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Mr. (Rick) Hendrick said enough is enough guys, we have to work on these trucks.

"When Harvick hired me, he hired two new fabricators. When he hired Jack, he hired four more. They know we are going to race hard. Chevrolet gave us an allotment of more sheet metal than we are ever going to need."

After it became apparent the two were going to pair together at KHI, Sprague invited Hornaday back to his home state of Michigan during the offseason for some friendly competition -- snowmobiling.

"Actually we kept things pretty tame," Sprague said. "I was afraid that Hornaday might have a little more trouble than he did. I did not know he had been snowmobiling before.

"We had a lot of fun. Michigan is beautiful that time of year and when you get to pal around with a friend like Hornaday, it's always cool."

That has been the story of their careers in the series -- go at it as hard as they can when competing for championships, but mutual respect off the track.

In Friday's season-opening Chevy Silverado 250 at Daytona International Speedway, the new relationship will get its first test, as drivers need help from each other using the draft to navigate the superspeedway.

"I'm definitely going to try to draft with Hornaday. I hope that we can work together to push each other across the line at the checkered flag," Sprague said. "To be honest, I would love to be first, but if it's he and I at the end, it will be fun."

KHI's tale of 2 champions

  Ron Hornaday Jack Sprague
Truck championships
  3 3
Most recent title
  2007 2001
Series wins
  33 28
Series poles
  15 32
Career starts
  200 272
Career winnings
  $5,285,716 $6,846,738