We spend a lot of time here at Racing Fan obsessing over the Cup series and all of its attendant drama. But the recent accomplishments of one Ron Hornaday Jr. cannot be ignored. The man has won five straight races in the Camping World Truck Series, the most in NASCAR's modern era, which began in 1972. Richard Petty won 10 straight races in 1967, and five in a row in 1971. Bobby Allison also won five in a row that year.
With 44 victories in 239 starts, Hornaday is the all-time leader in Truck wins. He's 51 years old -- six months older than Mark Martin -- and shows no signs of slowing down. Indeed, with one more victory, he'll match his career-best total for a single season.
The always excellent blog From The Marbles gets things about right:
"Thing is, he's not just racing against chumps. Guys like Colin Braun and Matt Crafton aren't pushovers. But Hornaday is craftier than a seventy-year-old burglar, and there's every chance he could add a few more to his total. He's already the oldest winner in any of the three NASCAR series, a record he breaks with every trip to victory lane."
There'll be plenty of time this season to find the drama in the chase for the Cup. But this week we pause to recognize the biggest moment of the NASCAR season so far.
12: Number of drivers who have won at least one race so far in 2009
12: Number of drivers who won at least one race in all of 2008
6: Number of drivers who won at least one race in '08 but have yet to reach Victory Lane in '09 (Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman)
Much has been made of this post-race video from Pocono, in which ESPN pit reporter Vince Welch asks Juan Pablo Montoya why Kasey Kahne had "angry words" for him after the finish. Montoya, not one of the more patient cats in the Cup garage, immediately ends the interview, sarcastically correcting Welch (Kahne had in fact come over to apologize for some late-race paint-trading) and then walking out on him. It looks pretty bad for Welch and ESPN, but I'm not so sure it's that big a deal.
Welch obviously didn't hear what Kahne said to Montoya. Either Welch (or the producer in his headphones) witnessed a discussion between the two drivers and made an assumption based on their body language and facial expressions. That assumption was mistaken, and a simple correction was all that was necessary. I don't know Welch at all, but he would have been remiss in his job as a reporter if he hadn't asked Montoya about the exchange. How is asking about it an attempt to stir up controversy?
With the benefit of hindsight, the better way to phrase such a question would have been, "What were you and Kasey talking about?" That probably wouldn't have triggered such an oversensitive reaction from Montoya. But really, this shouldn't have, either. The record could have been set straight without any dramatics, and nobody would have noticed.
Don't get me wrong, sometimes the media absolutely tries to stir up controversy. I just don't think that was the case here. This was a reporter in the heat of the moment, with who-knows-how-many more 30-second post-race hits to do, who blurted out the first poorly chosen words that popped into his head. I've been there many times myself.