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Hornaday picks up 50th career Trucks Series win

Ron Hornaday Jr. (2) overtakes pole-sitter Austin Dillon (3) on the opening lap of the NASCAR Trucks Series auto race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, in Sparta, Ky. Ron Hornaday Jr. (2) overtakes pole-sitter Austin Dillon (3) on the opening lap of the NASCAR Trucks Series auto race at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011, in Sparta, Ky. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
By Jenna Fryer
AP Auto Racing Writer / October 1, 2011

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SPARTA, Ky.—Ron Hornaday picked up his 50th victory in the Trucks Series with a Saturday night win at Kentucky Speedway.

Hornaday held off Austin Dillon over the final 10 laps to take Kevin Harvick Inc. to Victory Lane for the third time this season. He beat Dillon by 0.438 seconds to the finish line.

"Unbelievable," said Hornaday. "This one will mean a lot when I hang my helmet up and sit out on the porch with my grandkids. Fifty wins."

Hornaday, a four-time series champion, is the winningest driver in Trucks Series history and the only active driver who ran the inaugural Trucks Series race at Phoenix in 1995. His first win in the series came two months later at Tucson.

The 53-year-old driver has won races on 30 tracks, is the series' all-time short track winner with 22 wins and also won three races on road courses. His best season was 1997, when he won seven times, but Hornaday has won six or more races in five different seasons.

His championships were in 1996 and 1998 with Dale Earnhardt Inc., and in 2007 and 2009 with KHI.

"Ron has been the heart and soul of the Truck series," said owner Harvick, who fielded the truck in 24 of Hornaday's wins. "Fifty wins is just one more incredible achievement in a career that I'm sure will one day land him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame."

But Hornaday is looking for a job next season: Kevin and Delana Harvick said last month they are closing the team at the end of the year. So to hold off Dillon, whom Hornaday called "the up-and-comer" of the series, made Hornaday

"I kind of needed that right now. A little boost," Hornaday said. "You talk to people and they all want you to bring money (sponsors), and I've never done that. They know I ain't got $3 million bucks, so my phone ain't ringing. There's some kids out there bringing money, and that's the way the sport is going."

Dillon finished second and picked up another point over James Buescher in the series standings. Buescher, who finished third, trails Dillon by three points with five races remaining.

"It's going to be close," Dillon said. "I feel like we're hitting our stride here at the end. I feel like I am very confident in winning this championship and I want to go to the next five races and do what I have to do to get it done."

Next up on the schedule is Las Vegas, where Dillon won last year and Buescher finished third.

"It's going to be a long five races," Buescher said. "The points battle will probably stay tight for the rest of the year."

Nelson Piquet Jr. was fourth to give KHI two trucks in the top four. Both Hornaday and Piquet are looking for jobs for next year.

Hornaday joked he's looking for a job and wants to take crew chief Bruce Cook with him.

"I need three friends and all they need is $1 million apiece," he said.

Cook was thrilled to be part of Hornaday's victory.

"To be able to crew chief him for the win is awesome for me," Cook said. "It brings me back to my driving days ... when I looked up to him as a hero."

Brian Ickler finished fifth and was followed by Ricky Carmichael, Todd Bodine, Cole Whitt, Dakoda Armstrong and David Starr.

Dillon's younger brother, Ty, made his series debut and finished 18th after running out of fuel during the race. But Austin Dillon praised the 19-year-old's performance.

"It was fun seeing him up there running, I think he learned a ton," Dillon said. "He was good enough to run in the top 10, and he ran in the top-five for a long time. Very impressed. He also helped me in lapped traffic, so that was nice of him, and he raced me clean.

"He's going to be one to beat, he'll probably have a shot at the championship next year and rookie of the year, for sure."

There were a record 15 lead changes between 11 drivers.