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Ron Hornaday Jr.’s Hall of Fame election aided by champion who slept on his couch

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CONCORD, N.C. — Ron Hornaday’s Jr. election to the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2018 class wasn’t a lock.

For just the second time in the institution’s nine-year history, the vote for the final spot in the class resulted in a tie.

It was either going to be Hornaday, a four-time champion in the Camping World Truck Series, or the late Alan Kulwicki, the 1992 Cup champion.

When the final vote was taken, those casting their ballots may have had the words of Jimmie Johnson on their mind.

Prior to the first vote, those in the room went through the list of 20 nominees and discussed the merits of each.

“It’s very difficult because as the stories go on and you understand how each individual has played such a large part in NASCAR’s history, they are all worthy,” Johnson said Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It’s not an easy day trying to make your decisions.”

But when Hornaday’s name came up, Johnson shared why he thought Hornaday was worthy of the Hall of Fame.

A voter due to his status as defending Cup champion, Johnson’s support of the 51-time winner in the Truck Series isn’t out of the blue.

If anyone was going to go to bat for Hornaday, it would be a future Hall of Famer and fellow California native who, along with Kevin Harvick, called Hornaday’s living room couch his home at the beginning of his career.

“That man loves racing and has given so many an opportunity,” Johnson said. “I didn’t know him back when he was based in California and his short track roots. I knew who he was, although I wasn’t focused on asphalt racing.”

Johnson grew up in El Cajon, California, three hours south of Hornaday’s roots in Palmdale.

“I met him through some different Chevrolet functions,” Johnson said. “He and (his wife) Lindy (Hornaday) just had open arms and told me, if you are ever in North Carolina we will give you a place to stay, come stay with us.”

About three months later, Johnson came East to drive a late motel car owned by Hendrick Motorsports general manager Jimmy Johnson (no relation).

The driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet took the Hornaday’s up on their offer and became a resident on their couch.

“They wouldn’t let me move out,” Johnson said. “I stayed there for six months until Ron on one of his Harley rides found a home that he thought I could afford and seemed like a good buy and I bought my first house. They have been amazing to me and to many others in the sport, not just drivers. There are officials walking up and down pit road that have all bunked at his home, crew members from all over the place.

“Their contributions to our sport, Ron’s contribution to our sport, not only include the amazing things he did on the track, but so many things off the track. I think he is going to be a great fit in the Hall and be very entertaining as the months go by and we are able to induct him.”

Hornaday, who last raced in the Truck Seres in 2014, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame with Robert Yates, Red Byron, Ken Squier and Ray Evernham.

Johnson wasn’t able to talk to Hornaday in the aftermath of the announcement. But he reached out to his former host Thursday morning on the way to the track. Hornaday was already back at work.

“He was running a fork lift somewhere doing something,” Johnson said.

When Hornaday goes before he peers in January for his induction, he can thank a fellow driver from California for the helping hand.

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NASCAR America: The challenges of Martinsville Speedway

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What Martinsville Speedway lacks in size compared to other tracks it makes up in difficulty say drivers and NASCAR America’s analysts.

Landon Cassill joined Carolyn Manno, Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton on Thursday’s show and discussed the challenges of the half-mile paperclip track.

“It can be fun when it’s going well,’’ said Cassill, who will make his Cup season debut this weekend in the No. 00 for StarCom Racing. “That place, if you’re car is not handling well, you can end up going backwards and just by the time you’ve got some clear race track the leader is right behind you. So it can be frustration. I tend to like Martinsville.’’

Kligerman calls racing in the pack at Martinsville Speedway “the most aggressive racing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.’’

Jeff Burton said: “It’s … one of the hardest race tracks we go to period because you have to do it lap after lap after lap and it’s so easy to get, quite simply, just really, really mad at the guy you’re racing with because he’s hitting you and he’s banging on you.’’

Cup drivers have their description of the track. See what NASCAR America’s analysts and Cup drivers have to say about the track that hosts Sunday’s Cup race in the video above.

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Richard Childress Racing reinstates Xfinity crew chief Nick Harrison

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Richard Childress Racing has reinstated Nick Harrison to crew chief  of the No. 3 Xfinity team after he served a five-race suspension for a violation at Daytona International Speedway. 

Harrison’s first race back will be April 8 at Texas.

Harrison was suspended after the No. 3 car of Austin Dillon had a rear suspension violation in pre-qualifying inspection. Harrison and the team’s car chief were ejected by NASCAR after the violation. RCR imposed the suspension.

“I’m looking forward to being back with my team and winning races after my five-race suspension,” Harrison said in a statement from the team.

Brandon Thomas served as the interim crew chief while Harrison was out. Austin Dillon finished a season-best fourth for the team last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Martinsville breakdown, Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features host Carolyn Manno and Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut, and Jeff Burton and Landon Cassill from Burton’s Garage.

Among the topics today:

  •  Prepare for paint swapping, bent fenders, and bruised egos. It’s time to go short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway! Jeff, Parker and Landon will tell you what to expect this weekend at the famous half-mile. We’ll also see what it takes to succeed there, as Parker takes us for some quick laps in the NBCSN iRacing Simulator.
  • After making the switch to Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason, Aric Almirola is off to the best start of his Cup Series career. Currently 10th in the standings, he’ll tell Marty Snider about his early season success.
  • Since finishing second at the Daytona 500, rookie driver Bubba Wallace has cooled off. Now he faces his first Cup Series start at Martinsville in the iconic No. 43 car, and he’s feeling confident — it’s where Wallace scored his first truck series win nearly five years ago. We’ll examine the struggles he might have to work through this season and also hear his reflections on his early years of racing in the latest edition of “A Driver’s Drive.”

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/ If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Weekend schedule for NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway

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NASCAR returns to its backyard this weekend after the three week West Coast swing.

The Cup and Camping World Truck Series visit Martinsville Speedway in Southern Virginia.

The weekend is capped off by Sunday’s STP 500. It will be the first Cup race broadcast on Fox Sports 1 this year.

Here’s the full weekend schedule complete with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, March 23

8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck garage opens

11:05 – 11:55 a.m. — Truck practice (No TV)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Truck practice (Fox Sports 1)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Final Truck practice (FS1)

Saturday, March 24

7 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

7:30 a.m. — Truck garage opens

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

11:05 a.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-truck/three rounds (FS1)

12:15 p.m. — Truck driver-crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

1:30 p.m. — Truck driver introductions

2 p.m. — Alpha Energy Solutions 250; 250 laps/131.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:10 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 25

9:30 a.m. — Cup garage opens

Noon — Driver-crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. — Driver introductions

2 p.m. — STP 500; 500 laps/263 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)