ROCKINGHAM, N.C. -- The whole incident made for a very interesting tale of the tape. In one corner, one of the youngest drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; in the other, one of the oldest.
An unexpected battle of the ages between heralded rookie Darrell Wallace Jr., 19, and decorated veteran Ron Hornaday Jr., 55, erupted in the late stages of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock presented by Cheerwine on Sunday at Rockingham Speedway. Their on-track shunt spilled over into a tense exchange on pit road with hints of a potential carryover next weekend at Kansas and the pedigree of the series' winningest driver being called into question.
"It's unfortunate. ? I seem like the veteran out of the rookie on that situation," said Wallace, who now has three career truck series starts to Hornaday's 325. "It's OK. They knew we were here."
The squabble began just before the last of seven caution periods, which extended the event past its scheduled distance of 200 laps. Both drivers had run parallel races, each working his way into the top 10 before fading onto its fringes in the closing stages.
Hornaday and Wallace scraped alongside each other as they fought for position. When the caution flew for Timothy Peters' crash with Ryan Sieg in the 198th lap, Hornaday decided to nudge Wallace's truck and rub his tire.
What happened instead was Hornaday's left-front fender snaring Wallace's right-rear, turning the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry hard into the outside wall. The incident was eerily similar to one involving Busch and Hornaday at Texas Motor Speedway in fall 2011, when Busch hooked Hornaday's truck in a similar but more violent fashion, resulting in NASCAR officials parking Busch for the rest of the weekend.
Wallace's day was done with a 27th-place finish. Hornaday was penalized for aggressive driving and placed at the rear of the field, where he soldiered on to finish 15th. But as race winner Kyle Larson celebrated with burnouts on the frontstretch, Wallace was emerging from the infield care center, unhurt physically but scarred emotionally.
"Just flat-out wrecks us. Just turned us ?," Wallace said as he watched a replay of the incident on a TV monitor. "I had to take his line away. I didn't put him in the fence or anything and he just pulls that bonehead move. I will go have a word with him -- I'm all happy, I'm not going to throw a punch or anything."
Before he made the stroll from the care center to his rival's No. 9 truck, Wallace had already been informed that Hornaday was apologetic and calling himself an idiot for the move. Once they were face to face, the "all happy" vibe quickly disappeared for Wallace, who saw Hornaday's idiot and raised him an expletive when they met.
"What was that?!" Wallace said.
"Idiot," Hornaday said, gesturing at himself. "I meant to rub your tire, dude. I did not mean to take you out."
"You want to run me like a (expletive) at the beginning of the race," Wallace said. After trying to sort out who nudged whom afterward, Wallace closed the matter with the warning, "Just be ready for Kansas."
Hornaday was left to lament being on the wrong side of accidents with a rookie driver for the second straight week. The previous weekend at Martinsville Speedway, he was nudged out of the lead by 20-year-old Jeb Burton.
"It's just hard racing," Hornaday said. "I don't know if it's just lack of respect or whatever, but we were tight all day and I had to run the top. Thirty other guys passed me on the bottom, so I don't know what to say."
Shortly after the confrontation, Hornaday was summoned to the NASCAR hauler to discuss the matter further with series officials. The altercation will be reviewed and any penalties would be announced near the early part of the week, NASCAR officials said.
While the review stage of the incident will continue, it's up for debate whether hard feelings between the two drivers at opposite ends of the age spectrum will linger into the series' next race.
"He just said he's going to wreck me at Kansas," Hornaday said, "whatever that means."
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