LOUDON, N.H. -- On the surface, the choice seemed easy.
Trying to chase down Kyle Busch at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, Ron Hornaday Jr. peeked in the mirror and saw the No. 2 Chevy driven by NASCAR star Kevin Harvick getting closer and closer.
It was obvious, on the scanner, in the stands and certainly to Harvick -- who happens to own the No. 33 Chevy Hornaday was driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race -- that Hornaday should let the boss slide by so the two Cup drivers could battle it out for the win.
It was not obvious, however, to Hornaday.
So rather than give Harvick the room he needed to pass on the outside, the 51-year-old truck series veteran did what he's done since taking up the sport in Southern California decades ago: he raced.
Harvick never did catch Busch, mostly because he couldn't catch Hornaday. Afterward Harvick did little to hide his displeasure with what he called a lack of communication with his friend and employee.
Not that it mattered to Hornaday, who wasn't exactly apologetic.
"I just ran as hard as I could," he said. "I was racing I guess, I don't know."
All Hornaday knows is he's in the middle of a contentious fight for the truck series title, and while letting Harvick go on his way might have been the politically correct thing to do, Hornaday wasn't going to give away valuable track position and the points that go along with it. Never has. Never will.
Sorry, at age 51 -- a year older than Cup star Mark Martin -- Hornaday isn't sure how many more shots he's got at this thing.
"I'm going to ride it as long as I can," he said. "Like DeLana (Harvick) says, I've got a job forever, so I'm having fun doing it."
Even if it means occasionally ticking off the people who sign the checks.
That competitiveness has made him one of the series' most accomplished drivers. He takes a 217-point lead over Matt Crafton into Saturday's race at Las Vegas as he searches for his fourth championship.
A win would help erase some of the sting from 2008, when he narrowly missed out on the title and had to answer questions about steroid use after a report that he used a topical steroid cream. It turned out he had Graves' Disease, which affects the thyroid and causes significant weight loss.
A year later, his appetite is back. So is his presence atop the standings.
Hornaday got off to a slow start -- by his standards -- in 2009, and didn't pick up his first win of the year until Charlotte in the season's sixth race. Then, over the summer, things just started to click. He ripped off a record five straight races between June 20 and Aug. 1.
That hot streak put Hornaday in some heady company. He edged IndyCar's Ryan Briscoe and NHRA's Antron Brown in third-quarter voting for the 2009 Driver of the Year award. Other quarterly winners this year included Jeff Gordon and Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
Even so, Crafton is hardly ready to cede the title. He wrecked Hornaday late in a race two weeks ago at Gateway, sending him into the wall and his truck to the repair shop.
A couple decades ago it might have bothered Hornaday or caused him to spend the next race looking to settle the score. Not anymore. He took the blame for the incident, saying if he'd gotten off to a better start Crafton wouldn't have hit him.
He's not quite as grouchy as he used to be. Hornaday admits he probably couldn't have worked with crew chief Rick Ren 10 years ago "because we both had our own ways."
Now they're in the middle of one of the more dominant seasons in history of the truck series. Even Crafton can't help but appreciate the show his rival has put on over the last three months.
"He's doing an awesome job at 51 years old," Crafton said. "What I really like is too, everyone always says you've got to go and get the next 18-year-old, the next 20-year-old to go out and do the job. To see the way Hornaday does it, how tough he is week in and week out, that says a lot."
In an era when NASCAR is seemingly combing high schools across the country in search of the next big star -- see Joey Logano -- Hornaday knows he's a throwback.
"I'm very privileged to have Rick and myself at the age that we are where we both know what we're capable of doing," he said.
Besides, there are advantages to racing these days that he didn't have a few years ago. His children are grown up, and he no long worries about what's going at home when he heads to the track.
"I don't have to worry about if they're going to go racing or be driving my cars or having parties at my house," he said. "So I'm having a lot more fun racing now than I ever have been."
He and fellow series veteran Mike Skinner, 52, have become mentors to some of the younger drivers. He loves the diversity in the series, so long as the kids know their place.
"It's so cool to see the truck series have the young and the elderly ... it's just cool racing," he said with a laugh. "The kids have got to make a name for themselves and (Mike) Skinner and I have to go out there and put trophies on the mantle."