Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Bodine plotting move into contention as series hits Tennessee
By John Schwarb
Special to ESPN.com
Todd Bodine now calls it a "laughable memory," dueling with fellow Toyota driver Mike Skinner on the penultimate lap to the point of ruin for both in, ironically, the Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway a year ago.
That kind of history isn't likely to repeat itself Saturday when the Craftsman Truck Series returns to Tennessee for the first of two races this month. But should Bodine find himself in another on-track battle in the closing moments with Skinner, the sense of urgency may be high.
With 11 races to go and 246 points to make up, Bodine can't afford many more finishes behind his rival, the current points leader.
The defending champion picked up 42 points two weeks ago with Skinner running 20th at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis (his first finish this season outside the top 10) and himself finishing sixth.
Ron Hornaday won at ORP, closing his gap to 77 points and building talk of a two-man shootout for the championship. If Bodine wants to become the third man in, this weekend at Lebanon, Tenn., would be a good time to start.
"I've always run well there, and I've done well in testing at Nashville," said Bodine, who won two months ago at Texas Motor Speedway and has had only one finish outside the top 10 since. "It's just been a good track for me and I hope we can turn that into a win this year."
The Germain Racing driver thought he had a win a year ago, bumping Skinner aside on the first lap of a green-white-checkered finish and leading down the backstretch at the 1.333-mile oval. But Skinner, of Bill Davis Racing, fought back and bumped Bodine.
Both drivers nearly lost control of their Tundras, taking them out of contention and allowing another Toyota, Johnny Benson's, to slip through to the win.
|Todd Bodine figures he's not out of time yet.|
Of course after the race the two had conflicting views of the contentious lap, with each accusing the other of wrecking him in order to win. Tensions cooled over time though, and the two remain friends.
"We remember it every week," Bodine said this week. "We classify it as a 'laughable memory' and we put it behind us. Mike says we're both boneheads, but we know better than that. We've chalked it up to hardheaded racing and we'll go to Nashville and race each other like we do anywhere.
"We never plan on mistakes like that, but we probably expect hard racing out of each other."
It's not farfetched for Bodine to get back into the hunt and challenge Hornaday and Skinner. In 2005, his first full season in a truck, Bodine collected top-three finishes in eight of the last 11 events with four wins including three in a row to close the year.
Before those final 11 races, he was 13th in points and 416 behind first. At year's end he was third, 73 points behind champion Ted Musgrave.
Next race, catch can?
Mike says we're both boneheads, but we know better than that. We've chalked it up to hardheaded racing and we'll go to Nashville and race each other like we do anywhere.
Patricia Stout's race weekend duties usually revolve around feeding her son's team. Driver J.C. Stout has her food before the race, then sees mom afterward.
Saturday, she'll be closer to the action. Over the pit wall, in fact. Stout is serving as the rear-tire carrier for the No. 91 team, standing in for a regular crew member who is sick. It is believed to be the first time a driver's mother has served on his over-the-wall crew in a NASCAR national series event.
"I have to do whatever is needed to keep J.C. going," Patricia Stout said.
"She can do whatever she puts her mind to, and I love her for being willing to do this for me and our team," J.C. said.
The Stout team is a family-owned part-time operation, having made 13 starts since 2003. This year the team has run at Charlotte, Michigan and Kentucky.
Just 33 trucks were on the preliminary entry list this week, so without any late additions the series will have its smallest field since Nashville in 2003, which also had 33 trucks.
Series sponsor Craftsman turns 80 this month, so the teams leading Lap 80 at Nashville and in two weeks at Bristol, Tenn., will receive bonus money.
Nashville Superspeedway awards one-of-a-kind guitars to all its major event winners. "Everyone wants to win that guitar," said Ken Schrader, of Bobby Hamilton Racing. "I don't think you will meet a driver in the garage area who doesn't have that trophy on their list."
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.