SANDUSKY, Ohio – Todd Bodine’s won more than half of his 22 career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ victories on 1.5-mile tracks, but never at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s showplace venues and site of Friday evening’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
Ironically, Bodine has owned Charlotte’s sister track, Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, where he’s won six times. So after a four-week break for the Truck Series and with Mattei Air Compressors’ signage gracing his No. 13 ThorSport Racing Toyota for the second time this season, Bodine figures there’s no time like the present to add to his 12 career victories on 1.5-mile tracks.
“It feels good to be going back to the track because you know I’m always ready to race,” Bodine said, chuckling. “But that’s especially true at Charlotte because it’s a track I’ve always enjoyed and run well at and obviously we have the comforts of home — sleeping in my own bed — and you can’t discount what that means.”
Bodine’s won at Charlotte, and with the Truck Series racing this weekend in conjunction with the Sprint All-Star Race, it’s fitting those victories came in the Winston Open — formerly the All-Star Race’s qualifying event.
“But I’ve never won a points race, in any division at Charlotte and I think that it’s finally time we brought that situation to an end,” Bodine said. “Sometimes I’ve just had bad luck. I had a shot to win a Truck race, spun (Ron) Hornaday out and got put to the back…
“Just some dumb things like that, and I’ve never gotten the whole thing done. But now, with this ThorSport team with Mattei behind us again — and as good as we’ve run this season — I think it’s time to get it done.”
Bodine, who was one of three ThorSport drivers in the top seven of the standings until he hit a rough patch in consecutive races at Rockingham and Kansas, would like nothing better than to get back up in the points neighborhood with his teammates, who are currently one-two in the championship.
Matt Crafton’s No. 88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Toyota is leading the points by 13 over a two-man tie for second between ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter, who drives the No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota and rookie Jeb Burton. Bodine is currently 16th in the standings, but only 19 points outside the top 10.
Bodine does have four top-five finishes in nine Truck Series starts at Charlotte, including a second-place run in 2010 and a third-place last May, so there’s some cause for optimism bolstered by the reappearance of Mattei as the team’s sponsor. Bodine gave Mattei’s guests a show at Daytona as he pushed Sauter to the lead, from which Sauter won the race.
“Their compressors are state-of-the-art and Mattei knows how to make this program in NASCAR work to achieve their goals,” Bodine said. “I’ve had a lot of fun working with them and we’re looking forward to this weekend.”
NASCAR has scheduled a 4.5-hour open-practice session Thursday split from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET and 2-4:30 p.m. That roughly equates to Friday’s only official practice, from 10:30-11:50 a.m.; and also relates to Friday’s 4 p.m. qualifying session. But with ThorSport crew chief Jeriod Prince and Bodine having had only four race weekends together, every lap is precious even if the Thursday test’s timing doesn’t really match the race schedule.
“For Jeriod and myself it’s definitely a good thing, because we’re still getting used to each other a little bit,” Bodine said of the additional practice. “Jeriod’s still trying to figure out what I like and how I like the truck to be set up. We just need to learn how to fine-tune the set-up and get what I like onto the truck.
“It’s not like we have a notebook from the last three years of going to these racetracks together and figuring all this stuff out. We’re starting from zero and we’re having to work all this out, so that extra practice is definitely a good thing for us, to move that process along.”
The season’s fifth race, 134 laps and 201 miles, is scheduled for an 8 p.m. start Friday, with live television on SPEED Channel beginning with “The Set-Up” pre-race show at 7:30. MRN Radio has live radio coverage, also beginning at 7:30.