The championship of the Sprint Cup circuit has a way of overshadowing about everything else in motorsports. That’s why Trevor Bayne’s amazing Cup debut at Texas Motor Speedway wasn’t one of the biggest stories coming out of that race and why Carl Edwards' win at Phoenix last week, one that ended a drought that stretched back to 2008, wasn’t the biggest story of the day.
And it’s why Todd Bodine's championship in the Camping World Truck Series won’t generate the headlines it should.
But among hard-core race fans and racers, Bodine’s win is a big deal, and he did it in one of the few racing series that has actually seen TV ratings increase this year.
Bodine, a veteran of all three of NASCAR’s elite series, has shown over the years that he’s got talent aplenty.
In his Sprint Cup career, he’s had seven top-five and 21 top-10 finishes plus five poles all while driving for teams that weren’t among the powerhouses.
In the Nationwide Series he has 15 career wins, and finished second in the points standings once, third twice and fourth twice.
In the truck series he now has 21 wins, four of them this year, two titles, the first coming in 2006, and he’s finished third twice and fourth twice, all in the past six seasons.
He’s also one of the sport’s best at media relations, always finding a way to accommodate interview requests, even those not made very far in advance.
He’s also one of the few in the sport who will take the time just to chew the fat with the press, and learn their names, and use them.
Bodine also is known for giving honest answers, and for being appreciative of the people that help put his trucks on the track.
At Phoenix, he clinched the title with a 12th-place finish. It was just the third time in the past 11 races that he’d finished worse than sixth, and that seemed to be on his mind as much as the title he secured.
“Actually, I wish it felt better,” he answered when asked how it felt to be his circuit’s 2010 champion. “That was such a terrible performance tonight. But, one night doesn’t make a team. And Germain Racing has done a hell of a job all year — so consistent every week. Once in a while you’re going to slip and have nights like this, but we never gave up. We kept digging the whole night.”
That’s pretty much been the story for Bodine and his team, led by crew chief Mike Hillman Jr.
Sometimes the challenges are with the truck, sometimes with obtaining sponsors.
In tough economic times, truck teams, even the best of them, have struggled to find adequate backing.
Bodine’s team has run many a race this season without adequate backing, but they’re racers so they press on.
“We didn’t have a sponsor, but the Germain brothers decided last winter that we were going to race this 30 truck no matter what,” Bodine said. “They were going to come out of their pockets to make this happen knowing that we have a team that can go out and win races, run up front and win championships. They knew that they had that kind of team.”
One of these days, there ought to be a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame for hard-core racers like the Bodines, Todd and his brothers Geoff and Brett, and the Hillmans, Mike Jr. and Mike Sr., and the Germains.
Rick Minter is a veteran, award-winning sports journalist who joined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1991 covering motorsports as well as serving as a bureau chief. From 2000-2008 Minter focused on racing exclusively, traveling the NASCAR circuit as the paper’s motorsports writer.
Rick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org