More to the point, each man had to overcome significant obstacles to be able to claim the title of champion.
For Bodine, the scrappy 46-year-old New York native, winning another NCWTS driver championship to with the one in captured in 2006 required a personal commitment from owners Bob, Steve and Rick Germain to field his familiar No. 30 Toyota Tundra with or without sponsorship. And while Valvoline stepped up for four races, for most of the season the team’s primary sponsor was Germain.com, which meant the three brothers were sponsoring their own car.
“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,” said Bodine. “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.
“They put that commitment, that trust in Jr. (Mike Hillman Jr., crew chief) and Sr. (Mike Hillman, general manager) and myself and all these guys that we can go out and get it done. ... We’ve got an incredible race team.”
And the team has a pretty spectacular driver, too.
During the 2010 season, Bodine posted two poles, four race victories, 17 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in just 25 starts. He won the championship by 207 points over Aric Almirola, a margin of more than one full race. No matter how you slice it, that’s stout, especially for a time struggling for dollars.
“When three guys get together and decide, ‘We’ve got enough confidence in this race team and we’ve got enough confidence in our driver and we’re going to put the funds behind it to do this,’ that says a lot for the people that work for them and the respect that they have for those people,” Bodine said of the Germains.
“And it goes both ways. We respect the hell out of them. They’re great guys. They’ve put their heart and soul into this team and this year came out of their pocket. ... To be able to come out of here with four wins and a championship, I’m glad we could pay them back with that.”
Kyle Busch Motorsports won the owners’ championship with a season that was every bit as impressive as Bodine’s. Driving his own No. 18 KBM Toyota, Busch won eight times in only 16 starts, scoring 13 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. Kasey Kahne, Johnny Benson and James Buescher filled for KBM in the events Busch didn’t compete in.
Busch’s challenge was to build something from nothing — a year ago at this time, KBM had just four employees. The week before Speedweeks started at Daytona, Busch found out that he was losing Miccosukee Resorts as his primary sponsor. That necessitated trimming his team back from two trucks to one.
Add in a midseason move into a new, state-of-the-art facility in Mooresville, N.C., as well as planning a wedding with fiancee Samantha Sarcinella and his day jobs driving NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide cars for Joe Gibbs Racing and it was a busy year for Busch. And, oh by the way, at the ripe old age of 25, Busch has a staggering 86 race victories in NASCAR’s top three divisions.
“For our first year, to come out here and be so strong and have the guys I have pulling every single week for us, working as hard as we work and having the partners that we have, they’re pumped about it,” Busch said. “They love every minute of it. It’s been fun. We’re still looking for more next year and securing some bigger sponsors for some more races. But, hopefully, we can get some of that done during the offseason and go to Daytona and look forward to the full year.”
Still, it was a monumental achievement to accomplish what KBM did. And he capped it off in high style, winning the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
“For me, it’s great to be able to get this opportunity and come out here and race in this series, to race with these competitors — guys like Ron Hornaday and Todd Bodine,” said Busch. “Congratulations to Todd on the driver’s championship. Like I said, I can’t thank everybody on this team enough. They do such a phenomenal job. We barely made it to Daytona with a couple trucks. We went through a lot of adversity. These guys worked some long hours this year. They’ve done a phenomenal job for me. I just can’t thank them enough.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.