With two races in the books for the Camping World Truck Series and thanks to NASCAR’s new pick a series rule, there has yet to be a winner who’s running for the 2011 championship.
[media-credit name=”CIA Stock Photo” align=”alignright” width=”283″][/media-credit]Michael Waltrip’s emotional yet controversial win took center stage in Daytona to kick off the season. He’s not running for points in the CWTS and neither was the second place finisher Elliott Sadler. A week later in Phoenix it was more of the same as Kyle Busch took the win and Clint Bowyer was the runner up.
The series rolls into the Darlington Raceway this Saturday where again two drivers not running for points are looking to crash the party. CWTS regulars such as the defending winner of the event, Todd Bodine, have other plans.
First on the agenda for ‘The Onion’ is to continue his climb through the point standings. After a wreck in the season opening event, his 14th place finish in Phoenix has him sitting 12th in points.
The early deficit puts him in unfamiliar territory in his title defense. Attempting to become the first driver in CWTS history to win back-to-back championships, another strong performance Saturday will help his effort.
This past August in Darlington Bodine, in his No. 30 truck led 47 of 147 laps on his way to the victory. He comes into this weekend as the favorite to do it again. In part, it’s because the egg shaped track is one that Bodine is very much familiar with, making him a contender each time NASCAR is in town.
After practice Saturday morning Bodine was confident he’d be up front again.
“We were pretty good, pretty happy with it,” he said. “Drives good and does everything I need it to.”
Something that pleased Bodine was how his truck maintained a consistent speed on older tires. The track is starting to get the feel of old Darlington back he said, one that is eats rubber. During practice he wore out ever set of tires he had.
“I think we’ve got something for them,” he said about the race though. “I think we’ll be just fine.”
His August victory goes with one from a Nationwide Series race in 2003. Bodine’s experience also extends to the Cup Series.
That’s where his toughest competition will come from. Two of the most competitive and winning teams in the CWTS have big guns in their trucks. Kasey Kahne has the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota from Kyle Busch Motorsports while Elliott Sadler will be behind the wheel of Kevin Harvick Inc.’s No. 2 truck.
Kahne is also a past Darlington winner in the truck series at Darlington. It came in the first time he competed at the track back in 2004. That race also happened to be the first CWTS race of Kahne’s career.
Saturday will be his first start of the 2011 season in the CWTS. As of right now he does have any other truck races planned but says that could change. First comes Darlington.
“Darlington is an awesome race track and I’m sure that the Truck Series will put on a great show for the fans this weekend,” said Kahne. He’ll drive the same truck he finished second with at Pocono last year to Sadler.
Second at Darlington would ruin Kahne’s plan.
“I was looking around at all the victory banners on the wall when I took my seat over to KBM a few weeks ago,” Kahne said.
“Whether they came from trucks or late models, Kyle was the driver for pretty much every win. I told [him] I need to get a banner this year so he doesn’t control the wall.”
Both Kahne and Sadler will be up front on Saturday, many already putting money on the No. 18. Bodine knows that as well and doesn’t to see it become three for three in non-point winners.
“Well, that’s what we’re here for [to win], not to finish second,” said Bodine.
The Cup drivers winning the first two races of the year happened for a few reasons, Bodine said. What allowed Waltrip and Sadler to drive away for the win in Daytona was their understanding of the bump drafting from their experience in the Cup cars.
Waltrip’s win was then defended by Bodine.
“Everybody talked about Michael losing that spoiler and winning the race — that’s not what won him the race. He won the race because he was smart and I just want everyone to know that.”
In terms of Phoenix, the trucks that the Cup drivers were racing in are phenomenal and come from great teams. Adding a driver with of the caliber of a Kyle Busch or Kasey Kahne makes it hard to keep them from running up front.
“A guy like myself, we got caught up in a crash,” said Bodine.
“We weren’t probably going to win the race but we were going to be up front. [Ron] Hornaday didn’t have a perfect truck so there’s other factors involved than just those guys being that good.”
He then said, “they are that good — there’s no doubt about that. But there are other factors involved and you have to look at the whole picture to understand that.”
Bodine then said that when it comes to the race Saturday night the CWTS regulars will show that they can run with the Cup guys. Cup guys that will again be at the front of the field.
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said.