Todd Bodine hasn’t had a lot go right thus far in 2011. After winning the championship last season he’s suffered what’s known as the champions curse.
[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”243″][/media-credit]He entered Friday night’s race in Texas with only two top fives and two top 10s after eight races. He’s yet to find victory lane.
Unlikely statistics for a driver who could do no wrong a year ago, the Onion stunk up the show. No pun intended. Even in races where he spun put and could have lost points, Bodine came back to win. Not the case in 2011 as his team has struggled to remain on track, plagued by accidents and ignition problems.
Last weekend in Kansas, Bodine finally had an uneventful race, finishing third. Now he heads to a track that during the last five visits he’s been unstoppable.
Texas Motor Speedway is Todd Bodine. Last June he won for the sixth time at the speedway, and it was his fourth win in the last five Texas races. Just as Jimmie Johnson or Denny Hamlin are guarantees at Martinsville in the Sprint Cup Series, Bodine is a guarantee in the Lone Star state.
“We always feel like we can go win at Texas any time we race there,” said Bodine.
Now is a great time to go there and for Bodine to win. Currently sitting ninth in points his Germain Racing team is working hard to repeat as champions. Unlike how easy it appears for him to find victory lane in Texas, it’s not as easy to go back-to-back as the Camping World Truck Series champ. In fact, it has yet to be done.
If Bodine is going to climb back into the title hunt Texas would be a great place to start. This time around though, Bodine believes he and his No. 30 team are going to have to work a little harder to be first to the finish line.
“Goodyear’s coming back with a different tire so the advantage we had with our old setup for our NTB/Service Central/Valvoline Tundra is one we’ll have to work on with the tire change,” said Bodine. “We’ll just have to work hard to get out Toyota to go as fast as it normally does, but I’m sure this Germain Racing team will have no problem doing just that.”
Bodine has good reason not to be concerned. Texas will be the second time that chassis GR-019 has seen the racetrack, the first being its debut at Kansas. Bodine led laps and earned just his second top five of the year. It’s given him added confidence heading into the weekend.
“The good thing about this NTB/Service Central/Valvoline Tundra is its brand new and it really responds,” he said. “This Toyota Tundra was awesome and I can’t wait to see how it runs in Texas.”
Neither can teammate and returning CWTS star, Brendan Gaughan. Back full-time in the series after what might be described as rough stints in Cup and Nationwide, Gaughan is also looking for a Texas turnaround of his own. He might also be the only challenge to Bodine as he looks to recapture his TMS magic.
Bodine has been the Mr. Texas of the last few seasons but it was Gaughan who first wore the crown. In 2002 and 2003 the competition might as well not have shown up as Gaughan won four straight races, the first driver to accomplish the feat. However, Friday night will be the first time that he’s run at the facility in a Truck since 2008.
“Big Red is on the No. 62 Tundra this week and I couldn’t be more excited to have a sponsor and they couldn’t have picked a better race for me,” said Gaughan. “Texas is a race I’ve been looking forward to racing with this Germain Racing team and I hope Todd and I can be there at the end, battling it out for a win between Germain teammates. It would make for a great race for our Texas sponsor, Big Red.”
Gaughan sits 10th in points with only three top 10s but no top fives or wins. Far from the driver who was once a weekly contender in the sport. And who was one race away in 2003 from potentially winning the championship. Now back in the CTWS, Gaughan is eager to return to prominence and Germain Racing is the place to do so.
Things just haven’t gone as planned because like his teammate, Gaughan has also been plagued by various problems. Texas couldn’t come sooner for the two. Every trip to the Lone Star state though is special for Gaughan, as Friday night will be and not just because of his history there.
Gaughan says the facility is special to his whole family and calls it one of the most important venues on the CWTS schedule next to his home track of Las Vegas. Gaughan also knows of the expectations not only on himself but the entire Germain Racing team. The company has a combined 11 Texas victories heading into Friday night.
“Texas feels different than any other race track because of the history there,” said Gaughan. “It feels great to show up at Texas, knowing that we are capable of winning with our Big Red Tundra but it’s a double-edged sword. If I have a bad race at Texas, it makes it that much worse.”