Todd Bodine had one of his more frustrating weekends at Rockingham Speedway and it came to a head Sunday, when the two-time Rockingham Nationwide winner spun on a restart, hit the inside wall on the backstretch and had to retire from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock presented by Cheerwine.
Bodine's No. 13 SealMaster Toyota had struggled with an unbalanced handling package throughout the race that finally culminated in his ThorSport Racing truck's demise with 18 laps to go in the original distance. Bodine ended up 32nd in the final rundown and lost seven spots in the championship standings, though he's only 10 points out of 10th.
"We just missed the set-up and we struggled with it," Bodine said. "We made some changes that would make one part of the corner better but it would make the other part of the corner worse. We'd fix those and then one part would be better and the other, worse.
"We just never could get it right."
That was the kiss of death for their chances to win, or even to finish well. Even with their set-up struggles Bodine and crew chief Jeriod Prince worked hard to never fall out of the top 20 in the running order, or off the lead lap as eventual race winner Kyle Larson dominated -- leading 187 of 200 laps -- but never putting Bodine a lap down.
Bodine said he screwed up his qualifying lap on Sunday morning and started 19th in the 36-truck field on account. But through the race's first 170 laps Bodine ran as high as 13th and never fell lower than 17th. When the fifth caution waved at lap 174 with Bodine running 17th, the ThorSport pair's decision was easy.
"Near the end of the race we really had nothing to lose," Bodine said. "So we came in and put those tires on and on the restart, it just never stuck. I don't know if the tire was going flat, or I got hit but it just never stuck, I spun out and hit the wall."
That occurred on lap 181. The truck returned to pit road, but had to go to the garage and retire, relegating Bodine to a 32nd-place finish. The worst aspect of the final mishap was that Bodine dropped from seventh in the championship to 14th, although he's still only 10 points behind 10th-place Bubba Wallace.
The weekend was a struggle for Bodine and Prince, who'd scored 11th-place finishes in their first two races together this season. In the first 90-minute practice, they only completed one run -- going out but not completing a lap four other times.
"We were trying to work (the handling) out, but there was no need to stay on the racetrack," Bodine said of how quickly -- just through the first two corners -- he and his men were able to deduce where they were.
And in the end the race was their worst nightmare.
"It's just about catastrophic if you can't work out the set-up, because it's all about balance here, about the longevity of the set-up," Bodine said Sunday after the race. "You can run good off the (new) tires for a little while but then it's the balance of the truck that's gonna make the difference, and we just missed it in the set-up and the balance."
The team looks to rebound this weekend at Kansas Speedway, the site of the season's fourth race, on a 1.5-mile high-banked oval that will be held on Saturday, April 20. Bodine's last three finishes at Kansas are two thirds and a fifth in 2012.