Bodine perseveres for lead-lap 17th at Charlotte
If at first that doesn't seem like much of a reward for the No. 13 Mattei Air Compressors Toyota crew, consider that it unofficially gained Bodine two positions in the standings. He came into Charlotte 16th and heads to Dover in almost two weeks in a tie for 14th, only 15 points outside the top 10.
"That truck just wasn't lead-lap material," Bodine said of his second free pass of the race, which came on the last caution with 11 laps left. "But Jeriod and our guys never give up, they never stopped trying and the way circumstances played out, we were able to race onto the lead lap at the end, and even pick up a couple spots."
Bodine pitted and went back several spots but in the end he had the satisfaction of racing well with rookie Brennan Newberry, who lost control and wrecked Bodine at Kansas in their last race together, in very similar circumstances. Newberry was ahead of Bodine on the last restart with eight laps left, but finished just behind him.
But Bodine's career-long Truck Series frustration at Charlotte, NASCAR's high-speed showplace, continued from the moment his ThorSport Racing team unloaded their Tundra and sadly, it wasn't finished when they loaded it back up late Friday night.
"Nothing we did to the truck all weekend long did anything to change it," Bodine said. "It was too tight when we unloaded it Thursday and it was too tight when we put it back into the trailer Friday night -- but at least we put it back in there in one piece so we'll be able to work on it, and try to make it better.
"But it was pushing so badly we never could get any speed out of it, and that made it really hard to compete."
While his ThorSport teammates, point leader Matt Crafton and current sixth-place holder Johnny Sauter, mostly danced around in the top 10 in all three practices, Bodine struggled to get out of the 20s, which was an issue that continued in Friday afternoon's qualifying session, when he clocked the 32nd-best lap.
"I think there's just something wrong with the chassis, because we even tried to run the same set-up as Matt," Bodine said of Crafton's No. 88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Tundra, which came on at the end Friday for a fourth-place finish that extended Crafton's points lead to 22 over Jeb Burton. "But when we did, our truck didn't run as good as Matt's was, so that made us think something was wrong with it, so we'll have to figure it out."
One thing Bodine didn't have to think much about during the race occurred at lap 95, when the veteran Ron Hornaday had a tire go down on the backstretch. When Hornaday got to Turn 3 that caused his truck to go straight up the banking, where it wrecked two rookies, Ryan Blaney and Jake Crum. Bodine, who was a few car lengths behind that pair, knew what to do.
"I saw it coming and I knew what was happening," Bodine said. "I saw the truck sparking and I knew he wasn't gonna make the corner. Those guys were trying to go around him (on the high side) but I knew I wanted to go below him, because of it."
Crum was eliminated and Blaney, who had one of the fastest trucks all weekend, was knocked outside the top 20.
Charlotte was the first of five races this season in which Bodine and Prince couldn't find a competitive set-up with which to alter their truck. But it still has Bodine looking forward to the series' next race, which opens with two practice sessions at Dover International Speedway on Thursday, May 30.
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