Todd Bodine, who forms one-third of a trio of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors that have a significant winning legacy at Texas Motor Speedway, enters this weekend's WinStar World Casino 400 with his eyes wide open.
Bodine, who has a series-best six career victories at the high-speed 1.5-mile quad-oval that's the site of Friday night's race, will have a completely new crew working at the racetrack on his No. 13 SealMaster Toyota fielded by ThorSport Racing. Bodine will also work with a new spotter at Texas, 2005 Truck Series champion Ted Musgrave.
"Drivers make the best spotters and I know Teddy knows what he's doing," Bodine said. "I've never had the chance for him to spot for me, but he spotted quite a bit for (four-time Truck Series champion Ron) Hornaday last year and he was good at it."
Bodine's spent the first six Truck Series races this season working with ThorSport crew chief Jeriod Prince and the crew that has concurrently been servicing Frank Kimmel's ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship-leading No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota.
But with ARCA practicing and qualifying on Friday in preparation for Saturday's Pocono ARCA 200 in Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Truck Series scheduled to race on Friday night, Prince's crew assembled and set up Bodine's truck before it left the ThorSport shop for Texas.
ThorSport Racing general manager David Pepper and Bodine collaborated with previous connections in the sport to create a solution for this weekend. Jason Miller, who formerly worked with Pepper at Bobby Hamilton Racing and who more recently has worked as a crew chief on trucks and in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will lead Bodine's crew, comprised of some of Miller's teammates on the VIVA Motorsports Nationwide team, which isn't racing this weekend.
Bodine is VIVA driver Jamie Dick's driver coach, and in that role he's driven cars prepared by Miller and worked closely with the crew chief on their setups.
"Jason and I haven't had a chance to work together on a truck," Bodine said. "But working with Jamie I've been around Jason at the track and I've driven his cars a little bit and I've gotten to know him really well. We think a lot alike and he's a really good guy, so I think we'll be just fine.
"This is something we both wanted, to be able to work together like this and now we're getting the chance. And I think Texas is the perfect place to do it."
Bodine hopes that puts him in a position to add to his Texas spoils. Bodine is one of four former winners that are entered this weekend and while Bodine's won the most Texas Truck Series races, two other drivers have authored significant winning streaks.
Bodine's ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter won both 2012 Truck Series races, while Bodine's former Germain Racing teammate Brendan Gaughan won four consecutive Texas Truck races, from June 2002 to November 2003 while racing for his family-operated team. Three-time Texas winner Hornaday Jr. is the other former winner in the 33-truck field.
"Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you have good trucks and I've been blessed to have both -- six times at Texas," Bodine said. "Sometimes you hit a track you just like, and Texas is that way for me. I substituted for Ricky Craven in the first Texas Cup race and almost won that. I've just always enjoyed that track."
Bodine's numbers reflect that. Four of his six wins have come in the June race, in 2006-2007, 2009 and 2010 while his first two, in 2004-2005, were in November. Bodine registered six consecutive Texas top-five finishes from 2008-2010, when he was driving for Germain Racing. In 17 Texas starts Bodine has 10 top-five and 11 top-10 finishes.
But in his last four starts, Bodine has only an eighth-place finish last fall to show. So he hopes the new ThorSport combination gets him back on familiar ground in Texas.
"In a truck at Texas you pretty much run wide open and it's all about keeping the truck free and making it drive good," Bodine said. "And I've just always had good trucks to drive at Texas. When they drive really well, it makes it easier to go fast.
"You're walking a very fine line at Texas because you want to run wide open in race trim and you've got to have it good and free so it'll roll the corner fast and not get bogged-down. So the fine line comes from having it too free and the truck tries to spin out or not free enough and it's tight and doesn't want to turn in the corners -- that's where the big difference is."
Bodine and Miller will have a chance to fine tune their truck in a pair of Thursday practices, from 12:30-1:45 p.m. ET and 2:15-3:30 p.m. Qualifying to set the starting lineup is at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The season's seventh race will be telecast live on SPEED Channel Friday at 9 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 8:30 p.m. MRN Radio's live broadcast also begins at 8:30.