Bodine, Prince & crew make giant step at Martinsville
Todd Bodine fell victim to another driver's apparent impatience Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, and his No. 13 SealMaster Toyota's potential was ultimately borne out by a come-backing 11th-place finish in the Kroger 250.
When Bodine was spun out by Kevin Harvick as the pair went into Turn 3 on the 229th lap it created the scenario that not only enabled Bodine's ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter to make the winning move in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota, it also facilitated their third teammate, Matt Crafton's charge into second in his No. 88 Rip It Energy Fuel / Menards Tundra.
But Bodine took away a big-picture view and it centered on crew chief Jeriod Prince and his double-duty team, which also fields ThorSport's ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards championship-leading Toyota Camry for Frank Kimmel.
"I'm very impressed with Jeriod and all his guys," Bodine said. "For just coming in here and working with a new driver, I'm very impressed. Jeriod's got a great head on his shoulders and a way of running the team that's very calm, cool and collected and that's very important for a crew chief to be able to do that.
"We struggled in practice and qualifying and made some changes for the race -- and we were actually really good. That's a very positive sign, when you can make changes blindly, not get to try 'em and actually make the right changes. That's really hard to do and that's what we were able to do, and to run well."
To his point, Bodine qualified only 23rd on Friday afternoon, but when the green flag fell his Tundra moved forward. The unique part of the solid relationship Prince and his crew have with Bodine is that they formulated a strategy to put them near the front when it mattered, even if their wheelman wasn't totally on board.
"Jeriod took a little calculated gamble on our pit strategy and it was going to pay off," Bodine said, even though, at the time Prince made the call not to pit when most of the rest of the lead-lap trucks did, Bodine had politely said on his in-truck radio, 'Just so you know, I don't agree with that call.'"
But Bodine quickly bought-into the plan, and with the exception of another driver spinning him out, almost executed it to perfection. That led Prince to say, after the race as he congratulated his driver and crew, "We should have had a ThorSport one-two-three." Bodine readily agreed.
"It was absolutely the perfect strategy," Bodine said. "And then we got ran over by Harvick. To be able to come in and put those old tires on and drive back to 11th -- that was pretty good and it just shows you how good the truck was."
Perhaps the most positive thing about Bodine's first two races with ThorSport is that, after two races in which circumstances largely out of his control cost Bodine better finishes than he deserved, he's still seventh in the championship, behind leader Sauter and third-place Crafton.
"That's very positive, there's no doubt about that," Bodine said. "To be able to have a new team that you've never worked with and to do as well as we've done... I'm a realist -- I don't look at the finish, I look at the performance.
"And the performance indicates we could have won both races (Daytona and Martinsville). To me that speaks volumes for the team and for what Jeriod's doing."
Sauter's hoping he can apply everything he learned at Martinsville, this weekend at Rockingham Speedway, a one-mile high-banked oval in the North Carolina sand hills that is legendary for abusing tires. The season's third race, the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock presented by Cheerwine, starts at 1:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
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