Racing in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway is like a homecoming for Todd Bodine.
He has been to races there both as a competitor and a spectator. He won a pole there for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. He's even worked the pits there, changing tires for his brother Brett when the Modifieds used to run at Pocono.
"I've been going there since I was 8 years old," Bodine said, relaxing in his motor coach at Dover in May. "It's part of being a Bodine, going to Pocono."
This weekend, he returns for the Pocono Mountains 125, looking for a historic win at a place he considers home.
"When I heard that we were going to race there, I was tickled," Bodine said. "As a driver, that's one of the funnest race tracks you can race on. With three different turns, it's such a challenge. It's like Nazareth, just bigger. I always liked Nazareth and I've always enjoyed Pocono."
Besides his years of racing at Pocono, Bodine, whose nickname is "the Onion," is connected to the area in other ways. His wife, the former Janet Paczkowski, is from Wilkes-Barre. Thursday, they hosted the first Onion Slice Open golf tournament at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Course in Mountaintop. The event benefits pediatric patients at the John Heinz Medical Center who are suffering from brain disease and brain trauma.
"I went out second and put up a number that nobody could beat," Bodine said. "It got toward the end of qualifying and the only guy we had to worry about was Ricky Rudd and he ended up second. That was a pretty neat day.
"For a driver, it means a lot to get a pole at Pocono because Pocono is a lot like road racing. It's easy to miss one corner and if you mess one corner up, you're not going to get a good lap. You've got to get all three corners good to get a good, solid lap to get a pole and we did. We had a really great lap that day."
Since September 2004, Bodine has raced full-time on the Truck Series for Germain Racing. In 145 races with Germain, he has five poles, 18 wins, 73 top-five and 86 top-10 finishes. He has placed in the top four in the point standings every season since 2005, capturing the series championship in 2006.
Through 12 races this season in the No. 30 Toyota, Bodine has one win, nine top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. He leads the standings with 1,861 points, 177 more than second-place Aric Almirola.
While driving in the Truck Series, Bodine has made just 11 Sprint Cup Series starts.
"I enjoy the trucks. They're a lot of fun to drive," Bodine said. "For me and the career I've had, it's very important for me to be with good people who want me around and believe in me. I don't think I can find anybody that believes in me more than (crew chief Mike Hillman Jr.) and the Germains. They believe in my abilities. You hear people talk about a family and we truly do have a family at Germain Racing.
"That's not to say I wouldn't want to move back up. I still feel like I have something to prove in the Cup Series."
This weekend, though, Bodine has his sights set on winning the first truck race at Pocono. He said he hopes his past history at the track will give him an edge.
"I really believe experience is going to make a difference there, having laps on the track," he said.
Because of the race's length (50 laps), Bodine said he feels it could be a strategic race. Someone will attempt to make it on just one pit stop.
"What that is determined on is how well the tires wear and how much they drop off," Bodine said. "That's the one thing about Pocono. If you're running toward the front, you can short pit and then, if a caution comes out and everybody pits, you've got the lead. But it all comes down to the tire - how well it wears and how little it drops off."
The Pocono Mountains 125 is part of the Sunoco American Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend at Pocono.
Practice for the Truck Series is scheduled today from 8-10 a.m. and from 5:30-7 p.m. A unique multi-truck qualifying format will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. with the race set to get the green flag at 1 p.m.
Source : http://republicanherald.com/sports/pocono-feels-like-home-for-bodine-1.910604