SANDUSKY, Ohio — There’s no question Todd Bodine knows how to race well at Martinsville Speedway. But if you’re a Bodine racing in Martinsville, Va., running well isn’t good enough — you’re expected to win.
That’s because Todd’s older brothers, Geoff and Brett, have an unprecedented winning legacy at Martinsville. Geoff is the only driver in the track’s history to have won in modified, sportsman (current Nationwide Series) and Cup Series cars — including what’s now Hendrick Motorsports’ first Cup Series win.
Geoff was part of the greatest finish in the track’s — and some say in all of motorsports’ history — with the late, great Richie Evans in 1981. For his part, Brett has two Modified Tour wins and two victories in the Busch Series at Martinsville’s .526-mile oval.
Being winless at the paperclip-shaped oval is a heavy burden for Todd Bodine to carry to Virginia this weekend as he’ll line his No. 13 SealMaster Toyota up for his 18th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start there when the Kroger 250 goes green on Saturday.
Todd has seven Truck Series top-10 finishes that include five top fives — with two seconds among them — but he knows that’s not good enough.
“I need to get (winning) done because I’m not going to have a whole lot of shots left at Martinsville,” Bodine, a two-time Truck Series champion who has 22 series wins, said. “It would mean a lot to get that win (at Martinsville) and the pressure is getting high, so I’ve gotta get it done.”
Todd Bodine, who was the key figure in ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter winning the season-opener at Daytona six weeks ago in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota, is going to be counting on Sauter and their teammate Matt Crafton (No. 88 Rip It Energy Fuel / Menards Toyota) for as much help as possible since Bodine didn’t test for Martinsville and Sauter and Crafton did.
Bodine does have the benefit of having a race-driving crew chief, Jeriod Prince, who shook down Bodine’s truck at the test and was within two-tenths of a second of Sauter on older tires.
“I know with Johnny and Matt’s success (at Martinsville),” Bodine said. “And as well as they run, we should unload with a good set-up and be very close and hopefully get another opportunity to run up front.”
Bodine has 13 lead-lap finishes in his 17 previous Martinsville Truck Series starts, but strangely enough he hasn’t led a lot of laps. In the two races he finished second in, in spring 2007 and fall 2008, he led laps in neither. He’s only led laps in three of his Martinsville starts, though two of them were sizable ones: 74 laps led in spring 2005 when he finished fourth and 83 laps in fall 2010 when he finished third.
As frustrating as his 50-50 finishes have been, Bodine is knowledgeable about what he needs. And with the way he and Prince came out of the box at Daytona, where they finished a come-backing 11th after getting shuffled out of the draft on a restart, Bodine’s confident they’ll figure out how to get there.
“Well, you gotta have everything to succeed at Martinsville,” Bodine said. “The truck’s gotta stop, it’s gotta turn and it’s gotta get up off the corner. If you lack in one area, you know you’re half a tenth (of a second) off and at Martinsville, if you’re half a tenth off you’re not going to win.
“You still gotta have a good strategy and be able to pit in the right sequence and do the right things there to get your track position. I think Jeriod’s got enough experience — not only as a crew chief but as a car chief. He’s seen enough races that he understands how to get that done. I think he’ll do just fine.
“For as little time as we’ve spent together, I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I think he’s very smart and very confident at the job.”
And that may lead to Prince and Bodine having to make key strategic decisions this weekend in a race that’s 50 laps longer than the fall Kroger-sponsored event.
“Obviously you want to be at the front and have the best tires you can have,” Bodine said. “That doesn’t always work out and that’s where being smart… You know, we’re going to have to watch the tires in practice and know how much the lap times are going to drop off and figure all that out and do your back-run on the race, from the end of the race and figure out when you want to pit.
“Hopefully you can get the chance in there somewhere, but then when you pit, the odds are that most of the field is going to pit, so you gotta be ready to get a good pit stop and get out (in front).”
If that all works out that might enable Bodine to join his brothers as Martinsville victors — but the first of the three siblings to win at Martinsville in a truck.
The Kroger 250 is scheduled for a 1:30 p.m. ET start on Saturday. Live television coverage is on SPEED Channel, beginning with the “Set-up” pre-race show at 1 p.m. MRN Radio has the live radio broadcast.