Todd Bodine wins Trucks Series title
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Clint Bowyer entered a NASCAR Trucks race for the first time in over three years and charged to a win.
Todd Bodine earned a much bigger prize by hanging back: his second career season title.
Bodine finished 12th behind Bowyer at Phoenix International Speedway Friday night, wrapping up the title with one race left to become the third Trucks driver to win multiple championships.
"It feels like it was forever. It's hard to believe it was only four years ago," Bodine said of his previous championship. "A lot of hard racing and a lot of hard work in between to get here."
Bodine has been consistent all season, winning four races and finishing in the top 5 another 12 times to build a 230-point lead over Aric Almirola. All the third-generation driver needed to do at Phoenix was avoid catastrophe and he'd have a matching title to the one he earned in 2006.
Bodine did just that, hanging around the top 10 most of the night while avoiding the handful of crashes in the fast-paced 150-mile race to build an insurmountable points lead over Almirola headed into next week's season finale at Homestead.
Bodine's voice cracked while talking to his team over the radio after crossing the checkers and he stood atop his car, arms raised toward the grandstand after joining Ron Hornaday Jr. (four) and Jack Sprague (three) as the only Trucks drivers to win multiple titles.
"It was a great year all around," Bodine said. "We were consistent all season and that's what it takes to win a championship."
Bowyer had only entered seven Trucks races during his career and hadn't been behind the wheel of a truck for Kevin Harvick Inc. since 2007. He drove like he had been there all along around Phoenix's 1-mile oval, beating Kyle Busch off pit road by inches during a mid-race caution and leading a race-high 97 laps to win his first Trucks race since 2006 at Texas.
"It's a lot of fun to run in this series again," said Bowyer, 10th in the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. "This is my second win and this is an important series. I really do believe that. It's some of the best racing we have. To be able compete [in the series] means a lot to me and to win is even better."
Busch, who led 25 laps, held on for second to push his owner's points lead to 120 over Steve Germain, the owner of Bodine's team, with one race left.
This is Busch's first season as an owner and while it's been a success on the track (seven wins), there have been financial difficulties and other struggles for the startup team. To go into the final race with a seemingly insurmountable lead left the sometimes-acerbic Busch with a huge smile, even after finishing second.
"It means a lot," said Busch, seventh in the Sprint Cup standings. "Where we started this year and not having anything a year ago at this point, it means quite a bit."
Bodine knows how he feels. His teams have gone through a few financial problems of its own and was only able to drive this season because the Germain family decided to fund his ride out of its own pockets, whether a sponsor was secured or not.
The team eventually did land a sponsorship and Bodine rewarded their loyalty with a championship.
"They made a big commitment," Bodine said. "We didn't know if we were going to get a sponsorship. They were hoping, we were all hoping. But they knew we had a race team that could win races, win championships and they had faith in us to go ahead and do that."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press