Germain preparing Busch car with eye toward Cup
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Germain Racing, which won the Truck Series championship last season with Todd Bodine, plans to field two fulltime Nextel Cup teams for Toyota by 2009.
Bodine took the first step in that process on Tuesday, testing a Busch Series car at Richmond International Raceway.
Germain Racing will enter Bodine in the May 4 Richmond Busch race in a Camry being built at its new Mooresville, N.C., shop. It is the first of 11 Busch events the 43-year-old Bodine is scheduled to enter this season.
The organization also has a Toyota being prepared for Bodine to drive in the July 29 Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"The car sitting in the shop we've been fooling around with, it's pretty sporty," said Bob Germain, who co-owns the company with his two brothers. "The guys are pretty excited.
"It's a Chevy now, but we'll put a Camry nose on it and take that thing out there."
If all goes well, Bodine will run a partial Cup schedule in 2008 and then move fulltime into Cup in 2009.
"That is our plan," Germain said. "We talked about going to run Cup races this year. But Toyota had lot on their plate with their initial seven teams in the Cup series.
"So they came to us and said, 'We got way too much going on. If it's all right, let's postpone this?' We were OK with that. We are in this for the long run. We want to expand, but we want to do it where it makes sense."
Seeing the struggles Toyota has had with none of its seven Cup teams ranked in the top 35 in points heading to Sunday's race at Martinsville, Germain isn't complaining.
"I'm thinking I'm kind of glad we're not in that program right now," he said. "Obviously, there is a learning curve. It's probably to our advantage not to be involved."
Germain said the team initially planned to jump straight from trucks to Cup, with the schedule calling for several Car of Tomorrow races this year.
"The more we thought about it, the more we realized it might be good to compete in the Busch Series first," he said.
Bodine has driven in 315 Busch races since 1989, winning 15 and registering 156 top-10s. He has driven in 228 Cup races between 1992 and 2006 with no wins and only 21 top-10s.
"Todd wants to drive in the Cup series again and we have a lot of confidence in him," Germain said. "We think he's as good as anybody out there."
Bodine tested a borrowed Busch car on Tuesday because the two Germain cars in the shop weren't ready.
Germain said Mike Hillman Sr. likely will serve as Bodine's crew chief at Richmond with Mike Hillman Jr. remaining his crew chief for the Truck Series.
"We'd like to be successful in the Busch and Cup series," he said. "But our main focus for this year is to have Todd defend his championship in the Truck Series, which nobody has done. We don't want to lose sight of our truck program."
Germain said fellow Truck Series owner Jeff Wyler also wants to run Toyotas fulltime in Cup within the next few seasons. Lee White, the general manager of Toyota Racing Development, said Wyler's team may run some Cup COT races in the summer.
"Our truck programs have been a springboard to move the teams forward," Germain said. "We're looking forward to it. Our plans all along have been to expand this race team in a way that makes sense for us to try to be competitive along the way.
"We don't want to fall on our face."
David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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