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'Huge' victory at Texas points Bodine in right direction

6/13/2007 - NASCAR

"Vindication" wasn't a word Todd Bodine preferred to describe his slump-busting win last week at the Sam's Town 400.

One more to the point would be "necessity."

The Craftsman Truck Series' defending champion hadn't exactly been plodding through the 2007 season, but with Mike Skinner piling up wins early and Ron Hornaday winning two of the previous three races, Bodine knew his Germain Racing Toyota needed to break through with something more than another good points day.

Necessity collided perfectly with the schedule. Bodine had won three of his previous five starts at Texas Motor Speedway, including last season's summer race, and he added another TMS triumph Friday to maintain his third-place standing in the points and return momentum to his title defense.

"It was huge. We hadn't won in almost a year, and it was time to get it done," said Bodine, an 11-time winner in the trucks. "We needed to get our program back in line. We think we've got ourselves back in the right direction.

"We really haven't had anything to prove to one another; we've never lost confidence or trust that we are a great race team. The win felt good, and I think it was well-deserved, but you can't call it vindication. We know we have a strong program, and we hope to remind everyone of that again very soon."

Midway through the Sam's Town 400, it didn't appear the No. 30 would be a factor in what eventually became a green-white-checkered finish. A fuel problem had dropped Bodine to 17th -- a problem the team still hadn't figured out upon getting back to the shop, the driver said Tuesday.

Whatever it was, it subsided enough for the pole-sitter to work his way up through the field again and into the lead by Lap 150.

"When things are going like that, you just say 'Let's make the end of the race. Don't blow up, don't quit, hopefully it will last the whole race,' said Bodine, who matched Brendan Gaughan's four wins at Texas as the most by one driver at one track. "We never expected to be winning, for sure, but we got lucky. It still wasn't running 100 percent, but it was running 95 percent."

Had his Toyota given out like that of Johnny Benson (he finished 29th), Bodine would have taken a severe points hit, but in recovering, he stopped the bleeding of the past two races, when he fell from second to third after finishing 31st at Mansfield with a crash and 11th at Dover behind a tight truck and a pit strategy that didn't work out. He's 99 behind Hornaday and 181 behind Skinner, who has yet to finish worse than eighth.

"When Mike has problems, we have to be there to capitalize on it," Bodine said. "We have to be solid every week."

There's one week remaining that shouldn't be a problem -- the series' fall visit to Texas.

California vibe at Michigan

The series travels to Brooklyn, Mich., for the Michigan 200 on Saturday. It's a race drivers say should feel familiar. Michigan's 2-mile oval is nearly identical to the one in Fontana, Calif., where the season's second race was in February.

"California was modeled after Michigan; they're very, very similar," said Bodine, fourth at Michigan last year. "The way the setups are going in the trucks these days, you take the same truck [to both] with the same setup."

Benson won last year's race, and previous winners returning include Dennis Setzer, Travis Kvapil and Gaughan. Ted Musgrave has two seconds and a pole position.

"The racing surface? You talk about making a groove, it's just anywhere you want to go, you can go, especially in the trucks," said Musgrave, fifth in points. "You can run from the top to the bottom, bottom to the top. It's a fantastic racetrack where you can get in some trouble, but the track is mostly forgiving.

Spare parts

With the Nextel Cup Series running Michigan on Sunday, the usual flock of Cup drivers will take a turn in trucks. Scheduled to run are A.J. Allmendinger, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Ken Schrader. Martin and Labonte finished 2-3 behind Benson last year. … Bodine's win at Texas was Toyota's first since March at Martinsville. Toyota is ahead of Chevrolet by 12 points in the manufacturers' standings. … Terry Cook, driver of the No. 59 HT Motorsports Toyota, will make his 250th truck start at Michigan, joining Jack Sprague and Rick Crawford as the only drivers with 250.

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.