AP Photo/Glenn Smith
Camping World Truck Series: Bodine starts year on top, hopes for chance to remain there
There is an art to fielding an unsponsored car.
Germain Racing has lacked primary sponsorship before, but rather than running blank cars or trucks it would use Germain Motor Company or Germain Toyota decals. Doing that makes a team appear to be in not as much of a bind financially.
But going into the Camping World Truck Series opener at Daytona, Germain was desperate. This was no time for cosmetic solutions -- it was a time to scream "help wanted." Hence the completely blank No. 30 Toyota for Todd Bodine -- nothing on the hood or the truck bed, and nothing on Bodine's firesuit.
"I've never been a big fan of doing that, but under the circumstances I thought we might as well," owner Bob Germain said. "If we put our company name on there, it really does appear like the truck is sponsored. We wanted to make sure that people understood that there was an opportunity there."
Make that potentially a very, very good opportunity. Bodine won Friday at Daytona, becoming the first two-time truck winner at the track and only the second driver in NASCAR history to win four consecutive races in one series at 2.5-mile superspeedways Daytona and Talladega, joining Dale Earnhardt Jr. (four wins from 2003 to '04 in the then-Busch Series).
The win was Bodine's 16th all time, tying Johnny Benson for sixth in Trucks history. The 2006 champion has finished no worse than fourth in points the past four years, with at least two wins per season.
There's no reason to think he wouldn't contend again this year, except that as of Tuesday, the team couldn't absolutely say it is racing past this weekend at California. Winning at Daytona didn't solve its financial problem, the same problem many teams across motorsports are still facing, even with seasons under way.
"It's a little unrealistic to expect something to happen right away, you've got to have patience and some time, and time is one thing we don't have," Bodine said. "It's tough, not knowing what the future holds, if we're going to the next race or not."
Germain said that if Bodine had crashed out early at Daytona, the team wouldn't be going to California. Fortunately they got a win and the $93,750 first-place check.
"I told Todd that he could keep going until he came in second," Germain said with a laugh. But Bodine said he knows he'll have to bring the No. 30 home from California in one piece and preferably in the top five in order for the team to continue the championship chase March 7 at Atlanta.
Germain isn't throwing in the towel on the entire season, however. Not with Bodine's prowess on the big tracks and one of the toughest trucks in the sport. The Tundra that won last week has been Bodine's ride throughout the superspeedway winning streak and even survived a midair somersault with driver Chad Chaffin in 2005 at Daytona.
"Regardless of what happens, we're going to Talladega," Germain said.
Nationwide Series: Stewart, Hendrick finally team up and win
Thirteen years after Tony Stewart turned down a chance to drive for owner Rick Hendrick, he celebrated with the legendary owner at Daytona.
Stewart won Saturday's Nationwide race in the No. 80 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, getting the one-off ride now that he's back in the Chevy camp with Stewart-Haas Racing, essentially a Hendrick satellite team as it will compete in Sprint Cup with Hendrick engines, chassis and technical assistance.
Long before Stewart became a two-time Cup champion with Joe Gibbs Racing, he had an offer from Hendrick in 1996 to join his NASCAR operation. Stewart, claiming not to be ready for a full-time job at a top team, instead ran with owner Harry Lanier for nine then-Busch Series races, starting a three-year run of part-time Busch racing and full-time IndyCar racing. By the end of that period, in 1998, he had joined JGR and his Cup future was secure. Hendrick was history, until last weekend.
"It was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make, to not accept that offer. I knew I might never get a chance to have that opportunity again. I think that's why it means so much to me to be here today," Stewart said Saturday after holding off Kyle Busch for his eighth Nationwide win and fourth at Daytona. "This was something since '96 that we had tried to do, and here we are in 2009 and in our first race together we win.
"It's kind of like a fine bottle of wine that's sat. By the time they pulled the cork out of it, finally, we were ready to come here and the timing was right."
Hendrick entered only one Nationwide race last season, a 29th-place run with Jimmie Johnson at Watkins Glen. His last Nationwide wins came in 2007 with Kyle Busch.
"Been awhile since we've been in Victory Lane on a Saturday race," Hendrick said.
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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AMA Supercross: Stewart on a roll, again
James Stewart put himself in a points hole at the start of the AMA Supercross season, crashing in the Jan. 3 opener in Anaheim, Calif., and finishing 19th.
Six races and six wins later, he's back on top again.
"Bubba" won Saturday night in San Diego to pull into a tie with defending champion Chad Reed. Reed has finished second in all of Stewart's wins.
"To come back from where we were at, 23 points back [after the opener], is amazing," Stewart said.
Stewart won the 2007 Supercross championship but quit after two races last season to undergo knee surgery. He returned for the AMA Motocross season and won all 24 races on his familiar Kawasaki, joining Ricky Carmichael in the annals of Motocross perfection.
Yet it was his last championship with Kawasaki as he switched to Yamaha and Reed's old team, L&M Racing, in time for the 2009 Supercross season (Reed moved to Suzuki). Now the two champions are tied in points with 10 races remaining, starting this weekend at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.