* No doubt about it, Roush Racing and Germain Racing have done their homework * 2004 series champion Hamilton announces cancer diagnosis; son will drive Fastenal Dodge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 20, 2006) -- Sometimes the calendar can ...
* No doubt about it, Roush Racing and Germain Racing have done their homework
* 2004 series champion Hamilton announces cancer diagnosis; son will drive Fastenal Dodge
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 20, 2006) -- Sometimes the calendar can stop momentum cold but not in 2006 and not for Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).
Bodine closed out 2005 with three consecutive victories and hated to see the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season end at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
His Germain Racing team, assuming its late-season record would put a figurative bulls-eye on the tailgate of Bodine's yellow and black Tundra, refused to lose its edge during the winter months.
Bodine's March 17 win at Atlanta Motor Speedway followed a pair of runnerup finishes -- both to Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Ford) -- and further established the 42-year-old New Yorker as the driver to beat for this year's title.
Assuming, of course, that Martin sticks to his original schedule of seven races.
"I don't know," was Martin's post-Atlanta response, accompanied by a sly grin, to the question of his next series appearance, previously penciled in for Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 19.
That, of course, was before Martin got off to the best start in series history. He holds a 25-point championship lead -- 560 to 535 -- over Bodine with three of 25 races complete.
Martin is having the time of his life, a fact not lost on team owner Jack Roush, who persuaded his longtime driver to stick around for another season in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. Martin previously had planned to move fulltime to NASCAR Craftsman Trucks this year.
"I love this racing," said Martin after finishing .354-second behind Bodine after the pair swapped the lead 12 times during the John Deere 200.
Martin's performance also has been redemptive for Ford, which matched its all-time low in the series in 2005 with just two wins. Four F-150 drivers rank among the current top 10 after placing none in final rankings a year ago.
Martin's teammate, Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Erik Darnell (No. 99 Woolrich Ford) is the first freshman to show among the top 10 since David Reutimann (No. 17 Team Tundra Toyota) stood fourth in September 2004.
Back to Bodine, he's not alone at Germain Racing at the top of the point chase. Teammate Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Motor Company Toyota) logged his third top-five finish in Atlanta. The defending series champion put something of an exclamation point on his fourth-place performance, which came from a start of 36th.
Musgrave stands third in points after finishes of third, third and fourth.
It's a fact that Germain and Roush have done their homework well. Safe to predict, however, their rivals will be burning the midnight oil and hitting the books as the schedule shifts from Atlanta's 180 mph-plus speeds to the April 1 Kroger 250 at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway, the first of five short tracks on the 2006 schedule.
NEWS AND NOTES, PART II
Hamilton bows out to treat illness ... 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion Bobby Hamilton (No. 18 Fastenal Dodge) announced Friday that his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 08 Corky's Ribs & BBQ Dodge), will take over his ride for the remainder of the season as the 47-year-old Nashville native begins therapy to treat neck cancer diagnosed earlier this year. Hamilton hopes to return to competition in the Nov. 17 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He finished 14th in the John Deere 200. "I'm still the owner so I plan on being there to see it all happen," said Hamilton.
ETC. ... Lumber Liquidators has signed to sponsor Bodine's team for the remainder of the 2006 season. Headquartered in Toano, Va., the company is the largest direct retailer in the United States and specializes in hardwood flooring. The company has one of the largest inventories of pre-finished and unfinished hardwood flooring in the industry. ... Chad Chaffin, who failed to qualify his No. 40 Russell E. Garwood Chevrolet, finished 21st in the No. 02 Team Copaxone Chevrolet after regular driver Kelly Sutton withdrew due to a leg injury suffered in practice. ... Former University of Michigan and Green Bay Packers football player Julius Curry will partner with Montgomery Racing to field the No. 8 Dodge in 10 races for driver Chase Montgomery. ... Three of 12 Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders logged top-20 finishes in Atlanta. Kyle Krisiloff's (No. 15 ditech.com/National Land Liquidators/Krud Kutter Chevrolet) 16th place was the freshman's best career finish. Darnell, fifth and Bobby East (No. 20 State Fair Corn Dogs Ford), fifth are the first Raybestos candidates to log top-five starts in 2006. ... Atlanta's green-white-checker finish marked the 59th time in 270 races that a NASCAR Craftsman Truck event has gone into overtime. It marks the second time three consecutive races have gone beyond their scheduled distance joining last year's trio of events at Kansas and Kentucky speedways and Memphis Motorsports Park. ... Bodine won his first series Bud Pole in Atlanta with a non-record lap of 181.360.
IN THE LOOP
A four-wide pass in heavy traffic gave Bodine his first victory of 2006 and effectively ended Martin's bid for three consecutive victories. Loop data showed Bodine to be the fastest driver of the night in traffic with a lap speed of 176.284 mph. Martin, conversely, ranked fourth at 175.697. ... Forty-five percent of Bodine's passes came in turns two or three. ... Joey Miller (No. 12 Curb Records Toyota) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) bowed out in the same accident finishing 36th and 35th. The irony is the pair ranked one-two in fastest laps recorded at 182.183 and 182.009. ... Mike Bliss (No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Chevrolet) finished seventh for the second consecutive race and led the field in quality passes with 37.
What: Kroger 250 (Race 4 of 25).
Where: Martinsville Speedway.
When: 3:15 p.m. Saturday, April 1.
Track layout: .526-mile paved oval.
Race length: 250 laps/131.5 miles.
Posted awards: $485,445.
TV: SPEED Channel, 3:15 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2005 winner: Bobby Labonte.
2005 polesitter: Bobby Hamilton.
Top 10 drivers: 1. Mark Martin 560. 2. Todd Bodine 535. 3. Ted Musgrave 495. 4. David Reutimann 458. 5. Johnny Benson 433. 6. Jack Sprague 432. 7. Rick Crawford 423. 8. Erik Darnell 422. 9. Jon Wood 408. 10. Mike Bliss 389.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday -- Practice 1:45-2:45 p.m. Rookie practice 3 -- 3:30 p.m. Final practice 5:15 p.m., time approximate following NNCS qualifying. Saturday - Qualifying 12:05 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying