Team owner Duke Thorson announced Monday that Bodine, a two-time Truck Series champion, would drive the No. 13 Mattei Air Compressor Toyota Tundra in the Feb. 22 NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway as a teammate to full-time ThorSport pilots Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter.
“Obviously, we’re really excited to have Todd Bodine join ThorSport Racing for Daytona, because he gives us a third legitimate shot at winning this race,” ThorSport Racing general manager David Pepper said. “Teaming Todd with Matt and Johnny gives us three of the best drivers in the field. Running and finishing at the front is a big deal for our two guys that are running the full season for the championship because it’s always important to get off to a good start to the season.
“This deal with Todd and Mattei Air Compressors came together late in the game but we believe good things come to those who are patient. By far, this is the best lineup we’ve ever started the season with at ThorSport and we expect to have a strong showing at Daytona. We can’t wait to get 2013 started.”
Sauter led four laps last year at Daytona while driving the No. 13, including the race’s last scheduled lap before he and Crafton were wiped out of the top 10 in one of the five accidents in the last 10 laps that extended the 2012 race to nine laps of “overtime.” Sauter this season switches to ThorSport’s No. 98 Carolina Nut Co./Curb Records Toyota while continuing to work with crew chief Joe Shear Jr.
Crafton, who’s three races away from establishing a Truck Series’ record for consecutive starts, wheels his familiar No. 88 Slim Jim / Menards Toyota Tundra into Daytona, where he’ll make his 295th consecutive series start while beginning his second season with crew chief Carl Joiner Jr.
Bodine, the Chemung, N.Y., native that has 22 victories in 212 career Truck Series starts, the series championship in 2006 and 2010 — along with gathering a total 778 career starts, 37 wins and 19 poles in NASCAR’s three national series — is enthused to have a one-race opportunity to get back in a potential race-winning truck. In his two previous Daytona wins he beat Kyle Busch each time, by just .077 seconds in 2008.
“It’s definitely a good opportunity, with an established team with a season of running Toyotas behind them,” Bodine said. “They’ve been there and done that and they know how to get it done.”
Bodine will work with crew chief Jeriod Prince, who’ll remain in Daytona after beginning the season at his “day job,” running the No. 44 Ansell / Menards Toyota Camry for ThorSport’s ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards driver, nine-time series champion Frank Kimmel.
Bodine, who’s in a select group of drivers that’s won pole positions in all three NASCAR national series, including five in the Sprint Cup Series, knows he has a chance to get his eighth career Truck Series pole on Feb. 22. But his focus is the race, particularly since he has two other superspeedway wins in a truck, at Talladega Superspeedway in 2007-2008.
“Daytona’s one of those tracks that’s kind of a crap shoot and you have to put yourself in the right position and if you have a decent truck you can do something with it, and I really believe we’ve got just as good a shot as anybody, going down there,” Bodine said before reflecting on he and his teammates’ potential. “Teammates are only good if you’re in a position to help each other, and that’s not always the case at Daytona, in the draft.
“You can’t count on it, but if the situation arises where we can help each other, I know I’ll be there to help them if they need it and hopefully they’ll be there to help me win this race for ThorSport. I’ve been in that position before at Daytona and sometimes you’ve got to be willing to take one for the team, so to speak, so we have a ThorSport truck in Victory Lane at the end of the night.”