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Bodine puts milestone mark in perspective

July 20, 2012, Seth Livingstone, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Todd Bodine is a two-time Truck champion who stands alone across all three of NASCAR's national series. (Getty Images)

JOLIET, Ill. -- Todd Bodine is 48. But his Camping World Truck Series crew chief, Rick Gay Jr., says sometimes it's his driver's humility, not his age, that gets in the way.

Bodine made his Cup Series debut in 1992 -- the same year Truck contender Ty Dillon was born. Fellow Truck competitor James Buescher was 2 at the time and, by then, Bodine already had his first Nationwide Series victory under his belt.

Todd Bodine, circa 1994 (Getty)

Todd Bodine

Career Statistics
YearsCupNNSTruck
First199219861995
Age282231
Starts241325199
Wins01522
Top-5s79090
Top-10s21160121
Poles577
Avg. Start24.716.511.2
Avg. Finish27.615.210.3
Laps56,64359,74730,602
Led2762,3362,182
Earnings$11.1M$5.8M$5.8M

"It's a different level of satisfaction. ... [It means] you weren't a flash in the pan."

--TODD BODINE

Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway, Bodine will make his 200th Truck Series start, becoming the first driver in NASCAR history to make at least 200 starts in each of the sport's three major series.

"He's like, 'It's [just] 200 races and I'm just another guy trying to make a living,' " says Gay, recalling a recent conversation.

"I'm like, 'No, Bud. It's special what you're doing and what you've done in your career. Nobody else has ever done it.' He doesn't give himself enough credit at times."

It's not that Bodine, affectionately known as the "Onion" for his bald head, doesn't take pride in his accomplishment.

"It's a different level of satisfaction," he said Friday outside his Red Horse Racing hauler. "Winning is instant gratification. You've done your job that week and everybody's happy. [But] to be able to have 200 races in all three divisions, that's a sense of longevity. [It means] you weren't a flash in the pan. You came here and proved your worth and everybody wanted you to stick around. It's like being an iron man -- you've been here, you've done it and you keep doing it.

"I've been very fortunate to have a lot of great car owners who had faith in me and wanted me to drive their stuff. But when you get to earn a living at something that you love to do and that you'd honestly do for free if you had to, that's pretty special. Not a lot of people in this world can say that."

Bodine, born in Chemung, N.Y., played high-school football in Bellingham, Mass. But racing was in his blood. His brother Brett made 480 Cup starts and brother Geoffrey took home 24 checkered flags in Cup and Nationwide.

Todd Bodine admits he wasn't sure how far he would or could go in the sport.

"When I got started, I never dreamed of getting to this point," he says. "I didn't know as a kid where it was going to lead to. I just wanted to go fast [and] go in circles."

"The sport has changed a lot. The technology and things we do behind the scenes are very different than when I started. My first team, I think, we had four full-time employees, two cars and three motors and worked out of a three-car garage. ... Now you have specialization at every position.

"But the one thing that hasn't changed is sitting in that seat, holding that steering wheel. It's still about turning left and going as fast as you can go. I think that's one reason that a guy like myself, who grew up working on race cars and building race cars ... can still be competitive, week in, week out."

Bodine has experienced his share of success in all three series. He recorded seven top-10 Cup finishes in 1994 and has five times finished in the top five of the Nationwide Series standings -- notably finishing second in 1997 when he placed in the top 10 in 22 of 30 races, driving a Pontiac for Scott Welliver.

But far and away, his greatest success has come in the Truck Series in which he twice won championships for Germain Racing. Of his 22 career victories, five came on his way to the 2006 title. In his 2010 championship season, he took the checkered flag four times and placed in the top five in 17 of 25 starts.

Although he enters Saturday's American Ethanol 225 ranked 11th in the drivers' standings, he's still highly capable of winning races. Bodine did just that, posting his first win for Red Horse in the rain-shortened race at Dover on June 1.

"His desire is as high as it's ever been," Gay says. "Anyone who doesn't think he still wants to win races needs to go back and watch Dover over again. Kevin Harvick clearly had the best truck all day. But once Todd got the lead, he drove off from those guys. So, his determination is there."

Red Horse Racing crew chief Butch Hylton grew up watching Geoffrey Bodine race modifieds in the Northeast and worked alongside Todd Bodine's team when he was Ted Musgrave's crew chief at Germain Racing.

"Two-hundred starts [in three divisions] speaks volumes to the type of person he is," Hylton says. "The whole Northeast work ethic is alive and well. He's always trying to better himself, no matter what the situation, from his personal life to his on-track life.

"I've spent a lot of time around Todd in different situations. He and Ron Hornaday, who drove for me, are very close friends. I've come to know that Todd is different from some guys. He's someone with a never-stop attitude. He's tenacious about practicing. And when we went testing this last week, he ran more laps than anybody, working on his truck, trying to give the guys the best feedback he can."

Bodine, who has registered all of his Truck victories in Toyotas, is hoping that feedback pays off Saturday at Chicagoland, where he became the track's oldest pole winner in 2010.

"Everyone says the D-shaped mile-and-a-halves are all the same," he says. "Well, they're not. They all have their own personality, their own quirks. Chicago has the round back straightaway and some bumps that are different. It's a lot [about] momentum -- the type of track I seem to excel at. I think we have a great shot."