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Germain Is Fueled By Bodine, Gaughan Blood

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 9 2011

Germain Racing's Todd Bodine and Brendan Gaughan are headed to a Texas track of which each owns a big piece. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fort Worth, Texas – When Germain Racing teammates Todd Bodine and Brendan Gaughan do the math at Texas Motor Speedway, the numbers purposely come out a little crooked.

“Six is more than four,” Bodine pointed out for Gaughan’s benefit during a news conference here Thursday afternoon, referring to his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory advantage on the 1.5-mile quadoval.

”But not consecutive,” said Gaughan, addressing his Truck Series win streak in 2002 as a Sunoco rookie and in 2003.

One-upmanship aside, the pairing of Bodine and Gaughan at Germain heading into Friday night’s WinStar World Casino 400k goes beyond their gaudy statistics at TMS. Teaming Todd with Brendan seemingly was inevitable, because for the Bodines and Gaughans, racing is in the blood.

“Racing is all we’ve ever done,” said Bodine, Truck Series champion in 2006 and 2010 and youngest of three racing brothers. “While Geoff and Brett both have been very successful in racing – won a lot of races – they just never got that championship, even at

Todd Bodine, also known as The Onion, does not stink in a Camping World truck. Especially at Texas Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Gregg Ellman)

the local tracks. It was very special for me to do that for my family. It’s our life, it’s our livelihood, it’s what we love. It’s validation for everything our family has put into racing.”

Bodine was “born into racing,” with his parents owning the Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome in their hometown. En route to his titles, Bodine also established himself as winningest Truck Series driver at TMS with six victories in 13 starts, including the WinStar World Casino 400k last June. As such, Todd and the No. 30 NTB/Service Central/Valvoline Toyota Tundra tuned by crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. remain a favorite for the 2011 edition of the popular night race.

Gaughan, meanwhile, turned TMS into his personal playground via an unheard of four consecutive Truck Series victories in 2002-03.

“That’s what got my name ‘out there;’ those were marquee wins,” said Gaughan, then driving for the Orleans Racing team owned by father Michael, an accomplished off-road racer. “With (crew chief) Shane Wilson and the team we had then, we were great at the 1.5 and 2-mile tracks. We had that magic. I’ve played other sports when I was ‘in the zone.’ When we came to Texas we were ‘in the zone.’ That was some of the best days of my life. That’s why I came to Germain Racing – I want to go there and do that again.”

In 26 combined Truck Series starts at TMS, Bodine and Gaughan have collaborated for those 10 wins, 16 top-five finishes and 492 laps-led. Bodine, winner of the June Truck Series events at TMS in 2009 and 2010, is working on a stretch of six consecutive top-five results at “The Great American Speedway!”

“I look forward to Texas anytime,” said Bodine, 47, who posted his first Truck Series win at TMS in October 2004. “Even outside the trucks – in Nationwide and Cup cars – I’ve run really well here. Anytime you have success at a track you enjoy the whole experience. Makes it nice to go back when you’ve got a shot to win.”

That was one of Bodine’s selling points to Brendan, who spent the last two seasons in

Brendan Gaughan has found a nice, fast home at Germain Racing. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

the Nationwide Series at Rusty Wallace Racing with funding largely provided by the Gaughan family’s South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. That sponsorship is funding the debut of the No. 62 Big Red Tundra this weekend.

“I’ve been trying to get Brendan and Mr. Gaughan to race for us for three or four years,” said Bodine, who has finished among the top-five in points in five consecutive NCWTS seasons. “He finally got tired of running 15th and 20th in Nationwide and decided he ought to take a look at it here.

“Me and Brendan have been longtime friends anyway. He stood up as a groomsman at my wedding (to Janet Paczkowski) last year. Everybody likes Brendan. Can’t help but like Brendan. He’s a good driver and good people and that fits our program.”

Bodine believes his attitude toward the tour’s intermediate tracks has factored into his success at TMS.

“I enjoy ‘em. And even with the ‘cookie-cutter’ thing…they all still have their own characteristics,” said Bodine, who trails only Kyle Busch’s seven all-time wins (five Truck/two Nationwide) at TMS. “They‘re not all the same and that’s what I find challenging _ figuring out those challenges and how to make them work to my benefit. Our 1.5-mile program, it’s our strong suit. We’ve won there (TMS) enough that I understand what you need to do; it’s a matter of getting the truck to do it for me.”

Beyond Goodyear Racing’s ever-evolving tires, Bodine credited Hillman Jr.’s remarkably consistent setups with being a difference-maker. “We’ve only changed small things in our setup,” said Bodine, who has logged 21 Truck Series wins with Germain Racing and 36 during his NASCAR career. “When you’ve got a book that strong, it’s a great reason to be a part of that team, for sure. And that’s one reason Brendan and Mr. Gaughan wanted to come here. We’re going to run up-front.”

Bodine has endured his worst start since joining the Truck Series fulltime in 2005, but a third-place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway last Saturday suggests better times are ahead at TMS. Bodine’s six wins in Fort Worth include four of the past five June races. Bodine is ninth in points, 78 behind leader Johnny Sauter.

Additionally, Germain Racing has won 13 races on intermediate, or 1.5-mile, layouts like Kansas Speedway and TMS. Bodine also is the co-leader – with Kyle Busch – in intermediate track wins with 12.

“It’s about luck,” said Bodine, recapping his uneven 2011 season. “Our performance has been good, just no luck at all. You can’t have a knee-jerk reaction if you’ve finished 14th

Todd Bodine has a teammate with his kind of racing blood. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Erik J. Perel)

or worse in most of the races. There’s nothing we can really change. We just need some luck. Last week was a great start. Hopefully we can keep it going.”

Like the Bodines, the Gaughans boast a long and proud racing history. “My dad – he’s 68 – raced for 30 years in the off-road stuff,” said Gaughan, who followed his father into the desert ranks. “We love racing and love that genre and it’s meant a great deal for our business. It’s in the blood, it’s in the business model and it fits into our customer base. Whether I was driving or not we still have racing built into the budget. We’ll always have something racing with the South Point banner on it.”

Gaughan followed-up his four consecutive wins at TMS with a near-championship in 2003, when he went into the NCWTS season-finale at the 1.5-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway with the point lead. Unfortunately, a mid-race accident relegated him to fourth in the final standings.

Gaughan graduated to a Sprint Cup Series ride in 2004 in the No. 77 Dodge fielded by Doug Bawell in partnership with Roger Penske. After finishing 28th in points as a Cup rookie with only one-top five, Gaughan returned to the Truck Series in ‘05. Recapturing that “magic” has become Job One.

“Anybody that knows me knows this is what I want to do for a living,” said Gaughan, currently 10th in points and 87 behind leader Sauter after a seventh-place finish at Kansas Speedway. “I’ve got a great college education (Georgetown University) and own other businesses. This is what I want to do. My desire is here. That’s why I’m still working my tail off to do it. I’m not going to hang out and run in the back and say, ‘Hey, I’m here’ and use excuses. I want the best equipment to show that I can still win. And the Germans have got one of the top three (organizations) in the Truck Series.

“We’ve had great trucks all year. It just seems that bad things happen to me when I’m up front. I got a truck in the top-five, I’ve got to watch for the sky falling on me. We’re hoping to get two top-10s in a row here; I’d be really happy.”

To that end, Gaughan is working under a one-year contract with the organization headed by Bob Germain Jr. “It’s a handshake deal with the Hillmans, more of a hug with Hillman Sr.,” said Gaughan, a 36-year-old native of Los Angeles who began the season with eight career NCWTS wins. “It’s a real people relationship and it’s completely an open book. Hillman Jr. is the book I wanted. (Crew chief) Brian Berry, I’m happy with that. But we’re here to take whatever Hillman Jr. puts on Todd Bodine’s truck and run it.”

Fittingly, Gaughan held the record for TMS victories until Bodine won his fifth race in 2009. Head-to-head in eight races beginning in 2005, Bodine has come out on top six times.

“Texas is a race I’ve been looking forward to with this Germain Racing team,” Gaughan said. “Todd and I are good friends. The Texas thing with all the wins is a decent rivalry. I keep bragging I got four in a row. But I would love to have this come down to me and Todd, and have a shootout between us.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 9 2011
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