CEDAR RAPIDS – Todd Bodine is in a NASCAR category all by himself.
The veteran race car driver reached the elite level after his last visit to Iowa Speedway.
Bodine became the first driver in history to reach 200 career starts in each of NASCAR’s three national series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks – on July 21 at Chicagoland Speedway. He will add to his race total when he races in the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series American Ethanol 200 on Saturday at Iowa Speedwa in Newton, beginning at 7 p.m.
“Obviously, it does mean I’ve been around awhile,” said Bodine, affectionately nicknamed “The Onion” for his bald head given to him by former NASCAR driver Randy LaJoie. “It also means it’s diversified, being able to do it in all three series. To know car owners and sponsors want you around and appreciate your work, it is special.”
Bodine, the 48-year-old younger brother of drivers, Geoff and Brett Bodine, made his first NASCAR Nationwide start in 1986, securing his first full-time ride in 1991. He will make his 205th Trucks Series start Saturday, adding to his 325 Nationwide and 241 Sprint Cup starts. Bodine didn’t expect it when he got behind the wheel more than two decades ago.
“I’d thought they were crazy,” Bodine said about predictions he’d be the first with 200 career starts in NASCAR’s three major circuits. “You don’t think of those things. You think of the next race, going fast and doing the best job you can do.
“Here we are 21 full seasons later and I’ve accomplished a lot. I’m very fortunate to earn a living being able to do what you love to do.”
The numbers are staggering. Bodine will make his 771st series in NASCAR’s top-three series this weekend, winning 22 Trucks and 15 Nationwide races. He has run more than 147,500 laps, leading about 4,800 of them. When all those starts, laps and wins resulted in Trucks points titles in 2006 and 2010, Bodine earned the defining feat of his entire fame racing family.
“It’s the realization of a lot of years we all tried to do it,” Bodine said. “Geoff and Brett came real close to doing it, but never quite got it. To win, that championship was for our whole family.”
He has had to adjust and adapt over the years. He has seen changes in auto racing, especially to the technology, which advances faster than the cars can circle the track. Bodine doesn’t necessarily like the changes, but said they mirror the changes of society.
“The sport has gone from the point four or five guys working on a race car in a garage can go out and compete and be successful,” Bodine said. “Now, it’s if you don’t have four or five engineers and a few million dollars to waste you’re going to have a hard time competing.”
Bodine acknowledges he is one of the senior members of the circuit, competing against title contenders James Buescher, Ty Dillon and rookie Dakoda Armstrong. Buescher was born the year before Bodine received his first full-time Nationwide ride, while 20-year-old Dillon and Armstrong, 21, weren’t born.
He has served as a mentor to some young drivers, offering direct advice and steerng them from mistakes he and other drivers have made over the years. Bodine provides information when young drivers ask about various tracks.
“A lot of these kids are young enough to be my kids,” Bodine said. “I don’t think about it in those terms. I’m friends with a lot of them.
“To have that respect from the young kids and competitors means a lot. It’s special to know they think enough of you to ask for your advice and help.”
Bodine could use a little help turning around this season. He has had trouble avoiding trouble in recent races. Bodine won the Lucas Oil 200 in June at Dover International Speedway, climbing to sixth in the points standings. He has dropped to 14th overall.
In four starts, Bodine has one top-10 finish.
“To come out of here with a win would be special,” Bodine said. “It would turn our season around. To kickoff the last part of the season would be an awesome thing.”