More Than Just A Night AT The Track
By Jay R Hedges
President and CEO
Mattei Compressors North America
Piloting the Mattei Compressor #13 Toyota Tundra, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Friday night in the NEXTERA ENERGY RESOURCES 250 at Daytona International Speedway Todd Bodine proved he remains one of the elite drivers in the series; and he was just what first time sponsor Mattei Air Compressors needed to thrust us into the spotlight of the Camping World Truck Series. I have been around both the compressed air business and racing long enough to know that our customers are passionate about their business and passionate about truck racing, whether it’s at the track or watching on the SPEED Channel. So when Duke Thorson, owner of ThorSport Racing offered us the opportunity to sponsor the #13 Toyota Tundra at Daytona we were very interested. But when they told us Todd Bodine would be driving the #13 Mattei Compressors Toyota Tundra; we were ALL IN.
In a race that included 11 cautions and three typical big Daytona wrecks Todd Bodine, the only 2 time Daytona Truck Champion in this race, stayed out of trouble most of the night by staying up front with the leaders. On the track he proved that he is a true champion. But what impressed our guests at the race, and fans at home watching on the SPEED channel, is what a team player Todd is on and off the track. He spent hours with our group at the track during the week. He tirelessly signed autographs for our guests and hundreds of fans at the track always with that big Bodine smile. And on the track he pushed our ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter to the lead with 16 laps to go. A lead Johnny never gave up in winning his first Daytona Truck race. In his winner’s circle interview Johnny said “I wanted to be with Todd. Todd did a great job and quite frankly helped me win this race.” When that job was done and Johnny was on his own Todd dropped out of the draft and went to the back of the field to push our other ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton to a top 10 finish, and might have pushed him to the front if the race had gone the full 100 laps. Todd finished 11th. That’s what I call having your teammates’ backs. This is the kind of teamwork that we pride ourselves in at Mattei Air Compressors, and it’s what has made our business grow. I hope you enjoyed the race, but if you missed it here is my firsthand account of what it’s like to sponsor your first NASCAR Truck Race with a Team like ThorSport Racing and driver like Todd Bodine; “from where I sat”.
24 green flag laps into the 100 lap race the teams were preparing for the first if two planned pit stops of the night; and it appeared it would be under green flag racing. Todd Bodine was patiently driving the faster inside line and looking comfortable in 14th position. But the middle of the pack was referred to as “the danger zone” by SPEED Channel announcer and two time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip, who then said “maybe Bodine should listen to his crew chief Jerrod Prince who was on the radio encouraging Bodine to drop back in the field with ThorSport teammates #88 and #98 then in 22nd and 30th positions hoping to avoid being in the inevitable “Big Daytona Wreck”. But don’t believe everything you hear on the team radios because they know everyone’s listening. And it turned out that Truck Series rookie crew chief Jerrod Prince and Bodine had something else up their sleeve. While this was Prince’s first race as crew chief in the Truck Series, he is ARCA Legend Frank Kimmel’s full time crew chief, and a very impressive young man.
On lap 25 Scott Riggs in the #92 brought out the first caution when he lost his engine in a one car incident, so now the first pits stops would be under caution giving the field the luxury of taking 2 or 4 tires. Or maybe none? Happy with the grip on his Hoosier racing tires, Bodine took on fuel only while most of the field including both ThorSport Teammates took 2 or 4 tires and fuel. The result, Bodine improved the #13 Toyota Tundra track position and was running in 5th position, leading the outside draft for the first restart of the race on lap 29. On lap 36 Bodine somehow made room where there didn’t appear to be any and dropped down into the faster inside draft in 6th position where he settled, hoping to be in front of the inevitable big wreck.
After 54 laps of nail biting racing and only the one single car incident, things got interesting as teams set up for what appeared to their second pit stop of the night. Once again this one looked like it would be under green flag racing but, then the big wreck finally happened. From the ThorSport team perspective it could not have been more daunting. The wreck was immediately behind Todd Bodine in the Mattei Compressor #13 running in 10th position, and immediately in front of the #98 in 15th and the #88 in 17th position. The wreck collected 10 trucks, but all three ThorSport trucks came thru clean. So now the second round of pit stops would come under yellow too. But it happened so fast that the teams had to think quickly what their pit strategy would be under yellow rather than green. Bodine’ s #13 crew had had decided on two right side tires under green, but at the last minute decided to go with 4 tires and a full tank of Sunoco fuel. What happened next appeared to be disaster for the #13 team. With only one day of practice and a few days to get to know each other Driver and Crew Chief appeared to miscommunicate. Thinking they were still going with just 2 right side tires Bodine started to leave the pits just as the tire team started on the left side tires. The pit crew ended up pushing the #13 back into the pit, completed the four tire stop and Todd ended up restarting the race in 21st position. Teammate Johnny Sauter had a great stop and restarted the #98 in 5th position on the outside line and won the race to the start/finish line to lead lap 60, his first lead of the night. Matt Crafton in the #88 was now running 8th.
Mattei Compressors was well represented at the track by some of our best customers and co-sponsors Sawyer Compressor and Tsunami Dryers. We watch from the pit box, pit row, the grandstands, and the owner’s suite, along with the tens of thousands of Todd Bodine “Team Onion” fans at the track and on the SPEED channel, and all had the same feeling. We were disappointed for Todd who had driven a smart race and was right where he want to be going in for what we all thought would be his last trip down pit lane. With his teammates at the front of the field Bodine would have to work with others on the track to work his way back to the front with just 40 to go. Anything is possible at Daytona, but it would mean taking risks and driving hard. Then to our shock we hear crew chief Jerrod Prince called Todd and the #13 back onto pit row to top off fuel thinking that might put Todd inside the fuel window to finish the race. And what a call that was by Jerrod Prince when just 2 laps later with 38 to go another caution came out. Todd had already worked the #13 back up to 15th position but there would still be a lot of work to get to the front as the laps wound down.
Unless…all 14 cars in front of Bodine’ s #13 Toyota Tundra decided to top off with fuel to make it to the end and Todd could drive right to the front under caution. And that’s just what happened. So in our first sponsorship the crafty Todd Bodine and his young but clever crew chief had the #13 Mattei Compressor Toyota Tundra at the front of the field and will restart the field with former ThorSport driver Dakota Armstrong’s #60 set to push him. Kyle Busch in the #51 will lead the outside draft and ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton #88 will be pushing Busch. You could not have written a better script with 34 laps to go. Todd got a great jump and while he was a little late coming Dakota Armstrong and the #60 got under Todd and started pushing, just as Busch’s #51 and the #88 started to edge ahead. Then “Todd Bodine went up several feet off that yellow line in turns 2 and 3 and side drafted off of Kyle Busch to take some of that momentum away from that outside line”, said Michael Waltrip on the SPEED channel broadcast. Kyle Busch tried to return the favor coming down to side draft Bodine and Armstrong together, a very risky and Busch like move, but the #13 and #60 held their ground and the outside draft lost momentum sending Busch and his #51 back to 10th position.
Then just 2 laps later as Busch made another run and the outside line gained momentum and nosed ahead, the #60 nearly pushed Bodine and the #13 into the wall. That’s when Todd Bodine, known as “The Onion” to his loyal fan base, having lead the last three laps of the Daytona Truck race made one of the greatest saves in Daytona history. Knowing the competitiveness of both Bodine a two time Daytona Truck Champion and Busch with two 2nd place finishes, some at first thought Bodine had gone up to block Busch. But that would be a last lap move, not something you would do with 24 to go. Michael Waltrip called it “a push gone bad”. During the replay Bodine’s spotter said “hold on bud, hold on Todd, we’re straight, your good, clear low”. Waltrip said only as Michael Waltrip can pretending to be Bodine, “Don’t tell me I’m good, I was just sideways at 190 miles an hour, I’m not good at all, I can’t even breathe, who you try‘in to convince I’m good, I’m having a heart attack”. Waltrip continued, “Todd never backed off, he moved two lanes and never backed off. I could hear the oohing and ahing of the crowd over the engine noise; only a guy that’s won here at Daytona a couple of times and a former champion like Todd is, could have ever saved that truck.” Those words coming from Michael Waltrip mean something. Todd’s Toyota Tundra had been pushed straight up the track toward the safer barrier for what appeared to be the end of Todd’s night. But never coming out of the throttle Bodine not only drove the #13 Mattei Compressor Toyota Tundra out of trouble avoiding a wreck that could have taken out half the field; but he maintained the lead and now had Busch pushing him from second place. That alone was worth the price of admission for sponsoring the #13. Soon after Bodine appeared to concede the lead to Busch, knowing there was a lot of racing left with 26 to go. So he pushed Busch’s #51 several laps until another yellow put Todd at the front of the outside draft next to Busch for the next restart with 20 to go.
This time Kyle Busch in the #51 found himself in front of the #60 who had shown he could push hard but not always in the right direction. Bodine appeared to lose the draft as the #13 dropped 12 positions while still leading the second lane draft. But with ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter locked in 5th on the low line, needing help to get to the front, Bodine had some work to do. With Jeb Bush’s #4 now pushing Todd, Bodine drove the Mattei Air Compressor # 13 Toyota Tundra right back into contention. With 17 to go Johnny Sauter’s spotter told the #98 help was on the way. With Bodine flying up on the outside line Sauter timed his move in front of Bodine so Todd and the #13 would be pushing him as he now lead the second lane draft in front of Bodine. Meanwhile ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton was charging three wide in the #88 into 10th position with 16 to go, only to have a tire go down and appeared to be out of contention. With Bodine pushing Johnny Sauter and the #98, they blew by the leaders on the inside draft. First, Hornaday in the #3, then Armstrong in the #60 and then Busch in the #51. No contest! Now with 15 to go it’s the ThorSport Tandem of the #98 Sauter being pushed and protected by the #13 Bodine. No one had pushed in practice all week as well as Bodine. This was a duo to be reckoned with. 12 to go and a run from the outside draft failed, 10 to go, 8 to go and another run failed. The Sauter Bodine twosome with Kyle Busch in tow was too much for an outside assault. Then with 9 to go another Daytona wreck brings out yet another caution. If it wasn’t for the fact that it happens every year, it would seem unfair. And it still wasn’t over. The next restart came with just 5 laps to go. Now the double file starting rules of NASCAR force Johnny Sauter to make a decision. He can choose which lane he wants and the inside has been the fastest all day, except when Todd Bodine pushed Johnny to lead from the outside. But if he chooses the inside line he has Kyle Busch pushing him and since Busch, a Sprint Cup driver, is not running for the points championship in trucks he is in this race for one reason, and it’s not to push Johnny Sauter to the finish line. Johnny decides he’ll take his chances with Kyle Busch. This leaves Bodine on the outside where once again he finds himself in front of Dakota Armstrong’s #60. Making a move from the outside was a long shot and then became impossible when Armstrong missed a shift at the restart. Four laps later the caution flies just after Johnny Sauter and the #98 take the white flag causing the race to end under yellow before Busch has a chance to make the move he had been plotting for 99 laps. Johnny Sauter won at Daytona and he deserved it, but the MVP trophy goes to Todd Bodine who pushed Johnny to the front and kept him there to within 5 laps of the checkered flag. And while everyone was watching Johnny race Kyle Busch for 4 of the last 5 laps, Todd Bodine dropped out of the draft to the middle of the track and went all the way to the back of the field and teamed with his other ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton. And he damn near push him to the front of the field. Matt and the #88 finished 10th and Todd Bodine finish 11th in the Mattei Compressor #13 Toyota Tundra. What a way day for ThorSport Racing, Todd Bodine and Mattei Compressors. See Y’all in Charlotte may 17th.