Todd Bodine is surprised to find himself on the pole for Saturday's running of the Mountain Dew 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, and with good reason. Bodine has grown accustomed this season to starting races near the front, but not at the front.
Bodine, driver of the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota, has started in either the third or fourth position in seven of the 19 NCTS races this year. But before Friday he had managed to capture the pole only once.
Bodine picked up pole No. 2 on Friday when he turned in a fast lap of 181.811 mph during qualifying for Saturday's race, nipping Jack Sprague for the top position.
"I'm a little surprised to be on the pole," said Bodine, the defending NCTS champion. "This truck has always been a fifth-place qualifying truck. But the guys went to work after Daytona and figured out some things to get a little speed out of it."
Sprague, a three-time series champion, will start on the outside of the front row with Bodine after posting a qualifying speed of 181.639 mph.
"It was actually faster than what I thought I would run," said Sprague, driver of the No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota. "I'm pleased with that, but to miss (the pole) by a half-a-tenth is a little depressing."
Eric Darnell will start third (181.481) followed by Mike Wallace fourth (180.747), Travis Kvapil fifth (180.727), T.J. Bell sixth (180.183), Ted Musgrave seventh (179.872), NCTS points leader Mike Skinner eighth (179.629), Jason Leffler ninth (179.538) and Jacques Villeneuve 10th (179.443).
Ron Hornaday Jr., who trails Skinner by only three points in the series standings, will start 13th.
Villeneuve, a former Formula One world champion, will make his second NASCAR start in Saturday's Craftsman Truck Series race. He also is scheduled to attempt to qualify for Sunday's running of the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup race.
"I still have so much to learn in this type of racing, but each week I feel a little bit more comfortable," said Villeneuve, driver of the No. 27 Unicef Toyota. "Racing at Las Vegas a couple weeks ago is obviously a lot different than coming here to Talladega, but I'm still trying to get as much information as I can."
Bodine, meanwhile, is trying to pick up a victory that barely eluded him at Talladega Superspeedway last year, when he roared from 27th place with only two laps remaining to a fourth-place finish.
There is one omen working in Bodine's favor. The only other time he sat on the pole this year, in the Sam's Town 400 at Texas Motor Speedway, he went on to capture his sole victory of the season.
"We have a good truck," Bodine said. "It drives really neutral in the draft, so I think we have decent truck to race them with. This is the same truck (from last year's Talladega race), and it's driving good again. Hopefully we can hang around the front and put ourselves in a position to have the opportunity to win."
Children age 11 and younger will be admitted free of charge with a ticketed adult in the general admission grandstands area for the Foodland/Food Giant NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Qualifying and the Mountain Dew 250 Craftsman Truck Series race. Tickets are still available for the UAW-Ford 500 weekend at Talladega Superspeedway which includes all the action of the Mountain Dew 250 Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday and the UAW-Ford 500 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race on Sunday. Tickets may be ordered by calling 1-877- Go2-DEGA, by logging onto www.talladegasuperspeedway.com, and are also available for purchase on-site at the Talladega Superspeedway Ticket Office located on Speedway Boulevard in the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.