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Bodine Gets Elusive Daytona Win

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[February 16, 2008]  DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) --

Todd Bodine missed his brother's Daytona victory in 1986.

Now, he knows how it feels to win at NASCAR's most famous track.

Bodine held off a late push from Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson to win the season-opening truck race Friday night and pick up his first victory at Daytona International Speedway.

Bodine needed 17 years and 34 tries to get it.

"Finally to get to Victory Lane, it was incredible," Bodine said. "This racetrack has been pretty cruel to us and now it's been pretty good to us in a couple ways."

Bodine was in North Carolina, working on his late model stock car, when Geoff Bodine won the 1986 Daytona 500.

He missed that party.

He was at the center of this one.

"It's different," he said. "I'm not going to say it's better. It's just different. When you watch your brother go to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500, there's a lot of pride in knowing your brother accomplished something that not a lot of people can accomplish or even get the opportunity to accomplish.

"It's a whole different feeling. It's pride and a little bit of redemption. I've been so close before."

The 2006 Craftsman Truck Series champion passed Erik Darnell coming off pit road with about 13 laps to go, then stayed out front the rest of the way to claim the Chevy Silverado 250.

Busch was second, followed by Benson, David Starr and Rick Crawford - giving Toyota the top four spots.

Busch waited patiently to make a move on Bodine and drove high with a few hundred feet to go. Bodine blocked him up the track, which allowed Benson to get a run on the inside. It wasn't enough.

Bodine edged both by a bumper.

"It's super," Benson said. "Todd's been racing for many, many years. I didn't realize that was his first win here, but that's cool. Any time you can win a race here, no matter what it is, it's a great accomplishment."

Darnell looked like he would be the guy to beat in the second half of the caution-filled race.

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But Darnell lost the lead coming off pit road - Bodine simply drove by him - then lost any chance he had of winning a few seconds later.

Believing he had a loose wheel, Darnell slowed down coming off turn four to head back to pit road and got hit from behind by Justin Marks.

The final accident of the night certainly made it easier for Bodine.

There were several early wrecks, hardly uncommon for a truck race at Daytona.

The biggest and most dramatic of the bunch came on lap 20, when Busch, Mike Skinner and Brendan Gaughan were involved in a nine-truck crash that ended with P.J. Jones jumping out of his enflamed Ford.

"I apologize if I was to blame for that," Busch said.

Andy Lally, Jon Wood, Chad Chaffin and Matt Crafton also got caught up in the mess. Several drivers blamed Busch, who sustained less damage than everyone else.

"Kyle will just say, 'I'll race tomorrow," Gaughan said. "He doesn't care about this. It's just fun time."

Added Skinner: "Awfully early in the race to be making those moves all over the track."

Racing resumed after a 17-minute stoppage and four laps under caution. But it didn't last.

A five-truck wreck followed a lap later.

Bodine, unlike previous years, avoided all the problems.

"I tell you this is my 20th year coming to this speedway, three years as a crew member, 17 as a driver," he said. "I've finished second and third, crashed hard, burned up. Seventeen years of getting here, and we're here."

[Associated Press; By MARK LONG]

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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