HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Friday nights in NASCAR typically have to play second (or third) fiddle to the big show on Sunday.
And with the Cup championship on the line here Sunday, this weekend at Homestead is no different.
But this Friday night was at least a little different.
It was a night of redemption and celebration.
Todd Bodine, a NASCAR journeyman who couldn't quite crack victory lane on the Cup level, won the 2006 Craftsman Truck Series championship.
Todd Bodine, who had finished top-five in points five separate times in the Busch Series without ever sealing the deal, finally did just that in the trucks.
Todd Bodine, who years ago perhaps was seen as the least likely of the three racing Bodine brothers to win a title on NASCAR's highest levels, becomes the first of them – and likely the only – to accomplish the feat.
"We've been racing for a lot of years," Bodine said. "[Brothers] Geoff and Brett, got cousins racing, nephews. It's the first time as a family we won something this important. This is so special.
"You can't imagine what this means to me [and for] all my family. What my family's gone through to never get a championship … I'm so glad Geoff and Brett were here."
The Bodines are hard-nosed racers. Talented, aggressive and outspoken, there have been times when they haven't exactly made friends on and off the race track.
"I hope that it changes people's mindset about me and my family," Todd Bodine said.
That mindset perhaps already was more positive than Bodine even knew.
"I think it's great for Todd and his whole family," title runner-up Johnny Benson said. "As good as Geoff ran [in his career], I figured he would have won one. And Brett has run great. His family should be proud."
As Todd Bodine himself pointed out, this is a family that has given nearly everything – marriages, finances, nearly a life (Geoff was seriously injured in a truck wreck at Daytona in 2000) – to NASCAR.
"They don't need a title to make them great," race winner Mark Martin said. "It was nice to see."
Bodine's triumph came at the expense of Benson, whose slim title hopes vanished thanks to a moderate wreck and later a blown tire. But Benson had all but conceded the title before this race, knowing it would take a miracle or some spectacular luck for Bodine to lose his solid grasp on the points lead.
That didn't happen.
Though one might not have been surprised if it had, as Bodine has been bit by bad luck before.
There was the vanishing Kmart sponsorship on the Cup side back in 2002. His team did find new sponsorship a couple of months later but was plagued by wrecks and engine failures.
It ran one more year before closing its doors altogether after 2003, forcing Bodine to bounce around from team to team in '04, suffering an almost unbelievable 18 DNFs in 21 starts.
Bodine still believed in his ability to drive, but things weren't getting easier.
"I knew, and I might have been the only person on earth that felt this way, but I knew that I could still drive a race car," Bodine said. "I never gave up on myself and my abilities and I always felt that if I could get another to prove it that I could prove it.
"Before I got with this [truck] team, I was literally doing start-and-parks in the Cup series to pay the bills. You want to talk about disheartening. You might as well kick my teeth in, that hurt so much."
But later that year Bodine began his transition to being a full-time truck driver, as he finished the season with Germain-Arnold Racing, winning two races in his initial stretch run with the team.
Bodine, in fact, says he knew he was capable of winning a championship with that team after just a few races.
Fast forward one year and after briefly parting ways early in '05, Bodine and the Germain team had finished that year on an absolute tear, with Bodine coming in third in the truck standings.
Fast forward another year and Bodine is the Craftsman Truck Series champion.
Bodine says he has unfinished business on the Cup side, but for now he has some celebrating to do.
"Champion – do you believe that?" Bodine said.
Believe it, Todd.
It really happened here outside Miami on this memorable Friday night.