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Bodine makes quite a sales pitch

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- In auto racing, the sponsorships on the side of the cars help sell products.

But it was driver Todd Bodine that was doing the sales-pitching late Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.

"It's a great deal for some corporation who wants to be in this sport," he said of the unsponsored No. 30 Toyota truck after he and crew chief Mike Hillman Jr., a Lockport native, won their fourth straight superspeedway race.

"It's a great opportunity for them to get involved with a great race team. It's not often you can come into the sport with a [great] team right off the bat. We took Lumber Liquidators our very first race at Atlanta, won the pole, won the race, won the championship that year [2006] for a first-time sponsor.

"We still have that capability to do it for anybody else that wants to come in the sport and be a part of it."

The No. 30 truck, part of a Germain Racing operation run by Mike Hillman Sr., is without a sponsor due to the faulty economy despite great success, including a third-place finish in the points standings last year. Friday night's win in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 was the first unsponsored truck to win in the series in 62 races.

The team is headed to next week's race in California with two trucks. The No. 9, which was a full-time team last year had to be scaled back to a part-time due to financial concerns, will have sponsorship from GEICO and will be driven by former open-wheeler Max Papis.

"I've got the best team and the best driver," said Hillman Jr. "The sponsorship thing's out of my hands. We've got to work just as hard no matter whether we're sponsored or not. We're getting ready to go to California. We'll go home and work this week, get the same truck ready we won Homestead with [in last year's final race]. We've worked on it over the winter and made it a little better. Hopefully we can go and win California, too."

Hillman Sr. hopes the team, which has had to lay off workers, will be able to ride out this season's tough times.

"A lot of people have taken pay cuts because they know what we're all up against," he said. "They know in a year or so, the strong teams will survive this and we'll be stronger because of it."

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Michael Annett, racing the No. 15 Toyota for the first time for Germain Racing, started 15th but finished 35th, completing 113 of 120 laps. He was fourth among six rookies.

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Tony Stewart missed the end of the truck race Friday night, so he didn't see Kyle Busch try almost the same move on Bodine as he would do against Stewart in Saturday's Nationwide race.

"I would've known that, but my car owner duties kicked in last night and I had to go to a sponsor dinner of all things. . . . [Ryan Newman and I] kept trying to sneak out of the room, because they had a TV in the restaurant over in the bar area. . . . But we didn't see the end."

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Daytona has gone to a backup driver for today's National Anthem. Julianna Hough, the "Dancing with the Stars" champion-turned-country singer, was originally to sing the anthem but has the flu. Singer-songwriter Gavin DeGraw will do the honors instead.

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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