Cole Bodine turned a solid Chili Bowl Nationals performance into a full-time ride with Petry Motorsports.
For five of the six days in Tulsa, Okla., the 20-year-old racer from Rossville, Indiana, worked in the Clauson-Marshall Racing pits performing whatever task was needed. On Wednesday, Jan. 16, he put on his driving suit, won his heat then started on the pole and ran third in his preliminary A-feature. Bodine easily transferred into Saturday’s main event, where he finished 19th.
An hour after the race, team owner Scott Petry offered Bodine a seat for the 2019 USAC Midget season.
“Once I locked into the show and finished the A-Main, that was a big check off of my list,” Bodine said. “At that point, I had no idea there was something in the works—let alone at Chili Bowl. I thought, if something were to arise, it might happen a few weeks later--and not a full-time deal.
“But I was blown away when Scott approached me and asked what I was doing. He said we would work something out. That was cool. So it’s a full-time deal, and we’ll run for rookie-of-the-year.”
For the last year-and-a-half, Bodine has endured the hour-long commute to Clauson-Marshall Racing in Fishers, Ind., where he worked on Tyler Courtney’s midgets. He took a similar path to the one Courtney followed to a successful career--in other words, lots of sweat equity.
“He was a big factor in my decision to chase this dream,” Bodine said. “It happened for him, and look where he is now. I thought, ‘Why can’t I do the same thing?’”
When CMR driver Zeb Wise broke his collarbone last June, Bodine was selected as the substitute driver. Over the next eight weeks, Bodine made enough of an impression that owner Tim Clauson offered him a ride for the Driven2SaveLives BC39 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September.
After CMR released Justin Grant in November, Bodine got the nod to finish out the 2018 season in the No. 17bc midget. While he continued to work on cars at the shop and the track, Bodine raced in his free time.
But his coming-out party came at the Chili Bowl Nationals. Bodine’s runs on Wednesday and Saturday night captured the attention of many spectators inside of the Tulsa Expo Raceway—including team owner Petry.
“I think Cole is a kid who deserves an opportunity,” Petry said. “He’s a hard worker and has paid his dues. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Cole on and off the track, so he will be a great fit for us.
“We’ll have Jerry Coons, Kevin Thomas Jr., Cole, and a fourth car driven by Sterling Cling, so we’re looking for great things. We are excited about Cole. He fits nice into our program and is a down-to-earth Hoosier kid who deserves a shot.”
Bodine replaces Jason McDougal, who parted ways with Petry following the Chili Bowl. Bodine will race for USAC Midget rookie honors—and the championship for Petry—but he’ll have one last drive for Clauson-Marshall. On Wednesday, he’ll pilot the CMR rig from Indiana to Ocala, Fla., for the USAC season-opener at Bubba Raceway Park. Once everything is in place, Bodine will take his driver suit and helmet over to the Petry pits and race Friday and Saturday night.
Following the two-day show, Bodine will haul the CMR midgets back to the shop and start his new job with Petry in earnest.
“I’m still going to continue to do what I did for Clauson-Marshall at the Petry shop—I’ll still be helping—but it’s only four midgets,” Bodine said. “I’ll have a lot more free time to hopefully go race and other opportunities thrown at me.”
While the drive from his Rossville home to the Petry shop will add an extra 30-minutes to Bodine’s commute beyond the 60 minutes to CMR, the young driver understands the sacrifice will be worth it.
“I’ve done the drive for over a year now and have kind of gotten used to it,” Bodine said. “And it would be kind of hard to pass up a nice meal from Mom every night and all that good stuff.”