Bodine On Recovery Track
March 29, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Bodine initially told his Winston Cup Series owner Joe Bessey he wasn't going to compete in the inaugural NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series 250 at Daytona International Speedway in February. Then, at the last minute, he decided to drive the Black Diamond Motorsports Ford in place of his son Barry. But Bessey wasn't happy with the idea. What transpired on that Friday afternoon at Daytona was an experience Bodine won't soon forget.
"When that wreck started, I thought it was going to be a normal little wreck into the wall, no big event,” said Bodine, who found himself in the middle of a 10-car melee. "When I hit the wall, it knocked me unconscious. Right up until that point, I still thought it was going to be a normal type thing. I didn't think I was going to get hurt or come so close to death like I did. I didn't think it was going to be so traumatic. I don't have that kind of
memory of the accident."
Bodine's truck rolled 11 times and flipped three more times before finally coming to a stop on the frontstretch. The 50-year-old Elmira, N.Y. native suffered a broken wrist, a fracture of the 12th vertebra, a concussion and multiple burns, bruises and lacerations.
"The very first day in the hospital when I was conscious, I was saying 'when am I going to get back guys?’'' Bodine said. "I was on a lot of medication and I felt great. I didn't hurt very much. Then I found out I was hurt.”
But after seeing the remaining carnage and watching the video of the wreck, Bodine began to realize the severity of the situation.
"The first time I saw it, I said, 'wow, that was a bad wreck,'" Bodine said. "But I didn't realize it at the time. I didn't have the eerie feelings about the accident. I have the remains of the truck up here in Charlotte in my shop. I've seen it several times the last few weeks, but every time I went to see it, I was still under medication. The first two or three times I saw the truck I looked at it, I was amazed that I survived. It truly was a miracle I did survive it. I'd come home, and I didn't have any problem with it."
That was until Bodine discontinued his medication and reality set in. "I went to see it last week and on the way home it finally did bother me how close I did come to death," Bodine said. "It made me realize how fortunate I was that I'm still here and I didn't lose the opportunity of my life to be with my kids and grandkids and brothers and sisters and my mother.
"I had a near death experience. That was real. I've spoken with other folks that had the same type of experiences. After looking at the remains of the truck, I'm truly convinced my faith in God and what God did for me during that accident is the only reason I survived. All the other things help, no doubt about it, but God reached out and protected me through that accident, and that's the only reason I'm here today.
"It finally did bother me, but it isn't affecting my outlook on getting back to driving. I still have that burning desire to get back behind the steering wheel and compete. It might even be stronger now than it was."
Bodine would like to make his return at California Speedway on April 30. In the meantime, Bodine said he plans on testing at Richmond to "make sure I'm OK and get me acclimated to going around in circles again."
Bessey is adopting a "wait and see" attitude regarding Bodine's return. The season has definitely not gone as he hoped and he is searching for reasons why. The team missed the Daytona 500, and after Bodine's injuries, he decided to hire Ted Musgrave to substitute in the No. 60 Chevrolet. The team snuck into the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway last Friday (by qualifying 36th) and coupled with Sunday's 34th-place finish, Bessey knew it was time to make a change.
"We were getting into real dangerous territory in the points and we only have one provisional left," Bessey said. "We're not even coming close to where we need to be and it was time to do something different. We were the first car out on Sunday (on Lap 22), so we had a lot of time to discuss the situation -- what we needed to do, what changes needed to be made.
"So I called Ted last night and told him we had to try something new. It was really hard to make that call because Ted is truly one of the good guys in the garage. But sometimes a simple change like a crew chief or a driver can turn a whole team around."
After seeing the results Dick Trickle established with A.J. Foyt's team in the last two weeks, Bessey is hoping Trickle will have the same effect on the team.
"I'm optimistic going into Texas," Bessey said. "Knowing what Trickle accomplished as A.J.'s driver, I have a new level of confidence. I have an obligation to both the team and the sponsors to make the show. I think this is a positive move for us."
Bodine will return to racetrack this weekend for the first time since his accident. For now, he will be working as a consultant to the No. 60 team. For the last couple of weeks, Bodine has been working out in the gym and building up his strength for his return to competition next month.
"I feel a lot better than I've felt in the last few weeks," Bodine said. "It's amazing how my recovery has gone. When I came home I was very tired all the time, of course I was on a lot of medication for pain. They kept me in bed on my back. I've been getting out more the last two weeks, and this last week I've started feeling very good.
"People say I look good and sound good, and I'm looking forward to seeing everybody this weekend at Texas. It'll be my first outing to a race track since the accident. We're anxious to see everyone and get back to the track."