Bodine Hopes Show Goes On

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Don’t throw Geoffrey Bodine to the scrap heap just yet.

Two years after suffering through one of the worst wrecks in recent NASCAR history at Daytona International Speedway, the 52-year-old Bodine showed Sunday afternoon in the Daytona 500 that he still has a lot of racing left in him. Now all he has to do is convince someone to give him a full-time ride.

Bodine did some self-promotion – and himself a big favor – by finishing an impressive third in Sunday’s “Great American Race.” He drove a Ford owned by James Finch, who had planned to run just a couple of races with Bodine this season.

Bodine hasn’t had a full-time ride since he was released as the driver of the No. 66 Chevy in the Busch Series late last season. He’s been scrambling just to keep his name and face out there in NASCAR over the past couple of years, and many have asked about his retirement from the sport after such a long career.

“I’m not over the hill yet,” Bodine said. “I still love this. I still have nerve. I still haven’t lost my nerve, and I still want to run up front. I proved I could do that (Sunday). Hopefully I showed I have the skill left. I’m not gonna ride around just to be out here. I’m too proud for that, I’m too proud of a person and today I stood up for being a proud guy. We did a good job.”

Indeed. Late in the proceedings, Bodine had visions of winning his second career Daytona 500 (he won in 1986). The race was red-flagged with four laps remaining after a five-car incident on the frontstretch involving Terry Labonte, Michael Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Jeff Green.

During the 19-minute, 30-second delay, Bodine was, in his mind, designing a plan to get to victory lane. When the race restarted, Bodine sat behind Ward Burton and Elliott Sadler.

“I was thinking of a way to win, but we hit some debris in that last incident and that knocked our nose out a bit,” Bodine said. “The car wasn’t quite as fast after that, but still good enough to get third.”

In 2000, Bodine came to Daytona as the driver of the No. 60 Power Team Chevy owned by Joe Bessey. He decided to enter the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, as well, and things were going well until he was involved in a huge multi-truck accident in which the majority of his truck disintegrated.

The truck flew up into the catchfence on the frontstretch in a ball of flames, and when it came to rest going into Turn 1, there was little of it left.

Fortunately, Bodine came out of it with only a couple of broken bones, a concussion, some cuts and some bruises, but the accident kept him out of a car for several months.

When he came back, it wasn’t long before he was let go as the driver of the No. 60 car. He spent the winter of 2000-01 searching for a ride, and didn’t really land a solid ride until he was hired by Welliver Racing to drive the No. 66 Chevy in the Busch Series.

Bodine had only moderate success in that car, and didn't make it to the end of the season. Despite not being able to find a steady ride, he never lost confidence in his own ability.

“I’ve never felt like it was gone, I never have,” Bodine said. “I’ve prided myself in staying in good shape – physically and mentally. Yeah, the wreck (at Daytona in 2000) was tough to get through physically, but mentally it was a breeze. I wanted to get back the very next day, but hopefully this proves that I am back. I’m not afraid. I still have the desire to come out here and go fast.”

Bodine won’t be at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham next weekend, but rather in Salt Lake City, Utah, the site of the Winter Olympics. He’s got a bobsled entered in the four-man event there and will be cheering his team on.

What his third-place finish Sunday will do for him, Bodine isn’t quite certain.

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen now,” Bodine said. “Do any of you (in the media) have a sponsor so we can run some more races? That’s what we need – more money so we can run some more. James (Finch) would like to run Indy, Richmond, California, Phoenix – tracks like that this year. Maybe 10-15 races and then maybe next year the full schedule."

Finch has run in the restrictor-plate races in the Winston Cup Series the past couple of years. He owns the No. 1 Yellow Freight Chevy, driven by Jimmy Spencer, in the Busch Series.

"James is a super nice gentleman. I brought him a sponsorship to both Daytona races and Homestead and he said, 'Well, we're gonna run Daytona. We're gonna let you drive Talladega even if we don't have a sponsor.' That's the kind of guy he is.

"Hopefully, today we did get some sponsorship for him for those races. These things cost a lot of money to put together and take to races, so, hopefully, that will all work out good for us.

"James only has two Winston Cup cars and we used them both here. We need sponsorship and once we secure sponsorship for some more races, then we'll start building some cars and be ready. There are a lot of cars out there for sale. Maybe we'll get one from the Wood Brothers or somebody else, but I really don't know what our future plans are. Hopefully, they're gonna be good and we'll get racing sometime."

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