Bobsledders Battle Cold Temps

LAKE PLACID, NY – A little sub-zero air temperature of -4 degrees wasn’t enough to keep the NASCAR and NHRA drivers away from bobsled practice.

Clear blue skies, picturesque mountains and a temperature of -8 degrees greeted participants in the Chevy Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge presented by Whelen Engineering upon arrival here on Thursday morning. After warming up to that whopping -4, the high for the day, participants, media and families took part in the open practice day.

Matter of fact, most of the drivers and brakeman toughed it out to make several runs up here at Mount Van Hoevenberg right up until darkness. Part of it was because the track was so fast, but the main factor was they wanted to figure out which sled was the fastest.

Sleds are done up in sponsor colors from Chevrolet, Lumber Liquidators, Whelen Engineering, PPG Paints and Columbia Outerwear. But, before climbing aboard, participants first walked the track to check out the curves and high-banked turns. And, what better teachers could the amateur sledders get than actual members of the US Bobsled team.

After the walk through, which included NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Johnny Benson sliding down on their backsides for part of the run, the sleds were brought out. Prior winner and NHRA driver Morgan Lucas made the first run, followed by NASCAR driver and defending Bobsled Challenge winner Boris Said.

It was the job of prior drivers to teach new sledders how to take their runs and steer the sleds.

“You just can’t jump in there and expect someone to know how to do this right off the bat,” said Randy LaJoie, two time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion. “It’s great they have this many people here this year to take part. Once the new drivers figure it out, we can really get to racing each other.

“This is a blast; I don’t care how cold it is here.”

Geoff Bodine said before the day was over some drivers wouldn’t be sticking to the sled that had their name on them. And, true to his word, Boris Said seemed to like the sled with the name of an NHRA driver on the side.

“I’ve been down the mountain more than anyone here and have driven these things at Salt Lake City just a few weeks ago,” Said said. “JR Todd has been posting the fastest times, so I wanted to jump in his and see if it was me or the sled.

“JR’s sled is faster, I can tell you that much right now.”

While LaJoie, Todd and Said bring experience to the mountain, Hornaday made his first runs – ever – in a bobsled.

“Wow, this is great,” he said after his first run. “We don’t have this in my native California. Matter of fact, we don’t have these types of temperatures, either. I made a few runs and think I kind of got the hang of this.

“I’m looking forward to more practice and qualifying runs on Friday. I heard the temperature is supposed to heat up to the mid-20s, so it will be interesting to see if it changes the track any.”

Friday’s qualifying and practice will set up the grid for Saturday’s actual competition. Said has been the dominant bobsledder in years past. But, if any of the other drivers – NASCAR and NHRA – have their way; they hope to be done first, before it’s Said.

For more information on the Challenge, or to make donations to the US Bobsled team, log on to www.bodynebobsled.com

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2008

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