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Geoff 'Bobsled' Bodine: back in a Cup car at Pocono...and from there?

  Geoff Bodine: a NASCAR legend, trying to jump-start his career again, or just have some fun? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern

   What a blast from the past: Geoff Bodine, lately of Olympic bobsled fame, but once a terror in NASCAR whose feud with the late Dale Earnhardt is legend, is this year enjoying a rebirth of his career, at 61.
   Well, sort of.
   In January Bodine raced on a Las Vegas-type high-speed oval in South Africa...in March he ran Trucks at Atlanta, qualifying eighth, and running well till the rear end broke....and here Sunday he announced he'll be in Tommy Baldwin's Sprint Cup car next weekend at Pocono.
    "I've really changed the way I eat and changed my body the last three years....and I feel better now that I did when I was 41," Bodine says. "And in racing things come back to me so clear.
   "So I'm excited about all these opportunities. And if I do a good job for Tommy at Pocono, maybe I can get some more."
   His last Cup run was in September 2004 at Dover, Del., 40 laps and a 39th. His last full Cup run was at Homestead, Fla., in the fall of 2002. His last Cup tour victory, his career 18th, was in the summer of 1996 at Watkins Glen, N.Y., just down the road from his hometown of Chemung.
   And he is perhaps best known most recently, not for those sharp and bitter run-ins with Earnhardt, or his 1986 Daytona 500 win, his years with car owner Junior Johnson, or for taking over the late Alan Kulwicki's team after Kulwicki's 1993 death, but rather for that horrifying Truck crash at Daytona in 2000: http://bit.ly/9AZqU7
  However that's all ancient history.

  Olympic Gold in Whistler Olympics (Photo: Geoff Bodine)

  Bodine says he's trying to get back in the swing of racing. "But I'm 61, and at 61, well, all these car owners want young drivers," says Bodine, who now lives nearby at Lake Norman.
    At the moment Bodine is also trying to get about 3,000 square feet of shop space near this track for his Olympic bobsled venture, in the corner of someone's NASCAR shop.
   Bodine concedes he's always marched to a different drummer. He moved south in 1979, as a star Modified driver, to make a Cup career that was never plain  vanilla: when that Earnhardt-Bodine thing got way out of hand, NASCAR boss Bill France Jr. himself had to step in to mediate.
  Now just how far this Cup thing goes isn't clear. Baldwin, whose father was also a Modified star, is a former Cup crew chief who has been trying the past year or so to build a Cup operation....and it's been a struggle.
   Baldwin's current full-time driver Johnny Sauter (43rd at Dover after just 29 laps) is in Texas next weekend for a Truck race, and the man who had Baldwin's car earlier this year, Casey Mears, has been pressed into service by Jay Frye as Brian Vickers' sub.
   "So Tommy called me up and asked me to qualify his car at Pocono, and I said yes," Bodine says.
   "Every race I've been texting Tommy – 'Put me in your car. I can do the job.'"
   In his heyday, with Rick Hendrick and then Junior Johnson, and then on his own, Bodine was a fearsome figure, feisty on the track and off, and not infrequently in NASCAR's doghouse.
   But somewhere along the line a few years ago, when the economics of this business really started to prey on him, Bodine became disillusioned with it all.
   Burned out? Disgusted?
   "No, I've never given up on racing, or gotten disgusted with racing....I just got upset with sponsors who cheated me out of millions of dollars...and that's how I lost my team," Bodine said.
   "Then I had that little accident in Daytona that changed my career...
   "And during that time the young kids started coming in, and sponsors wanted the younger kids, and that all just forced me out.
   "Timing is very important in life.
   "But I love racing. I love the challenge of racing.
    "And I think I'm doing it better now than I did in my 40s. And I want to prove that. But it's very difficult for a guy my age to get that opportunity.
   "Will this thing at Pocono help? Or maybe it's more down the road."
    Last year Bodine, once picked by NASCAR as one of the sport's top-50 drivers of all time, held a yard sale of his stock car racing memorabilia, from his Daytona ring and trophies to checkered flags of so many memories.
   "I decided it was foolish for me to keep all my stuff just for me to look at every day. I wanted to share it with race fans. So I had a sale," he said.
   "I was worried no one would show up. But they started showing up two days early. And they took it home, for the mantle or wherever, and everyone was smiling when they left. Most of it's gone. But now I've shared what I've done in my life.
    "I did it, and I don't need a trophy to remind me.
   "If you haven't figured it out by now, I'm a little different. Like I build bobsleds and give them away."
   And anyone with a little space over in the corner might want to give him a ring.

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    Geoff Bodine (L), and one of his BoDyn bobsleds (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Why cant Rick give Geoff a

Why cant Rick give Geoff a little space at HMS. It would be nice to see them back together.

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