Geoff Bodine Makes Grand
.The first time Geoff
Bodine made the long trek south to attempt to make a race at Martinsville
Speedway he was sent home without ever turning a lap on the half-mile oval.
It seems the technical inspectors had never seen anything quite like
Bodine’s Modified racer and deemed it illegal.
Ironically, some 30 years after that banishment, after
reaching stock car superstar status, Bodine still calls Martinsville
Speedway his favorite track. And Saturday night, in 180-degree contrast from
that first visit, Bodine will return to Martinsville Speedway as the grand
marshal of the Made In America Whelen 300 NASCAR Modified Tour race. It will
be the second race run at night under the lights at Martinsville Speedway.
“I really am excited about being asked to be grand marshal,”
said Bodine, who, at 57, hasn’t yet announced his official retirement from
the sport. “I tried to get a ride for the race … heck with being grand
marshal. But I guess I’m being smart about it. I agreed to be the grand
marshal and I’m very honored and pleased to do that.”
It is a perfect match: Geoff Bodine, Martinsville and
Bodine has 13 Martinsville Speedway wins in three different
divisions, but the bulk of those wins, seven, came in the Modified division.
He also had four NEXTEL Cup victories, including his first career Cup win,
and two Busch Series victories.
“I won Modified races there and Busch races there and Cup
races there. It was the perfect place for me to get my first Cup win,” said
Bodine, who has 18 NEXTEL Cup wins on his resume, including a Daytona 500
victory. “And even before I won that first Cup race at Martinsville, it was
my favorite track. But that definitely was a little icing on the cake when I
got that first Cup win.”
While Bodine’s 13 wins are a big part of Martinsville
Speedway’s history, it was a runner-up finish that provided what track
founder H. Clay Earles called “the most exciting finish” ever at the track.
It was the Modified half of the 1981 Dogwood 500. Bodine had
already won the Busch half of the event and was going for the rare
“That race still hurts,” laments Bodine. “I was going for the
double that day and I was leading the Modified race. Richie (Evans) kinda
knocked me out of the way coming to get the one to go and coming to get the
checkered flag, I knocked him out of the way, but I didn’t knock him far
enough out of the way. He came back and turned right and put me into the
wall and put himself into the wall. Unfortunately for me, he got under the
finish line before me.
“He won and I finished second. It was an exciting finish for
the fans and crew members and other drivers, but for me, it hurt. I came
close to winning the double a couple of times, but I never achieved it.
That’s what I remember about that day.”
The Bodine-Evans finish may have been the “most” exciting
finish at Martinsville, but exciting racing is the norm for the powerful
“There always seemed to be exciting finishes in the Modifieds
at Martinsville,” said Bodine. “It’s just an exciting division and I’m glad
they are back at Martinsville.”
The Modifieds will take to the track for the first time at 5
p.m. Friday for a 90-minute practice session. Qualifying is scheduled for
8:30 p.m. Friday followed by an autograph session open to the public in the
Happy hour is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2. The
50-lap Chatlee Boats last chance race is scheduled for 7 p.m. with the Made
In America Whelen 300 set to take the green at 8:30 p.m.
The fastest 20 cars will make the 250-lap feature through
time trials. The next eight positions will got to the eight drivers highest
in the season-long point standings who don’t make the top 20. The final 15
spots will be filled by the top-15 finishers in the 50-lap Chatlee Boats
Last Chance Race.
Fan gates will open at 4:30 on Friday, September 1, and 3:30
p.m. on Saturday, September 2.
Tickets for the Made In America Whelen 300 are $20 and may be
purchased in advance by calling 877.RACE.TIX or visiting
www.racetickets.com online. Tickets
for pole day are $5 and may be purchased the day of qualifying.
August 26, 2006