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Geoff Bodine Makes Grand Return To
Martinsville Speedway

    .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 Modifieds.
    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 double-header sweep.
    “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 open-wheel Modifieds.
    “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 infield.
    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.

Source:  Mike Smith/Martinsville Speedway PR
Posted:  August 26, 2006




















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