A top-notch Modified driver whose focus was to make it in NASCAR’s Cup Series, Geoffrey Bodine (April 18, 1949) of Chemung, New York, reached his goal and proved to any doubters that he was one of the racing’s most competitive and dedicated participants.
A 5-year-old Micro-Midget racer at his family’s old quarter-mile dirt Chemung Speed-way, at age 15 Bodine dressed as a lady to enter a Powder Puff Derby but his first Modified laps came when EMPA Hall of Famer Donald “Dutch” Hoag let him practice in his orange No. 19 1936 Chevrolet coupe at the old half-mile asphalt Shangri-La Speedway in Owego, New York.
In 1968, Bodine – who worked on Hoag’s crew in 1968 & 1969 – began racing at Chemung with his white No. 99 1936 Chevrolet coupe. By October 8, 1972, he had won the prestigious 250-mile Race of Champions at the old 1.5-mile asphalt Trenton (N.J.) Speedway in T. K. McLean’s white, gold and blue No. 99 Chevrolet-powered 1961 Plymouth Valiant.
The track champion at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and New York’s Shangri-La, Spencer/Williamson and Utica-Rome Speedways, Bodine won: the 1978 Race of Champions at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway; Trenton’s 1979 Dogleg 200; the 1975 & 1978 Cardinal and 1978 Dogwood races at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway; the 1980-1981 Oxford (Maine) Speedway 250; and, four (1975-1976 & 1978-1979) Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway 300s.
Plus, in 1978 he won 55 of 84 features – including all six races in the Yankee All-Star Series – in the red No. 1 Chevy-powered Ford Pinto that was fielded by Dick Armstrong with crew chiefs Billy Taylor and Hop Harrington. Note: all of this winning took place against such drivers as EMPA Hall of Famers Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and Ray Hendrick.
With such a sparkling Modified résumé, in 1982 Bodine soon found himself in NASCAR Late Model Sportsman competition driving Frank Plessinger’s No. 99 Chevrolets and Pontiacs, and he has six victories in that division. He also won 1982’s “Rookie of the Year” in NASCAR’s Cup Series while driving Cliff Stewart’s No. 50 Pontiac (1982-1983).
The winner of 18 Cup races and 37 poles, Bodine drove for Rick Hendrick (1984-1989) and won the 1986 Daytona 500 in the yellow and white No. 5 Levi Garrett Chevrolet. He also raced with EMPA Hall of Fame member Junior Johnson (1990-1991) and with Bud Moore (1992-1993), and then in mid-1993 he purchased the race team of the late NASCAR Cup Series Champion (1992) Alan Kulwicki and competed as an owner-driver through 1997.
On February 18, 2000, Bodine was involved in a violent crash and suffered major injuries in Daytona International Speedway’s tri-oval while driving Bill Ballew’s No. 15 Ford F-150 in NASCAR’s Truck Series. But he returned to racing and was third in 2002’s Daytona 500.
One of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers and winner of the 1987 International Race of Champions title, Bodine introduced power steering and full-face helmets to NASCAR’s Cup Series.
His interest in going fast was not limited to just dirt or asphalt race tracks. During the 1992 Winter Olympic Games, Geoffrey Bodine learned that all of the U.S. Bobsled Team sleds were imported and he thought he could help bobsled technology with his race-car engineering experience. So, after making a few runs at Lake Placid, New York, he formed “Bo-Dyn Bobsleds” with his friend and Chassis Dynamics builder Bob Cuneo in 1992 and founded the USA Bobsled Project to help create a winning bobsled for U.S. Bobsled Teams.
The first Bo-Dyn Bobsleds were used in competition in 1994 and the U.S. Bobsled Team won three medals in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Then, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, the U.S. Bobsled Team won its first Gold Medal in the Four-Man competition since 1948 with one of the Bo-Dyn Bobsleds.