For Geoff Bodine, no one-track mind
WHISTLER, B.C. -- Former Daytona 500 champion Geoff Bodine dragged his hands slowly across the sleek chassis, his eyes locked on the spot where the driver sits when racing.
No engine to check, no tires to kick on this ride, however.
Truth be told, Bodine doesn't even know how it goes so fast. It's not a race car. It's the "Night Train" -- the fastest bobsled the world has ever seen.
"Much bigger, much faster, much better," is how Night Train pilot Steven Holcomb describes his sled.
Much, if not all, the credit for that goes to Bodine.
Nearly 20 years after getting his first look at a bobsled -- against his better judgment, it's worth pointing out -- the former NASCAR star has turned into a huge part of the U.S. sliding program. This week, the sleds Bodine helped build are in the mix for Olympic medals at the Vancouver Games, further proving that his vision was one the Americans not only needed, but benefited from greatly.
"I'm glad we did it," said Bodine, who still races, planning to be in a NASCAR trucks series event next month. "No regrets. Not one regret. It's all about 'Made in the USA.' I'm a believer, I love our country . . . and the foundation of our country." That's what lured him into this sort of racing.
It was 1992, six years after he won at Daytona, when he was approached to take a trip to Lake Placid to check out the bobsleds American athletes were racing in. Bodine had no interest at first, then made the trek anyway to New York's Adirondack Mountains -- and was appalled by what he found.
For decades, the sleds Americans were trying to beat Europeans in were sleds that Europeans sold to Americans. Most of it was substandard stuff, hand-me-down sleds of sorts that the powerful teams knew weren't fast enough. So they shipped them off to the United States, which was desperate for equipment.
"When I heard that our athletes weren't using American-made bobsleds, that was unacceptable," Bodine said.
The Bo-Dyn Project was born.
With a good chunk of his own money, along with private donations, Bodine -- assisted mightily by lead designer Bob Cuneo -- has spent 18 years keeping up with bobsled technology changes, research and development costs, and whatever else that's been needed to keep American pilots on par with the rest of the world.