Bodine maintains ownership of team By Dave Rodman
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 21, 1999) Fresh off a pre-Christmas cruise, NASCAR Winston Cup team owner/driver Brett Bodine is happier to have that title attached to his name than he would have imagined just a few months ago.
Probably the biggest difference between now and then is that Bodine and his wife Diane, who own Brett Bodine Racing, now have a solid sponsorship package in place to face the NASCAR 2000 season.
"It's a good situation," Bodine said Tuesday while confirming the planned sale of the team to Californian Richard Hilton had not materialized. "It was simply a case where I wasn't looking to sell the team in the first place, but an offer was made to bring sponsorship and purchase the race team."
Bodine's sponsorship with the Ralphs Supermarkets chain and Coca-Cola was announced at the NASCAR Winston Cup season finale NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hilton, in the meantime, rethought his position on team ownership and ultimately decided he didn't want to go that route at this time, Bodine said.
"The purchase didn't happen and Diane and I retained ownership of the team," the 40-year-old owner/driver said. "The possibility of selling to Richard at a future date still exists. He's still a liaison between the race team and the sponsor -- it's just that that deal is with Brett Bodine Racing, not Hilton Racing."
Bodine said the sponsorship package, which he said has the team "funded at a much more comfortable level" than it was last season, is currently structured as a one-year deal.
Bodine, who spent the last week cruising the Caribbean with his brothers, NASCAR drivers Geoffrey and Todd, among others in a group of about 40 people, said he didn't want to jeopardize the upcoming season, so he decided to simply step back into the owner's role.
"Having that (ownership) unsettled potentially was a big disruption and we didn't want to hurt the integrity of our preparation for the season," Bodine said. He has made several moves he feels will be big pluses as the clock ticks off the days before the opening of Speedweeks 2000 at Daytona International Speedway, which is less than 50 days away.
Don Stout, who has been with Bodine for two years, most recently as shop foreman, was named to the general manager's post. With the temporary uncertainty in the team's ownership and sponsorship, interim crew chief Rick Gay left the team to go to work at Hendrick Motorsports on the No. 25 Chevrolets.
Bodine replaced him with crew chief Greg Ely, who most recently had served in that role at Galaxy Motorsports with driver Ted Musgrave. That change in particular has him anticipating the upcoming year.
"Greg has already taken a lot of weight off me," Bodine said. "He's well organized and very structured in how he wants things to run at the shop. He came highly recommended to us from the people he had worked with in the past."
Bodine has also changed his engine program from using Roush Racing engines to powerplants supplied by noted engine builder Ernie Elliott, who Bodine is familiar with from his days driving Fords for owner Kenny Bernstein. Bodine said the team is scrambling to get its fleet of 2000 Ford Tauruses together and may not test until the second Ford session at Daytona International Speedway in late January.
"In light of the rule changes we've had we're more concerned about getting ready for Rockingham and stuff with the 2000 Taurus," Bodine said. "We received our 2000 Taurus parts so late we feel like if we take time to test we'll get behind.
"I think we're looking at testing pretty hard at the end of January and early in February. We may do a Talladega test before we go to Daytona."
Bodine said once the team gets through the holiday season -- always a tough time due to family commitments -- it would be full speed ahead.
"We don't have any 2000 cars ready yet and that's the real struggle -- it's a tough time of the year," he said. "But we're headed in the right direction and hopefully we can take advantage of this new program we've put together. This is a people driven sport -- it takes people to make it happen, all pulling in the right direction. That's what we need to happen."