GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) Bodine, a 51-year-old NASCAR Winston Cup veteran from Chemung, N.Y., returned to Daytona International Speedway this week for the first time since sustaining injuries in the NASCAR ...
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
Bodine, a 51-year-old NASCAR Winston Cup veteran from Chemung, N.Y., returned to Daytona International Speedway this week for the first time since sustaining injuries in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at the 2.5-mile track in February. Attempting to make his 544th career start in Saturday night's Pepsi 400, Bodine talks about his injuries, recovery and outlook for the rest of the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup season.
"I got on the horse as soon as I could, and that was at Richmond," Bodine said. "I worked hard to get there, I really did work hard. It wasn't easy to get ready for that race. I'm still dealing with some things from that accident, sore wrists and joints and elbows and things like that, but nothing I can't deal with. As far as coming here, I've never had a bad thought about it, never had a bad dream about coming back to Daytona racing or anything like that. I think I already got on that horse a long time ago, and being here is just kinda like normal.
"This has been a very positive experience for me. You might think I'm crazy, but I wouldn't change anything that happened here at Daytona. I survived. I survived in front of millions of people. I'm a living testament of God's power that He has over our lives. He also protected me where I wasn't hurt bad enough that I couldn't race again. I'm back. I'm racing. He blessed me there. He blessed me in getting back as soon as I did.
"There were only 77 days from the wreck to when I drove at Richmond. That's a miracle. It took a lot of hard work on our part, but God allowed that to happen. All of this has been a very positive time for me. You grow stronger from experiences in life, or you try to, and I've grown to be a stronger, better person for what happened here in Daytona. I wouldn't change a thing.
"I had my little dog in the car, and I snuck her in (infield tunnel on Thursday) without getting caught. That's what I was thinking about when I came in the track. It's a human being. She thinks she's a human. Her name is Mercedes, named after the car. She's kind of sleek looking.
"I haven't had a bad thought about coming to Daytona or driving in the track. I went out on the front straightaway with Dick Berggren to do a story, and I didn't feel creepy or scared or anything. I know I'm very fortunate to be here, but I feel very fortunate and kind of proud to be able to tell that story about the wreck and walk around and show people that I did survive and that God blessed me by saving me that day and by being a living, walking, driving, proven testament of his power. There's nothing to feel bad about that. I really feel blessed and thankful I can do that.
"I've had many letters written, calls, people I see around the race tracks now that tell me stories about family members or themselves to where they might have had some doubts or they might have been going through some hard times, dealing with some tough problems. Seeing that I survived that terrible, unsurvivable accident and then hearing me talk about why I feel like I survived has helped them deal with their situation. I know it's helped people, and I hope it's helped more people than I know.
"I was blessed that day, but many fans were blessed and other drivers that were involved. My transmission went through Jimmy Hensley's truck. I wasn't the only one saved that day. I've seen videos where the fire surrounded that security guard by the fence, just surrounded him. Plus, I was coming at him. I was ripping that fence down, and just before I got to him Friday, June 30, 2000. Daytona International Speedway. Pepsi 400 Advance Material. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 2.
GEOFFREY BODINE (No. 60 Power Team Chevrolet Monte Carlo) the vehicle left that fence and saved his life. The flames just stopped. It was truly a miracle. How do you explain that to anyone? How does that happen? It shouldn't have happened, but it did. A higher power stepped in and intervened in that accident and saved a lot of people.
"I don't dwell on it. People keep reminding me, which is good because that allows me to tell the story and hopefully prove again God's power He has over our lives. I have the remains of my truck in the shop, and every once in awhile I go look at it. It's a great reminder of the story of what happened. You need to look at it. You need to see it. You won't believe it. If you have the least doubt that God controls what happens here on earth, come and look at that truck. Everyone I've taken in there, they just stand there and kind of shake their head and say 'I don't believe it. I can't believe you survived.' There's nothing there that allowed me to survived. I was just sitting there in the seat with nothing there to protect me. How do you survive that in that wreck with all those tires and tumbles and crashes? That's going to be in the museum one day on display. I don't have that museum yet, but it will be on display and the video will run and many more people will see it and will believe we have someone looking out for us. It doesn't happen that way for everybody. I'm very blessed.
"What happened last week was last week. If you win, no one thinks about it. This is a different week. It's what you do now that counts, not what you did last week. We're all disappointed about last week, but they worked really hard to get this car done. It's a brand new car, and we have high hopes that it's going to be a good car here and we'll run good and have a good race.
"These things are safe, but you couldn't build anything that survived that accident. That was just a rare, freak accident. Hopefully it'll never happen again to anyone, but you'd have to have a tank to survive that accident so it wouldn't tear it apart. I think everything did its job. The cab les kept things from going in the grandstand. Thank God. It kept most of the parts from going in there, thank goodness, but the process that ripped the vehicle I was in apart, completely. Nothing was left. I still survived. That's where God stepped in and saved me. I can't lay it to any safety feature. I had a full-faced helmet, and that helped lessen the injuries. My seat lessened the injuries. My seatbelt, without them you can't survive anything. The uniform and all that stuff, but the protection that's built into these things for the driver was completely ripped away, so there was something else that saved me.
"The crew people and people in the garage area, they're all pretty amazed that I survived and that I'm back. I think most of them thought it was going to be the end of my career for sure if not my life. I can see it in their eyes. The first time back at Texas, I talked to almost everybody. I made a point of that. I could see in their eyes they were definitely amazed that I survived.
"Physically and mentally I'm ready to race. It's tough to win here with the restrictor plates, but we have a new car and hopefully it'll be good enough. We have some good races coming up and some good cars to go with those races like we did at Richmond. If I'd been 100 percent at Richmond, I think we could have won that race hands down. I'm 100 percent to be able to drive, but I still have sore joints and things to deal with. They don't affect me when I'm driving. I'm 95 percent now physically, 100 percent mentally." Friday, June 30, 2000. Daytona International Speedway. Pepsi 400 Advance Material. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 3.
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo)
"I wish we could just race. We go to Pocono, Loudon and these places and race and have a good time. We come here and it's aggravation just to get through inspection, just to get through inspection for qualifying. You qualify, and it's more aggravation getting out of that mess and changing your cars over to race. Dang, let's race. If they'll take the restrictor plates off, they won't have to worry about shocks and springs and stuff. People will have those damn blades up in the air hollering 'I need more spoiler.'
"I think all the drivers and teams are frustrated with the way they have to race here. Have you heard a positive comment from anyone? The restrictor plates here enhance horsepower, and this is more of a horsepower track than Talladega. I wish there was something we could do. I wish there was something NASCAR could do. I don't know what they could do. I'm not condemning anybody. I wish there was another solution. I don't think anyone is happy doing what we're doing.
"It's run that way pretty much every race down there (Talladega). It's more of a chess game. If you end up in the right place and make the right move, then you're going to be a hero. If you don't, you're going to be a zero.
"I ran 60 laps while ago on one run, and it drove about the same as it did here last year. I wish we could have our rear bars (swaybars) back. I don't have a problem with not softening the rear springs. The biggest thing is rear swaybar and adjustment with the springs. NASCAR is trying to say, 'OK, this is going to keep us from going too fast. This is going to keep us from going in the grandstand.' I don't know what their problem is. Nobody will really actually say. Are they going to pull the insurance if you run over 200 mph? What's the problem with running 200 mph? They just don't want to run 200 mph. That's the problem. They do it in CART. They do it in IRL and they do it in drag racing. We're one of the only sports that ties the hands of competitors on trying to go faster and being a competitive sport. I'm not pointing a finger or anything at NASCAR. I'm just saying we need to grow up here and decide if we're going to race or what we're going to do. Right now, we're not racing. We're just existing on the track together. We're there.
"I've heard some drivers saying, 'we're going too fast at Charlotte. We're going too fast here. Get the hell home. If you're not a race car driver and not a racer, stay home. Don't come here and grumble about going too fast. Stay the hell home. Get out of the race car if you're got feathers on your legs or butt. Put a kerosene rag around your ankles so the ants won't climb up there and eat that candy butt.
"I've got to race with the same disadvantage or same advantage that Bobby Labonte or Dale Jarrett does. I do feel like Jarrett's program is better than Bobby's and mine here at Daytona with this configuration of setup and restrictor plate. We may be racing at a disadvantage here, but I'm not blaming that on Dale Jarrett. They've worked to overcome whatever and we haven't or whatever, I'm not sure. There's not a Chevrolet that's that strong. If I had qualified on the outside pole or third or fourth and gone out and practiced with them like I should have been able to, then I might have a different attitude.
"It's like last week. Last week was a real critical race for us to have a bad qualifying day. Kevin (crew chief Hamlin) and I just kept on and our brains weren't working. We were out of gear on Friday and just qualified bad Friday, June 30, 2000. Daytona International Speedway. Pepsi 400 Advance Material. Chevrolet notes and quotes. Page 4.
DALE EARNHARDT (No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Monte Carlo) (at Sears Point). We rebounded on Saturday and got a better handle on the race car and even a better handle for the race. We rebounded for a sixth-place finish without much help on the race track. That's the kind of racing, you've got to make a terrible day into a fair day. Bobby is doing it and Dale Jarrett has won a championship, Gordon and all of us. If you just keep going to each race with that mindset, I've got to go to the front, I've got to get to the front. I've got to race in the front. I've got to be serious all day about where I'm at. I'm not guarding points. I'm trying to better my position as best as I can."
LARRY McCLURE (Car owner No. 4 Kodak MAX film Monte Carlo)
COMMENT ON INCIDENT IN PRACTICE
"It didn't hurt the car too bad, but it took more than an hour to repair it. We repaired the nose and rear bumper. It knocked the rear bumper halfway off. We had to replace the duct work and rear bumper panel. Mechanically, nothing was hurt. It'll be as good as new, as good as a Chevrolet Monte Carlo can be at this moment. From my vantage point, I could see the 17 just bow up and stop. I think a car wrecked in front of him. He just rolled out of the gas and Bobby (Hamilton) was two feet behind him. Bobby touched him. At the same time the 10 touched us and we didn't move, but the 17 slid across the race track and wrecked his car. It was just like a chain reaction any time somebody makes a mistake, and the outcome is usually somebody gets wrecked."