Geoffrey Bodine: Homestead-Miami Speedway's First Winner Hopes to Repeat in Inaugural Pennzoil 400
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (May 26, 1999) -- NASCAR's top drivers know they have only one opportunity to make a first impression at the sparkling Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 14. With the inaugural Pennzoil 400 -- South Florida's first NASCAR Winston Cup Series race -- they all are planning to become the first champion of Miami's biggest auto race in history.
While any win along the 34-race NASCAR Winston Cup Series schedule is cherished, winning in Miami, one of America's biggest markets and an important city to every sponsor adorning the side of a race car, is the goal for 1999.
"There are a handful of races that always stand out as the most important events of the season," said Geoffrey Bodine, the 1986 winner of the Daytona 500, NASCAR's premier event. "I've won 18 races in my career including the biggest event in our sport, and a win in Miami would be considered as one of the highlights of my career. It's an important market and an important race."
The state-of-the-art Homestead-Miami Speedway will be the site of the inaugural race, which has been hosting other forms of racing since the fall of 1995, including several other NASCAR divisions and the top open-wheel division, CART's FedEx Championship Car Series.
Dale Jarrett was the first NASCAR Busch Series winner in South Florida, capturing the inaugural Jiffy Lube Miami 300 in 1995 with a dramatic last-lap charge from fourth to first.
But Jarrett didn't capture the first checkered flag at the Speedway. That distinction belongs to Bodine, who won an exhibition race for the fledgling series then known as the NASCAR SuperTrucks.
Driving the Exide Batteries Ford F-150, Bodine won the 25-lap exhibition race over Mike Skinner and Ernie Irvan.
Bodine also won the pole for the 1996 Florida Dodge Dealers 400 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, only to be sidelined early in the event. His then-teammate, Dave Rezendes, went on to win, giving Bodine his first official victory as a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series truck owner. The Chemung, N.Y., veteran returned to the Speedway for last fall's Jiffy Lube Miami 300, watching his son Barry's debut in the NASCAR Busch Series.
"I'm fortunate to have a little history on my side in Miami," said Bodine, who was named as one of NASCAR top-50 drivers of all time in 1998. "We've had a lot of firsts there, so we might as well keep it up. It would be great to win the pole and race when we return for the Pennzoil 400."
In typical "do anything to win" fashion, Bodine paid a price to score his exhibition victory in Homestead's grand-opening weekend.
"I was hitting the rev limiter on the straights, and I needed the extra speed to hold off Skinner and Irvan. So I reached down and disconnected the rev limiter. That wound up breaking a few valve springs. I knew it could hurt the engine, but I really wanted to win that race. If the race went any longer, the engine might not have made it."
Bodine is with a new team for 1999, driving the PowerTeam Chevrolet for Joe Bessey. His best finish is an eighth at Rockingham, although engine problems and on-track incidents cost him several other top finishes.
"We had a top-five car at Atlanta, and cut a tire. We might have won at Texas, but got caught up in a wreck. We had a top-10 car in the Dayonta 500, but were caught up in the only incident of the race. We've had good runs in all but three of the races so far in 1999.
"I'm really pleased with the progress of our team. To run this competitively with a new team is real encouraging. Give us a little more time to build a few more cars, and we'll be even better. We'll have real good cars when we race in the Pennzoil 400."
Reserved grandstand seats are now on sale for the Pennzoil 400. For ticket orders, call (305) 230-7223. For additional information, visit the official Homestead-Miami Speedway web site at www.racemiami.com.
Geoffrey Bodine on South Florida "Last November, when I was in Miami helping (son) Barry run the NASCAR Busch Series race, I planned to take a few friends out to dinner in Key Largo the night before the race. We enjoyed the drive and beautiful scenery so much that we continued almost all the way to Key West! In fact, we enjoyed the scenery so much that we met a local constable along the way, but that's another story.
We finally stopped for dinner at a little restaurant. After dinner, we heard someone saying, 'Isn't that Geoff Bodine?' They were surprised to meet a Winston Cup driver all the way down in the Keys, and I was happy to meet so many NASCAR race fans! We stayed and chatted for quite awhile. We also enjoyed our trip to the Miccosukee Casino, and our visit to Las Olas River Walk in Fort Lauderdale, where Barry and I got to hang out with Dolphin wide receiver O.J. McDuffie. I didn't get to see much of Barry away from the track that weekend, because I rented a Ferrari for his birthday present. You can get to rent a lot of neat cars in Miami! We're not going to have much free time when we return in November, but I'm hoping to go to the alligator farm to go on the airboat ride."