Bodine to drive for Bessey in 1999
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Dec. 14, 1998) It looked bleak for a while, but Geoff -- make that Geoffrey -- Bodine has landed on his feet once again. A variety of circumstances, most notably several NASCAR Winston Cup Series teams going out of business, has allowed NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division team owner Joe Bessey to field a team in NASCAR's top circuit with Bodine as the driver in 1999. The new NASCAR Winston Cup Series team will make its debut at Speedweeks 1999 at Daytona International Speedway in February. Bessey, who drives the No. 6 Power Team Chevrolet in the NASCAR Busch Series, will field No. 60 Power Team Chevrolets in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series for former Daytona 500 winner Geoffrey Bodine. "The Power Team was looking to elevate their motorsports program," Bessey said of the increased support from PECO (Philadelphia Electric Co.) Energy. "They won the IRL championship with Kenny Brack and A.J. Foyt and their business is headed to the moon. We were looking at doing this program in the year 2000, but circumstances dictated that we move ahead now." Power Team's original goal was to unveil its NASCAR Winston Cup Series effort in 2000, but the availability of Bodine and a glut of available racing equipment and personnel allowed Bessey to accelerate those plans by a full year. Bessey said Bodine was one of his boyhood idols -- when he was racing in the Northeast as Geoff Bodine -- so even though they only met face-to-face for the first time only two weeks ago the deal was too good to pass up. When you mix in a well-tested fleet of Chevrolet Monte Carlo race cars from the defunct Stavola Brothers Racing team, that organization's veteran crew chief Jim Long, the former American Equipment Racing shop and a stock of experienced crew members from several disbanded teams, the "B&B" pairing is highly optimistic. "We have a great crew put together that's ready to go racing tomorrow," said Bodine, who shed some light on his 'name change.' "I just felt like it was time to put Geoff behind me. I've got a lot of laps behind me as Geoff Bodine -- this is a brand new start for us. "Besides, my mother's always called me Geoffrey." After hitting what could have been considered rock bottom in his 20-year NASCAR Winston Cup Series career, after being fired at the end of the 1998 season by former partner Jim Mattei as the driver of the team Bodine once owned, the swagger is back in Bodine's walk. The confidence that led the popular driver from Chemung, N.Y., to 18 career victories on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series has never been better. The formation of a new race team for the 1999 season could prove to be more than a rejuvenation of Bodine's distinguished career. He hopes it will create a team capable of running up front and challenging for victories throughout the 34-race campaign. "This is a startup team but without the rookie inexperience," Bodine said. "This is an opportunity that doesn't come along every day and I appreciate Joe and Nancy Bessey giving me this chance. "I'm probably more comfortable with this situation than I've been in the last 10 years. Joe Bessey is a racer and he knows what to expect. He knows how to put together a top-notch package that includes solid race cars and the people it takes to make those cars competitive. Joe's worked hard to make this happen. It's one of the best situations I've been around in a long, long time. We have great ownership, great cars and a great sponsor that knows what it takes to be a champion." Bodine, the oldest of three racing brothers, and Power Team Racing agreed to a three-year contract. Bodine had considered the possibility of racing either in the NASCAR Busch Series, where his youngest son Barry will drive in 1999, or in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He said it is still not out of the question that he could still run some races in the NASCAR Busch Series. "I had faith something would come along," Bodine said. "When I was younger I read a book by Norman Vincent Peale, The Power of Positive Thinking, and I've used that philosophy in all aspects of my life. "The deal with the 7 car seemed like it was pretty bad, but that was just an opportunity for something positive to happen. Joe is looking at moving into the Winston Cup Series, but he knew he wasn't ready to make that move yet. "He needed some help with his Busch team and, who knows, maybe I'll get to run a few Busch races myself. You know, with Barry running there, I'm going to be paying a lot of attention to what's going on over there." "When Power Team made it possible to expand into Winston Cup, the first driver I wanted was Geoffrey Bodine," Bessey said. "I think we've put together a strong team. With his experience, I know we're going to skip through a lot of the normal growing pains associated with new teams. You don't win 18 races and more than $12 million in your career if you don't know how to run up front. "It was a logical choice to put Geoffrey in the car. I think the combination of Geoffrey Bodine, Power Team's commitment and the racing backgrounds of another one of our teammates from the Indy Racing League, A.J. Foyt, gives this new race team a lot of credibility." Bessey, who has 147 career starts and one victory on the Busch Series, will surpass the $1 million mark in career earnings when he starts the season-opening NAPA Auto Parts 300 at Daytona. A day later, Bessey will be on the sidelines working to help Bodine try to win his second Daytona 500. He's looking forward to the mutual assistance the team will provide. "I've never had a mentor in this sport," said Bessey, who began his career in his native New England before heading south to compete in the NASCAR Busch Series. "Whatever I've picked up I've learned on my own, but to have the opportunity to work with Geoffrey has got me fired up as a driver and as an owner. "This is an ambitious undertaking. We're going to run two fulltime race teams -- one in the NASCAR Busch Series and one in Winston Cup. A.J. Foyt will also run one of his Indy Racing League teams with Power Team sponsorship. The only way something like this can work and be successful is to have the best people in key positions. We've done that. I think we're in position to enjoy success in all three series. I feel good about my race team on the Busch Series and I feel just as good about what Geoffrey can accomplish next year in Winston Cup." Bodine drove last season for Mattei Motorsports. He had one top-five finish, five top-10s and more than $1.2 million in earnings. He made his 500th career start in the Winston 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in October. The highlights of Bodine's career include: his first victory in 1984 at Martinsville; a win in the prestigious Daytona 500 in 1986; a win at Sonoma, Calif., in 1993; and, after purchasing the racing assets of Alan Kulwicki's estate 11 months earlier, a victory in The Winston all-star race in 1994 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "When the season was over last month, I wasn't sure what I would be doing in 1999," Bodine said. "Of course I wanted to drive, but I wasn't willing to take an offer for the sake of taking an offer. I wanted the opportunity to run up front again and win races. Because of that, I was determined to deal only with a race team I felt had the chance to do that. When you see everything Joe Bessey's already put together, the decision was easy. I think I'm more excited about my future now than I've been in a long time. "We pitted for tires with 20 laps to go at Atlanta in November. We came out in 21st place and finished 10th. That was dedicated to Geoff and the No. 7 team, and it closed that chapter in my career. Now it's time for me to move on and put the past behind me."
Source: NASCAR Online