Bodine Has Martinsville Memories

Many Martinsville memories for Bodine By Shawn A. Akers MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1998) The first time Geoff Bodine came to Martinsville Speedway wasn't exactly the most memorable experience. It was one, however, that he'll never forget. ...

Many Martinsville memories for Bodine By Shawn A. Akers

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (April 15, 1998) The first time Geoff Bodine came to Martinsville Speedway wasn't exactly the most memorable experience. It was one, however, that he'll never forget.

He traveled several hours to get there, only to never run a lap. Unequipped with a NASCAR rule book, Bodine brought a Modified car down to the .526-mile oval, but NASCAR officials discovered violations, and sent the Chemung, N.Y., native packing.

"I was just a kid and I built this car that I was racing up in the Northeast," said Bodine, driver of the No. 7 Philips Ford. "I heard a lot about Martinsville and decided to come down. I arrived and joined NASCAR, but when I pulled in the gate and went to inspection, the first thing they found wrong was that the carburetor was sticking through the hood. They said I couldn't run that, so I had to change it.

"Then they kept looking at the car and saw that the drive line was all offset to the left like a Supermodified, and the fuel cell in the back was real low. The engine was low, and I had a dry sump. Back then, most guys didn't have a dry sump oil system, and I also had a closed drive line, like in a sprint car with an open tube axle.

"They (NASCAR inspectors) looked at all of that and couldn't figure it out. Bill Gazaway was the chief inspector back then and he said, 'Son, we're not going to be able to let you run today. This car is about five years ahead of these other boys, and it just wouldn't be fair if we let you go out and run.

"(Track owner) Clay Earles pleaded with them and tried to get them to let me race, but they wouldn't, so I went home. He gave me $100 and I drove back to New York state and raced that night. It was a long ride home, but I'll never forget that. It was quite an experience, but I took home a NASCAR rule book and changed a few things. The next time I came down, they let me run."

Bodine has certainly come a long way since those days as a youngster, and Martinsville has been a bit kinder to him over the course of his racing career. In fact, he's one of the winningest drivers in NASCAR Winston Cup Series history at the short track with four victories and seven Bud Poles.

Bodine's first career series victory came in the spring event at Martinsville in 1984. He also holds the distinction of being the only driver in the 50-year history of the track to have won in three classifications there (Modified, NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division and NASCAR Winston Cup Series).

"Martinsville is a special place for me," said Bodine, who returns there this weekend for the Goody's Headache Powder 500. "I started winning back there with the Modifieds and when I went into Busch Grand National I won there with those cars, too. Then in 1984 with Rick Hendrick, it was where I got my first Winston Cup win. Not only that, it was also Rick's first Winston Cup win, so it's a pretty meaningful place for me."

Bodine also won both events at Martinsville in 1990 and was victorious again in the fall race in 1992.

It's not that the race track, which is notorious for being tough on brakes and cars in general, suits Bodine's driving style. It's just a matter of having a good race car, Bodine said.

"A lot of people have said that in past years, but what I've told everyone from the first time I won here is that I've had good equipment and good teams," he said. "I've had some good luck there and I've had some bad luck. I actually should have won more races there, but it isn't like it's a given that I go there and win, especially nowadays."

With all of his previous success at the half-mile oval, Bodine hopes he can rekindle some of that magic with his team this weekend. Bodine is looking to turn his year around, a season that has him 25th in the standings after seven races with only one top-five finish -- a fifth-place effort at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham.

"That can happen anywhere, but Martinsville is a very, very tough race track," Bodine said. "I would certainly love to have my season get into high gear at Martinsville. I'd love to leave there with a pole and a win."

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series NASCAR Cup